Operation Nanook continues in Pond Inlet

Defence Minister Peter MacKay is observing troops on northern Baffin Island as part of Operation Nanook, the Canadian Forces' annual Arctic sovereignty operation.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay is observing troops on northern Baffin Island as part of Operation Nanook, the Canadian Forces' annual Arctic sovereignty operation.

MacKay is scheduled to travel to Pond Inlet, Nunavut, on Thursday to watch Canadian infantry troops and Inuit members of the Canadian Rangers prepare to head out on three days of ground manoeuvres in a nearby area.

Operation Nanook, which began Aug. 6 and runs through Aug. 26, involves Arctic sovereignty patrols, military exercises and emergency preparedness training in the eastern Arctic.

As MacKay arrived Wednesday night in Resolute, Nunavut, to observe the participating troops, he affirmed Operation Nanook's main role in asserting Canada's sovereignty in the Far North.

"All of this is very much in keeping with our government's intent, as the prime minister stated quite pointedly, to 'use it' and to have a very visible and active presence in the Canadian Arctic," he said.

U.S., Denmark invited

For the first time, troops from Denmark and the United States are taking part in Operation Nanook. A total of 1,500 troops from all three nations are involved in this year's exercise.

Maintaining Canada's sovereignty, MacKay said, is only strengthened by including its two Arctic neighbours and NATO allies.

"It's entirely consistent with sovereignty to invite people to come here," he said. "If you invite somebody in your house, you're not giving up any ownership or giving up any control of your home."

The U.S. had troops training with Canadian divers and helicopter crews at a lake outside Resolute on Wednesday, practising precision jumps from a helicopter into the waters below.

Canada, the U.S. and Denmark are also conducting marine exercises on navy and coast guard vessels in Baffin Bay.

Officials taking part in Operation Nanook say training and sharing knowledge is certainly one element in this year's exercise.

"They're definitely the experts in Arctic operations," Jim Hordinski, a chief warrant officer with the U.S. Navy, said of the Canadians earlier this week.

"Anything we can learn from them is of great value for us, just to make us better all around."