Harper travels, above, below and on waves in Arctic exercise

HMCS TORONTO — The military put on a thunderous display of naval and air prowess in the Arctic for Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday in an unmistakable exercise of political and international power.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

HMCS TORONTO — The military put on a thunderous display of naval and air prowess in the Arctic for Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday in an unmistakable exercise of political and international power.

Relaxed and wearing sheepish grin, Harper stood on the deck of HMCS Toronto and watched three CF-18 Hornets skim the calm, icy waters of a Baffin Island inlet near Iqaluit. The fighters roared over a small flotilla of ships taking part in a summer sovereignty exercise.

Harper arrived aboard the frigate sitting in the open doorway of a Sea King helicopter, his feet dangling over the side, after being briefly allowed to pilot the obsolescent aircraft.

Not to be outdone by the air force, the navy let Harper take the helm of the frigate Toronto and conn the submarine HMCS Corner Brook, which took the prime minister below the surface for part of the exercise.

The prime minister, who spent the previous few days talking down the military aspects of their northern strategy in favour of economic development, aimed to dramatize Canada’s claim to the Far North.

In a speech delivered beside the warship’s forward gun, he told the crew that protecting the country’s borders is the “first and foremost responsibility of a national government,” one that has often been neglected in the past.

“Canada has a real, growing, long-term presence in our Arctic.”

In a thinly veiled reference to recent Russian air force flights and submarine patrols, Harper said the northern borders have been probed by air and sea.

“We must never forget, that just as the eyes of southern Canadians gaze northward, so too do those beyond our borders,” he said as the coast guard icebreaker Pierre Radisson drifted lazily behind him in the bright Arctic sunshine.

The scramble for resources in the North means sovereignty protection “has never been so important.”

His message was echoed by Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who was ferried aboard in a coast guard helicopter to join the prime minister and senior military commanders at the start of the summer military exercise.

“Sovereignty is not a passive state of being,” MacKay said. “It’s an active state of being.

“There’s no one that does active better than the Canadian Forces.”

The sharp political rhetoric stood in contrast to the country top military commander, who said the threats to the country’s dominion over the Arctic are more run-of-the-mill.

“There is no conventional threat to the Canadian Arctic, no conventional military threat to the Arctic,” Gen. Walter Natynczyk told reporters before Harper’s arrival.

“There are security threats with regard to criminal activity.”

Smugglers are more and more choosing northern routes, rather than risk running the patrol pickets along the East and West Coasts, he suggested.

A number of security reports have said that illicit drugs are finding their way to Baffin Island, where the cargo is off-loaded and then flown south.

Natynczyk said the war-fighting and surveillance training going on the Arctic is invaluable regardless of the threat.

Just Posted

Red Deerian spreads kindness with one card at a time

One Red Deerian wants to combat bullying by spreading kindness in the… Continue reading

Bowden baby in need of surgery

“Help for Alexis” Go Fund Me account

PHOTO: First Rider bus safety in Red Deer

Central Alberta students learned bus safety in the Notre Dame High School… Continue reading

Red Deer dancer attends national summer school

Dancers with others from across Canada and beyond

WATCH: Annual Family Picnic at Central Spray and Play

Blue Grass Sod Farms Ltd. held the Annual Family Picnic at the… Continue reading

Woman has finger ripped off at West Edmonton Mall waterslide

SASKATOON — A Saskatchewan woman says she lost a finger after her… Continue reading

Uncertainty looms over Canada’s cannabis tourism, but ambitions are high

TORONTO — Longtime marijuana advocate Neev Tapiero is ready for the cannabis-driven… Continue reading

Feds mulling safeguards to prevent ‘surge’ of cheap steel imports into Canada

OTTAWA — The federal government extended an olive branch of sorts to… Continue reading

Ontario govt caps off summer session by passing bill to cut Toronto council size

TORONTO — The Ontario government passed a controversial bill to slash the… Continue reading

Updated:Italian bridge collapse sends cars plunging, killing 26

MILAN — A 51-year-old highway bridge in the Italian port city of… Continue reading

Saudi Arabia spat affecting Canadians embarking on hajj, community members say

TORONTO — Members of Canada’s Muslim community say recent tensions between Ottawa… Continue reading

Tug carrying up to 22,000 litres of fuel capsizes in Fraser River off Vancouver

VANCOUVER — The smell of diesel filled the air as crews worked… Continue reading

Nebraska executes first inmate using fentanyl

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska carried out its first execution in more than… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month