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No JTFN shift planned after mystery objects’ intrusion

A Canadian Armed Forces aircraft takes part in an exercise above Dettah on September 18, 2018
A Canadian Armed Forces aircraft takes part in an exercise above Dettah on September 18, 2018. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

Canada isn’t shuffling any extra military resources north after multiple aerial intruders caused concern in recent weeks.

A suspected Chinese spy balloon overflew the Yukon and NWT before crossing into US airspace, then a second unidentified object was shot out of the sky by a US jet over central Yukon last weekend.

Some critics suggested Canadian jets should be marshalled in Yellowknife or farther north to protect Canada’s northern airspace, rather than having to scramble from Cold Lake, Alberta. But the Department of National Defence said there’s no plan to change the current setup.

“Canada’s Arctic is well monitored by ground, air, sea and space, and our permanent military presence in the area continues to keep Canada safe while enabling joint and allied military operations in this terrain,” a Department of National Defence spokesperson said by email, asked if Joint Task Force North – the Yellowknife-based branch of the Canadian Armed Forces – should expect any change.



Spokesperson Jessica Lamirande said Norad, the joint operation by US and Canadian forces to protect North American airspace, had “proven itself effective.”

“While there are no current plans to increase CAF or Norad presence on a permanent basis, assets will continue to respond wherever and whenever required,” Lamirande wrote.

That said, the Department of National Defence is investing heavily in some of its northern infrastructure.

Inuvik Airport’s runway is being extended by 3,000 feet to accommodate a wider range of aircraft, a project announced in 2019 and now expected to cost $230 million, all of which is being funded by the department.



The project is primarily seen as an Arctic sovereignty measure, developing Inuvik as a key “forward operating location.”

In Yukon, leader of the opposition Yukon Party Currie Dixon told the Canadian Press this week that the incursion of mystery objects over the territory’s sky should be a “wake-up call for Canadians in general of the woefully inadequate capacity we have in the North, in terms of our military capacity.”

The most recent object’s purpose and origin are still not clear, though officials have increasingly speculated that the past few objects shot down over North America may turn out to be “benign” rather than part of any coordinated spying effort.

Nunavut Premier PJ Akeeagok said earlier this week that while Canada had taken “swift action” to shoot down the Yukon object, “this incident highlights the need for northerners to be fully involved in discussions surrounding Arctic security.”

“We look forward to further collaboration between the three northern territories and the Government of Canada through its Department of National Defence,” Akeeagok concluded.