Territorial government in military exercise mix-up

A Canadian Armed Force Twin Otter rests on the tarmac at Kugluktuk's airfield in August 2018
A Canadian Armed Forces Twin Otter rests on the tarmac at Kugluktuk's airfield in August 2018. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

A chain of events saw the territorial government inadvertently end up fabricating a military exercise, issuing an advisory for a drill the Armed Forces later said did not exist.

In a sequence of mishaps, the advisory was published in error following an apparent mistake by a local newspaper and a further slip-up involving the Armed Forces.

On Wednesday, the Department of Infrastructure published an advisory warning drivers on the Ingraham Trail to be aware of an exercise involving members of 440 Squadron, which is based in Yellowknife, performing take-off and landing drills on the highway.

However, a spokesperson for Joint Task Force (North) contacted Cabin Radio on Wednesday evening to state, categorically, no such exercise was planned.



The spokesperson suggested the territorial government may have accidentally issued an advisory relating to an exercise carried out in 2017.

In fact, the department is understood to have been reacting to a brief report in Wednesday morning’s Yellowknifer newspaper detailing the supposed highway closure – a report which itself appears, for some reason, to have been published an entire year late.

Only adding to the confusion, the Department of Infrastructure’s media team said it had cleared the wording of the advisory with the Armed Forces’ national communications desk before publication. Spokespeople from both institutions blamed a miscommunication.

The initial territorial government news release warned drivers to expect delays on Thursday from 9am to 4pm if using the Ingraham Trail around 50 km east of Yellowknife, adding vehicles would be allowed through in 20-minute bursts each hour.



Given members of the Armed Forces have spent the week carrying out a major military exercise just outside Dettah, simulating an air disaster, the advisory was perfectly plausible in nature.

Public advisories from the territorial government are usually time-sensitive, containing information for immediate broadcast. Ordinarily, they are assumed to be accurate and published by the territory’s news media as gospel.

However, Steve Thompson – who identified as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) – was the first to query the advisory through a comment on Cabin Radio’s Facebook page.

“I am with the RCAF and I can tell you we heard the same today and have confirmed that our aircraft will not be involved in this,” Thompson wrote.

“If there is an aircraft landing on the highway, it will not be an Air Force one.”

In conclusion, if you’re driving on the Ingraham Trail on Thursday and an aircraft lands in front of you, it will be unplanned and probably quite an interesting story.