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Harper stresses Canada's capability building in high Arctic

(Xinhua)

09:00, August 25, 2011


The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers a speech to members of the military personnel, who are participating in Operation Nanook - the largest Canadian Arctic military exercise in history in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, August 23, 2011. Harper said on Tuesday that the buildup of various capabilities in high Arctic is crucial to Canada's interests in the region. (Xinhua/Zhang Dacheng)

RESOLUTE, Canada, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday that the buildup of various capabilities in high Arctic is crucial to Canada's interests in the region.

Harper made the remarks in Resolute, Nunavut, on the first leg of his sixth routine annual tour of the northern part of Canada since he took power in 2006.

In an address, Harper told hundreds of Canadian military personnel at a tent hall that the Armed Forces have played an important role in maintaining civilians' interests and world peace.

He also admitted that it's not an easy job to build up capabilities in the vast territories of the Arctic region, where it is sparsely populated and under bad weather, promising to provide government financial support in the long process.

Three days before Harper's arrival in Resolute, Canada's First Air's civilian Boeing 737-200 flight crashed into a hill slope near the Resolute Bay Airport, killing 12 of the all 15 people aboard.

Harper appreciated the efforts and professionalism shown by the military personnel who were participating in Operation Nanook -- the largest Canadian Arctic military exercise in history -- in Resolute and rushed to the site to manage to rescue three survivors and ferried them to advanced hospitals in Ottawa and another city.

But he said it's impossible to establish Arctic-specific search and rescue capacity in a short time.

"We have to be realistic -- there is no possible way, in the vastness of the Canadian Arctic, we could have all of the resources necessary close by. It's just impossible," Harper said.

On behalf of all Canadians, Harper repeated his condolences to the family members of the crash sufferers, especially appreciated a senior Canadian polar study scientist who died in the accident.

If not for the military exercise in the region, it would have taken hours for help to arrive. No military search and rescue resources are permanently based in the high Arctic.

The authorities have so far declined to elaborate on the cause of the crash and rejected the media's application for covering the crash site.

Officials said Monday that it will take several days before they are able to analyze the information gathered in the final moments of the flight, and a final report on the crash could take more than a year.

The prime minister began his tour early Tuesday. His schedule will see him travel to the Resolute Bay area for a brief visit before moving on to other northern communities, including Baker Lake, Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Haines Junction in the North's three territories.

The prime minister is expected to make several announcements focusing on economic and social development during the tour, which runs until Aug. 26.

The Canadian Armed Forces are stationed in Resolute Bay as part of Operation NANOOK 11 -- a joint Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force operation -- which works with other federal departments and international partners, in order to provide a visible presence in the Arctic and demonstrate Canada's ability to respond to emergencies in the region.

It builds upon previous NANOOK Operations conducted every summer since 2007, primarily in the eastern and high Arctic.

More than 1,100 Canadian Armed Forces personnel and 180 members of the Canadian Coast Guard are taking part in the exercise from Aug. 5 to Aug. 26, 2011.

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