Two years ago, the Arctic Council, which Canada will chair for the next two years, concluded the Agreement on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue, the first binding agreement negotiated under its auspices. Many saw it as a major step forward for the organization, but critics felt it simply reflected what had already been happening on the ground for years.
Even with the agreement in place, both Arctic officials and those on the front lines continue to ask themselves the same question:
“Are we ready?”
Ready for what? What kinds of incidents do we need to be prepared for?
Rapid climate change is challenging traditional survival skills on the land. At the same time, it is bringing an increase in visitors, tourists and adventurers alike, who want to “see it before it melts” and ships hoping to shave miles off the journey from North America to Europe. Many fear that this will bring many more dots to the map.
Below are some of the search and rescue operations executed in Northern Canada since 2010. The searches and rescues featured in this project describe a variety of scenarios, and are based on information gained from media sources and government reports. However, these events only scratch the surface of incidents Arctic residents’ respond to every year, but which never make the papers.
The search and rescues featured fall into two categories:
Community members/personnel/resources originate from within the community. The community actors involved are vastly diverse, including local businesses and those providing support for those physically in the search. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are included in this category.
Personnel and/or resources from a federally run department are used in the search and rescue. Due to the special constitutional relationship between territories and the federal government of Canada, all aeronautical or maritime search and rescues are federal jurisdiction and use nationally managed resources. Most commonly, the Canadian Coast Guard plays the predominant role in these responses.