The first Arctic Council Search and Rescue exercise took place October 4-6, 2011 in Whitehorse, Yukon. 80 delegates and observers from the eight Arctic Council member states were welcomed by Lieutenant General Walter Semianiw, Commander Canada Command and host of the international exercise.

The delegates from the search and rescue communities of the eight Arctic Council nations studied the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic (Arctic SAR Agreement) signed by the respective governments on May 12, 2011 in Nuuk, Greenland, and examined ways to enhance SAR capability and response across the North. This Table Top Exercise focused on strategic and operational aspects of aeronautical and maritime, SAR in the Arctic.

The event, that is mandated by the recently signed “Agreement on cooperation of Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic provides a forum to identify the logistical issues related to the movement of SAR aircraft or marine vessels in the “Area of Operations” of each of the cooperating nations. The face to face “table top exercise” is an opportunity for the participating nations to share their expertise and get a better understanding of how each nation conducts Search and Rescue operations.

“Domestically, the North is one of the main priorities of the Canadian government as expressed in Canada’s Northern Strategy,” said Lt.-Gen. Semianiw in his opening address. “The challenges posed by the landscape, the climate and the vast distances cannot be an excuse for not fulfilling all our SAR capabilities. But the developments in the Arctic mean that we must all work together to ensure that citizens of each or our nations who work and live in the north can expect timely responses when they are in distress,” said Lt.-Gen Semianiw.

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper and our government have made the issues facing Canada's Arctic a priority like never before," said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

Canada Command is the Canadian Forces (CF) Headquarters responsible for the conduct and coordination of aeronautical and maritime search and rescue operations within Canada. The CF works closely with the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and other search and rescue organizations, including the international community, to save the lives of people lost or injured, often in remote and dangerous locations.

Links:   CBC coverage

Photo: by Jax Kennedy