Canada’s three northern territories have jointly requested a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss Arctic security following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
While Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane acknowledged there was no immediate threat to northern Canada, she said the three territories “all have concerns” they wish to address.
Russia has long held a variety of interests in the Arctic and climate change has made the waters around northern Canada increasingly navigable.
Premier Cochrane was responding to questions from Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler, who asked whether there was any suggestion that an increased military presence would be sent to her community or others near the Arctic coast. Cochrane said no such deployment had been discussed.
“Across the three territories we all have concerns,” Cochrane told MLAs in the NWT legislature. “We’ve written a letter to our prime minister to request a meeting with him to discuss Arctic security.
“We’ve also requested that Arctic sovereignty be included in our next Council of the Federation meeting, which happens this summer,” she added, referring to a twice-yearly meeting of Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial leaders.
Yellowknife is home to Joint Task Force North, a Canadian Armed Forces branch that holds partial responsibility for the enforcement of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty. Annual exercises, such as Operation Nanook, are held to demonstrate and refine Canadian military prowess in the far north of the country, though they often focus on search-and-rescue capabilities.
“The civilians of Russia are not the threat,” Cochrane went on to say on Thursday.
“We’ve all been watching the news and many Russian people are also not liking what’s going on in Ukraine. Don’t blame all people.
“But the NWT and our sister territories are aware of what’s going on, we’re watching closely, and we’re working closely with the federal government to make sure that we protect our Arctic.”