It seems the decision was made without consultation with northerners. I just wonder if any environmental studies were done. At least one site will be cleaned up. I guess the former mine owners are long gone. The cleanup is quite expensive.
It seems also that promises have been broken to Cambridge Bay residents. I imagine it is for reasons of geographical location in the very far north that the site was chosen. It will display Canadian activity in that area and strengthen the case for sovereignty. In more settled areas that is not needed.
Northerners divided over proposed Arctic military facilities
Last Updated: Monday, August 13, 2007 | 9:34 AM CT
The news of Arctic military facilities coming to Nunavut has raised both hopes and concerns among northerners living near one of the selected sites, while disappointing leaders in communities that were not chosen.
The announced military sites in Resolute and Nanisivik, Nunavut, are located at the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage.
On Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the Canadian Forces will build a new army training centre in Resolute Bay, as well as refurbishing an existing deepwater port at a former lead and zinc mining site in Nanisivik.
The Nanisivik site, to be used mostly for docking and refuelling military vessels, is located close to the eastern entrance of the Northwest Passage — thus boosting Canada's sovereignty claim over the passage, Ottawa hopes. The port will also be used for civilian purposes, as a search and rescue facility and distribution centre.
Among those who live in Arctic Bay, located 20 kilometres from the Nanisivik site, reaction to the port news has been mixed.
Resident Johnny Attagutsik told CBC News he hopes the new port will not only create much-needed jobs for people in the hamlet, but also bring in more cruise ships and other vessels — possibly even bringing down the costs of transportation to the community.
"Sometimes we need help for the community, like sealift, aircraft," Attagutsik said Friday, adding he hopes the facility will make sea lift and airfare costs cheaper.
But Canadian Ranger Sgt. Manasie Kilukishak said he is worried about the impact the port could have on wildlife in the area, which provides important hunting grounds for seals and other mammals. Kilukishak also raised concerns about noise pollution all that marine traffic could make.
The federal government will spend up to $100 million to clean up contamination at the Nanisivik site, preparing it for military use. It is expected to be fully operational in the next seven years.
In Resolute Bay, the new army training centre will provide cold-weather training and house up to 100 military personnel. Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor said the Defence Department will start training next year, using existing infrastructure at the site.
"We're going to start initially by using the Natural Resources facilities they have there, and we anticipate that over time we're going to have to put some separate buildings up ourselves for DND," O'Connor said.
Decision upset politicians from Iqaluit, Cambridge Bay
The site of a former mine at Nanisivik, near Arctic Bay, will become fully operational as a military deepwater port in the next seven years.
Among those not happy with Harper's announcement was Iqaluit Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik, who said her city conducted a feasibility study that showed the Nunavut capital was a suitable site for the deep-sea port.
Sheutiapik said basing the port in Iqaluit would have served other communities in addition to its primary roles. As well, she said the local airport should have made the city an ideal choice.
"We have one of the biggest airstrips in Canada," she said. "So I personally thought that the deep-sea port and our airstrip go perfectly hand in hand."
In western Nunavut, Cambridge Bay MLA Keith Peterson said his region has also felt left out by Harper's announcement.
During the last election campaign, Peterson said, the Conservatives had promised Cambridge Bay the military training site that has now gone to Resolute Bay.
"The governing party of Canada, when they make a statement in a key document like that, to me in my mind and many of the people here, it's not a promise. It's almost like a rock-solid guarantee that this is our strategy for the military in Canada," he said.
"So when you get elected and then you suddenly turn around and change your mind, what happened? Why did they change their mind?"
Peterson said he has not received a good explanation from the Conservatives as to why Cambridge Bay was not selected.
Premiers absent from PM's announcements
Harper's visits to Resolute Bay and Nanisivik capped a three-day northern tour. Earlier last week, he announced expanded boundaries to Nahanni National Park in the Northwest Territories.
Neither Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik nor N.W.T. Premier Joe Handley were in their respective territories last week for Harper's announcements. Both were in Moncton, N.B., for Council of the Federation meetings with their fellow premiers.
Harper deflected criticism from some leaders that he had failed to consult with northerners about his arctic sovereignty and security plans, or even about his plans to come north to announce those plans.
"Obviously military decisions have to be made on a military basis," Harper said Friday.
"But in terms of decisions we announced on Resolute and on Nanisivik, they're obviously going to benefit local people, they'll be involved in construction, hopefully employment as well."