The Canadian Coast Guard plans to offer oil spill response training in Resolute, Nunavut, this summer, as concerns grow about the risks of oil slicks in the Arctic.
The training will take place in August during Operation Nanook, the Canadian Forces' annual summer Arctic sovereignty exercise.
Hamlet officials in Resolute approached the military last year with concerns that increased marine traffic could lead to future oil spills in High Arctic waters.
"Especially for such a remote area like Resolute or any of our closer communities, we have to look at reponse time for any of these incidents," Duncan Walker, the hamlet's senior administrative officer, told CBC News.
"How is it going to work? What tools are people going to have in order deal with something along this line?"
The urgent need for an Arctic oil spill plan, he added, is reinforced by the current oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.
"If we're facing increased traffic through the Northwest Passage over the next few years, there's always potential for something horrible like this to happen," he said.
Coast guard officials say a spill in the North is virtually guaranteed, so they are getting prepared by shipping oil spill kits to 19 Nunavut communities this summer.
"The main objective in Resolute, as [in] all communities, is to address some technical aspects of the pollution response and try to deal with it within a community context," said Larry Trigatti, the coast guard's superintendent of environmental response in the central and Arctic region.
Trigatti said the kits are not meant for big oil slicks, but can be used for smaller spills such as those that might occur when barges deliver annual fuel supplies to communities.
Community members and local Canadian Rangers will learn to use "booms" — devices that Trigatti described as a "floating fence" — to help contain those spills.
Walker said while he is happy that the spill kits are coming north, he wonders if his community will be able to use them.
"Well, having the kit is one thing," he said. "I think they're hoping that we have an adequate supply of boats or what have you."
Walker said the Resolute is currently looking at getting an all-purpose boat for everything from oil spills to rescues.