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Defence Minister Peter MacKay inspects reserve members of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment during a ceremony Monday to launch the Yellowknife army reserve unit. ((CBC))

Defence Minister Peter MacKay officially launched Canada's first army reserve company to be based in the Northwest Territories on Monday, making it the only active reserve unit north of 60.

Speaking at a stand-up ceremony Monday morning in Yellowknife, MacKay said the new Yellowknife Company will be part of Canada's growing presence in the Arctic.

"The new Yellowknife Company, which complements the Canadian Rangers and our regular force elements of the North, is part of this evolution, a part of the Canadian Forces' increasing footprint and capability and capacity in the Arctic," MacKay said.

"A primary reserve unit, based in the North, clearly serves the interests of Canada and the Canadian Forces."

Full strength by 2019

Military officials have just started recruiting members to join the Yellowknife Company, which is part of the 41 Canadian Brigade Loyal Edmonton Regiment in Alberta.

The Canadian Forces hopes to recruit 100 people for the unit over time, putting it at full strength by 2019.

A typical reserve company is composed of both part-time and full-time reservists who train on evenings and weekends.

The Yellowknife reservists will complement the work of the Canadian Rangers, a pan-northern reservist group that helps with sovereignty patrols and search missions in the North.

But unlike the Rangers, the reservists will receive combat training and can volunteer to be deployed overseas with regular Canadian Forces units.

Defence officials have said the Yellowknife Company will focus on Arctic survival in addition to the typical reservist training offered in other parts in Canada.

The launch of the northern reserve unit is the latest in the federal government's Canada First Defence Strategy, an extensive military plan that came out last year.

"Canada's reserve forces and the Arctic both figure strongly in the Canada First Defence Strategy, and I would single out for emphasis the efforts of the Rangers and the work that they do and the important service that they provide," MacKay said.

Progress on past announcements

The minister also referred to the government's past Arctic announcements, including two from 2007 to set up Arctic military facilities in Nunavut: an Arctic training centre in Resolute Bay, and a deep-water military port at the former Nanisivik mine site.

MacKay said an engineering assessment of the Nanisvik site has already been completed and environmental studies are underway.

As well, MacKay said the government is working on introducing Arctic offshore patrol ships.

"That project is moving ahead, I assure you," he said.

"Model testing for the ship design is scheduled for this month, and the statement of operational requirements for the ship has been approved, and we continue to refine the system requirement document."

From Yellowknife, MacKay goes to Iqaluit, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper will hold a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

MacKay will also observe Operation Nanook, a military exercise intended to help demonstrate Canada's sovereignty in the eastern Arctic near Baffin Island. He will take part in a "community day" the Canadian Forces is holding in Iqaluit.