A Vancouver-based university professor is advocating for Search and Rescue assets to be based in the Arctic. University of British Columbia professor Michael Byers, considered an expert on Arctic matters, says that northern residents deserve the same level of SAR services as those living in the south of the country.

“People in the North deserve services on par with their southern counterparts when there’s an emergency,” says Byers.

Byers argues in a recently published paper co-authored by Nicole Covey and published in the International Journal that RCAF CH-149 Cormorant helicopters, which are equipped for SAR rather than military operations, should be based in the North, not only to provide SAR services, but to police the shipping channels. The pair also argue that the Arctic sea lanes can be policed by unarmed Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers, keeping naval ships out of the region as they could provoke competing nations, such as Russia and China, into an arms buildup to counter a perceived military threat.

Countering this argument is retired Colonel Pierre Leblanc, one-time commander of the Canadian Forces in the Arctic and currently head of Arctic Security Consultants. Leblanc thinks that the government should continue with its current plan of building up military assets for northern patrols. He says military assets could provide SAR services as required. As for the possibility that such action may provoke the Russians, Leblanc dismisses the notion. “It’s minute compared to the Russian inventory of military capabilities,” Leblanc said.

Photo credit: Photo: Master Corporal Johanie Maheu, 14 Wing Imaging, Greenwood