The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) announced that they will be affiliating each of their new six Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) to a different region in the Inuit Nunangat. The Inuit Nunangat (Inuit Settlement Area) has approximately 43% of Canada’s coastline.
This type of affiliation is a long-honoured tradition in the RCN. It is designed to build strong long-lasting relationships between the ships and the regions they will be serving in. The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of Defence emphasized that, “Canada’s Northern communities have unique experiences to share with our Royal Canadian Navy which will directly contribute to a deeper understanding of their culture and heritage.”
The Ships and The Regions
The first of these AOPS will be Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf is scheduled for delivery later this year. This ship will be affiliated with the Qikiqtani region of Nunavut. The Qikiqtani region is the most populated of the three Nunavut regions and is where Iqaluit, the capital, is located. The next five ships will be affiliated with the other Nunavut regions, Kitikmeot and Kivalliq, as well as the other regions in the Inuit Nunangat, Inuvialuit (northern Northwest Territories), Nunavik (northern Quebec) and Nunatsiavut (northern Labrador).
The Honourable Joe Savikataaq, Premier of Nunavut, welcomed the announcement in Iqaluit, saying,“I look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship between Canada’s Navy and our vibrant communities. We are excited to welcome you, and work with you to protect Canada’s Arctic.”
The announced names for the other ships are: HMCS Margaret Brooke, HMCS Max Bernays, HMCS William Hall, and the HMCS Frédérick Rolette.
As mentioned, affiliation is a long-standing tradition in the RCN which is designed to help build relationships. As Commander Corey Gleason, the Commanding Officer of HMCS Harry DeWolf said,“Affiliation is an important naval tradition, and I am honoured that the crew of HMCS Harry DeWolf will perpetuate this custom with communities of the Qikiqtani region. As Commanding Officer of the future HMCS Harry DeWolf, my ship’s company and I look forward to operating in our Northern waters and to engaging with communities throughout the region.”
Canadian Arctic Sovereignty
This announcement comes after some questions on the international stage regarding Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, called the Canadian claim to the Northwest Passage “illegal” at the recent Arctic Council meeting in Finland. At the event, Foreign Affairs Minister Christia Freeland, was quick to reply, ““Canada is very clear about the Northwest Passage being Canadian. There is both a very strong and geographic connection with Canada.”
Canada has moved on several pieces recently that can be interpreted as a force of sovereignty in the region, this includes the affiliations, new coast guard ships, and submitting their claim for the North Pole.
Minister Sajjit commented on the new affiliations saying, “strengthening our relationship with Inuit communities helps the Canadian Armed Forces to enhance its awareness of issues that confront those living in the North, and will contribute to a more meaningful engagement and enduring presence in the Arctic, helping to keep Canada strong at home.” Further the RCN website said, “The RCN will employ the AOPS to conduct sovereignty and surveillance operations in Canadian waters on all three coasts, including in the Arctic.”