ARCTIC RAM: Relationship between Resolute and Canadian Armed Forces a delicate balance
Rumours fly through the hamlet, so the CAF, elders meet to make sure indigenous cultures are respected.
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Rumour has it there’s a downed satellite somewhere near Resolute Bay.
The community of fewer than 250 inhabitants is a place where information spreads fast by word of mouth.
And a few weeks back the word on the snow-covered street was the military would be up to collect pieces of a satellite that crashed near one of the country’s northern-most hamlets.
The overall military presence was no surprise because its the Arctic Training Centre is on a compound just a short snowmobile ride from Resolute.
But squadrons of men running around the area looking for scrap metal is troubling for the hamlet’s inhabitants, who rely on hunting those lands for sustenance.
Philip Manik Sr., the chairperson of the Hunters and Trappers Association in Resolute, said hunters “not only hunt for themselves,” but also share their bounty out of necessity.
“In our culture, if you have food you give it to people who can’t hunt,” Manik said. “Women without husbands, elderly people, and these days people who are without jobs who are getting older.”
Resolute Senior Administrative Officer Angela Idlout said the hamlet normally has about 35 employees—a good number of whom maintain buildings, roads, or the hamlet’s busy runway—there are about 80 students in the community and a lot of the other people don’t work.
“They can’t always afford to buy food, so they go get it,” Idlout said.
Groceries are expensive. Flown in by northern charter Calm Air from either Yellowknife or Winnipeg, the prices for food and essentials at the lone Co-Op grocery store are considerably higher than in either of those cities.
Milk is as expensive as $9.19 for a 2-litre jug in Resolute, oranges are $6.99 per kilogram, a can of beans is $9.99, a 1 kg bag of chicken nuggets is $28.99 and a box of diapers is $37.99.
Hunting is essential food-gathering for the community.
So the rumour about the satellite made it to people who would seek answers, including local wildlife officers, local RCMP, the hamlet office, and Manik.
Manik was at a meeting last week at which the military’s Liason Officer, Lt.Navy Clayton Erickson, clarified the rumour was just that.
“It’s a story,” Erickson told the committee of interested parties. “The actual satellite plan was only for story, there is no material left on the land.”
The ‘downed satellite’ scenario was just a fabricated narrative for the soldiers engaged in Exercise Arctic Ram, which is an annual training exercise for Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members to practice northern operations.
It’s also the first northern op for the CAF this year, and will soon be followed by several others in what the military calls the ‘N’ series.
Next is Op Nunalavut., when troops will deploy in the area on March 29.
Through a translator, Manik asked Erickson to pass on the tip that CAF members should not only avoid hunting areas and animals, but also “the hunters themselves.”
Someone alone on the ice may look stranded, but is more likely standing over a seal hole.
“Everyone will take every possible (action) to avoid disturbing any hunting,” he said.
Driving back to the ATC from that meeting, Erickson said the military needs to be able to operate out of communities like Resolute, or further North places like Grise Fiord and Alert on Northern Ellesmere Island. It’s critical to demonstrating the CAF’s aibility to assert Canada’s sovereignty.
But he emphasized that cohabitating symbiotically and respecting the unique way of life of Canada’s Arctic inhabitants is always the priority, and the CAF will take queues seriously.
“We want to make sure everyone is on the same page and everyone is happy,” he said. “If there are any concerns, I can bring that back so we can potentially change our plans if need be.”