Arctic research station site chosen

Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, will be home to Canada's new High Arctic Research Station, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced.

Nunavut community of Cambridge Bay beats out Resolute Bay, Pond Inlet

A sailor aboard the Canadian Coast Guard ship Louis S. Saint Laurent scans the water near Cambridge Bay. The western Nunavut community has been chosen as the home for Canada's High Arctic Research Station. ((Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press))

A hamlet on the Northwest Passage has been chosen as the home for Canada's High Arctic Research Station, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday.

The western Nunavut community of Cambridge Bay has been chosen over Resolute Bay and Pond Inlet to the east. All three sites were shortlisted in 2009 as possible locations.

"This will be a world class centre for science," Harper told reporters on Tuesday. "It will be a tangible expression of this government's determination to develop and protect all of our true North."

Harper was supposed to deliver the news Tuesday morning in the hamlet of 1,500, but heavy winds cancelled his flight out of Churchill, Man. Instead, the prime minister made the announcement in Churchill.

Annual northern tour

Tuesday marked the second day of a five-day Arctic tour that has become an annual event for the prime minister to demonstrate Canada's sovereignty in the North.

The High Arctic Research Station was announced in the 2007 throne speech, and $2 million was allocated for the feasibility study on the proposed station in the 2009 budget.

"By building this leading-edge research station, we are advancing Canada's knowledge of the Arctic's resources and climate while at the same time ensuring that northern communities are prosperous, vibrant and secure," Harper stated in a release.

Cambridge Bay is on the southeastern coast of Victoria Island. Pond Inlet is located near the northern tip of Baffin Island in eastern Nunavut, while Resolute Bay is in central Nunavut, on the southern coast of Cornwallis Island.

John England, a longtime Arctic researcher at the University of Alberta, is pleased with the chosen location.

'Wonderful reach'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes the announcement about the Arctic research station Tuesday morning in Churchill, Man., where poor weather prevented him from flying to Nunavut. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))
"Cambridge Bay gives you wonderful reach into the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, with even farther reach into the Yukon," he said.

Michael Byers, a University of British Columbia legal expert in global politics and international law, thought Resolute Bay's existing Polar Continental Shelf research centre made it a better location.

He said more than 40 years of High Arctic research has been based out of Resolute, a community of 200 people more than 700 kilometres northeast of Cambridge Bay.

"The logical choice was to go there and not to develop a parallel capacity in a second Arctic community," said Byers, who also ran for the New Democrats in the 2008 federal election.

However, Cambridge Bay's higher population may make it more attractive for scientists who move there with their families.

Eric Kitigon, 17, works part time at a store in Cambridge Bay. He learned at school that  the research station was coming to his community. He hopes it will create jobs and provide a chance for Arctic scientists to mingle with community residents.

"If they become close with all the locals," he said, "then I guess they'd take the scientists out hunting."