Cambridge Bay celebrates Canadian High Arctic Research Station opening

A state-of-the-art research facility in the High Arctic hamlet of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, is holding its grand opening celebrations Wednesday and Thursday.

Grand opening of $200-million facility was originally expected in 2017

Once the CHARS campus is officially opened, roughly one third of the main research building will be open to the public — including a multi-purpose room, teaching lab and café. (Polar Knowledge Canada)

The people of Cambridge Bay are celebrating the grand opening of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station located just outside its community. 

"We look forward to the festivities and people just celebrating this big event because we've been waiting for a while and we're all excited and anxious for the official opening," Cambridge Bay Mayor Pamela Gross told CBC Wednesday morning before celebrations got underway. 

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) is a cutting-edge research station with a focus on better understanding the impacts of climate change. Researchers from Polar Knowledge Canada, the federal agency that operates the research station, started working at the facility as early as November 2015 as construction continued on the campus. 

Construction began in 2014, with the grand opening originally expected in 2017. Although the public opening has been delayed multiple times, officials working on the project have previously pointed out it would be incorrect to say the facility itself has been delayed because researchers have been using the facility since as early as 2015. 

Since then, public access has been limited to tours booked by appointment only. Once the CHARS campus is officially open, roughly one third of the main research building will be open to the public — including a multi-purpose room, teaching lab and café.

Where scientific and traditional knowledge meet

Collaboration between Inuit knowledge and western science is one of the objectives of the facility. That collaboration includes facilitating relationships between visiting scientists and local Inuit.

Gross says she is particularly proud of how Inuinnaq and Inuit cultures from across the Arctic are represented at the CHARS campus. 

"I think that [CHARS] is what it is because of a vision from a collective amount of people coming together and talking about, 'What we want to have in the community' and 'what science should look like,'" she said. 

The drawing on the wall of the CHARS Knowledge Sharing Centre is "Many Stories" by Ningiukulu Teevee from Cape Dorset, Nunavut. "Drum Dancers" by Sammy Kudluk of Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, bring the floor to life. (Karen McColl/CBC)

The official opening ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Wednesday, with entertainment, refreshments and campus tours following.

A free shuttle service will be running from Kiilinik High School to the CHARS campus, located just outside the hamlet, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

On Thursday, CHARS staff have planned several activities for community members to participate in, including creating a mural at the entrance of the campus to celebrate its opening, and a teaching lab where members of the public can conduct science experiments.

Yvonne Jones, parliamentary secretary to the minister of northern affairs, is scheduled to participate in the opening ceremonies on behalf of the government of Canada, along with Cambridge Bay Mayor Pamela Gross and Polar Knowledge Canada president and CEO David J. Scott. 

Written by Laura Busch, with files from Loren McGinnis