Russian invasion of Ukraine forces Arctic defence back onto Canada's agenda

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CAMBRIDGE BAY, Nunavut — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend the Canadian Armed Forces' largest Arctic training exercise today in what experts say is a clear signal that defending Canada's North is now a priority for his government.

This is the first time that Trudeau will be present for Operation Nanook, the military’s annual exercise in the Far North, which was first conducted in 2007 and was a stop for Stephen Harper when he was prime minister.

Trudeau is attending with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg as Canada and its allies wrestle with the upheaval caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

That includes a changed security situation in the Arctic, where long-standing hopes of settling differences through diplomacy and co-operation now seem much more remote.

Experts say the prime minister’s visit to Operation Nanook is one of several indications that the Liberal government is shifting its approach, which also previously emphasized social and environmental concerns in Canada’s Far North.

They also suggest Canada doesn’t really have a choice but to pivot toward a more defensive focus given the importance of the region to its closest allies, including the United States and NATO.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2022.

The Canadian Press