In addition to climate change, the Canadian Department of National Defence assesses China’s expansion into the Arctic as additional problems that Canada will have to deal with in the near future. The warnings came after the Royal Canadian Navy recently completed ice tests and trials for the first of its new fleet of offshore Arctic patrol vessels.
Chief of the Defence Staff Lieutenant General Wayne Eyre sent a message to all Canadian Forces on March 24 highlighting some defence issues the military will face in the future.
He noted that the military is simultaneously working with the United States to improve surveillance of North American aerospace and Arctic areas.
“Various trends such as climate change, increasing international interest in the Arctic, and challenges to our national resilience are driving changes in the conception of national defense,” Eyre wrote.
Already, he said, Canada has created improved capabilities such as the naval ships. In February, the “HMCS Harry DeWolf” sailed into Arctic waters for the first time as a test run. “Initial ice runs were conducted off the coast of Baffin Island as part of the test program after the ship was accepted,” said Dan Le Bouthillier, spokesman for the Department of Defense.
The “HMCS Harry DeWolf” is the first of six commissioned patrol vessels and is scheduled to make its first Arctic deployment in August. Planning and construction of a polar icebreaker continues, but is nearly a decade behind schedule.
Department of Defense Deputy Secretary Jody Thomas warned during a March 10 conference that China’s expansion into the Arctic could also pose a risk to Canada.
“We should not underestimate at all the threat of resource exploitation in the Arctic, particularly by China,” Thomas said during a virtual conference of defense associations. “China has an insatiable need for resources and will stop at nothing to get them The Arctic is one of the last regions left. We need to understand it and exploit it – and we need to do it faster than the Chinese can exploit it.”
Canada has already recognized the problem and has taken the first steps to limit the Chinese presence in the region. In December 2020, the Canadian government, citing national security concerns, refused to allow a state-controlled Chinese company to buy the Hope Bay gold mine. The mine, located close to the Northwest Passage, would have given the Chinese access to this important waterway. This waterway is considered an important shipping route as the ice melts due to climate change.
Thomas also raised concerns about Russian activities in the Arctic, including the construction of military bases and new icebreakers in Russia. “No one would invest that kind of money in building military capacity in the Arctic without reason, intent or purpose,” she said. “We shouldn’t be naive about it. It doesn’t mean it’s immediate, but it’s there.”
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal