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Bloodworth: Should Canada strengthen its military presence in the Arctic?

By: /
13 July, 2011
Former Associate Secretary to the Cabinet, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister

The first question should be what do we want increased presence in the Arctic to do, not who should provide it. The primary indication of sovereignty is occupation of it by people who make their living and their home there and we should bolster that in any way we can. Increased use of Arctic waters will lead to the need for additional search and rescue resources. Additional resource development will add to that pressure. Increased transportation in the north will require more ice breakers and ice strengthened vessels as well as aircraft to deal with the huge distances. Military resources are a primary (but not the sole) component of search and rescue but ice breakers are best operated by the Coast Guard. The private sector can provide an important part of increased air services.

We should not default to military presence as the answer to increased presence in the north. The primary needs are most likely to be those indicated above, not military strength. A more nuanced, needs based approach to additional government resources in the north is called for.

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