Arctic sovereignty patrols to start next week

About 120 personnel including Canadian Rangers will take part in this year's Operation Nunalivut based out of Resolute, Nunavut.

Norwegians to observe this year's Operation Nunalivut

Defence Minister Peter McKay and then Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk lead a parade of Canadian Rangers and regular-force soldiers up the runway of CFS Alert at the close of Operation Nunalivut in 2010. (Canadian Press)

The Canadian military is preparing for its annual winter Arctic sovereignty exercise, Operation Nunalivut.

About 120 personnel including Canadian Rangers will take part in this year's operation. Lt-Col. Glen MacNeil, Task Force Nunalivut commander, said there will also be observers from Norway.

"They are one of our partner nations in the North and they're interested in how we conduct our operations as we are with how they conduct their operations, so we can learn best practices from each other," he said.

MacNeil said they'll head out on April 10 from Resolute, Nunavut, with an air patrol to Mould Bay in the Northwest Territories. They'll also have snowmobile patrols to Devon Island and Isachsen in Nunavut.

The exercise is timed to correspond with the spring adventure season when people from all over the world try to reach the North Pole or other High Arctic areas.

"It makes sure that we have some members of the Canadian Armed Forces pre-positioned in the North in the event that we have to assist in a safety or security situation should it occur," he said.

"That has occurred on past Operations Nunalivut where we had to deploy some of our people out to assist in search and rescue operations."

Participants in Operation Nunalivut in 2010 rescued Australian adventurer Tom Smitheringale, who fell through ice about 200 kilometres north of CFS Alert while trekking solo to the North Pole. Rescuers were able to find Smitheringale within six hours of his distress call.

The military says the annual exercise helps them to prepare for emergencies or security issues in the North's harsh conditions.

The exercise will last two weeks. Operation Nunalivut has been conducted annually since 2007.