Operation NANOOK

Operation NANOOK takes place each year across Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Labrador. It features up to five deployments throughout the year.

Canada is an Arctic nation which guards its sovereignty and defends the country against threats in the region. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) plays a key role in this. Further, the CAF is adapting to environmental changes and enhancing its ability to operate in the Arctic.

How many people are deployed?

The number and makeup of CAF members changes from year to year based on planned activities and exercises.

What are they doing?

During Operation NANOOK, the CAF:

  • guards Canada’s sovereignty over its northernmost regions
  • improves the way it operates in Arctic conditions
  • improves coordination with Indigenous, federal and territorial governments and northern partners
  • works with mission partners to best respond to safety and security issues in the North

So far in 2018, there have been four activities under Operation NANOOK:

  • a series of presence activities along the Northwest Passage
  • a maritime domain defence and security exercise in Northern Labrador, Nunavut and Greenland areas
  • a major air disaster exercise in Yellowknife, NT
  • emergency and disaster response training with government partners in and around Yellowknife and Behchokǫ̀, Northwest Territories.

History and context of the operation

From 2007 to 2018, the CAF conducted a number of different operations in the North.

  • Operation NUNALIVUT focused on land operations, cooperating with international partners, and supporting research and development in the High Arctic during late winter or early spring
  • Operation NUNAKPUT focused on operating with government partners along northern waters in the summer
  • Operation NANOOK included one or two major activities, and took place across the North in the late summer

Now, these activities are all combined under one operation: Operation NANOOK.

The CAF has also integrated additional Northern exercises into the operation. This gives the CAF a more focused approach and allows the CAF to better work with partners and allies.

This will not have an impact on Operation BOXTOP, Operation NEVUS, or Operation LIMPID.

Canadian Armed Forces relationship with Northern partners

During Operation NANOOK, the CAF works and trains with a variety of partners. Focusing on working with key allies and partners makes the CAF more effective in the North.

These partners include international military partners, and other Canadian federal departments and agencies, territorial and Indigenous governments, and local organizations. Canada’s contributions to Arctic security are a key part of the Canada-United States defence relationship.

Indigenous communities are at the heart of Canada’s North. The CAF works to deepen its relationships with these communities, particularly through collaborative and continuous discourse throughout the year. The CAF continues to build on mutual understanding with northern community leaders.

Global Significance

There are a number of important international issues in the Arctic:

  • climate change
  • international trade
  • global security

The Arctic is becoming more accessible because of climate change and new technology. For example, there were fewer than 1 000 flights on polar routes in Canadian airspace in 2003. In 2016, there were over 14,000 flights.

State and commercial actors from around the world are interested in the long-term benefits from operating in the Arctic. There are also large reserves of fossil fuels and minerals. These factors are expected to lead to increased commercial activity, research, and tourism in and around Canada’s northern region.

The increase in traffic brings new safety and security risks. Canada must be ready to respond to search and rescue cases, as well as natural or man-made disasters.

Past deployments


Operation NANOOK 2019

Operation (Op) NANOOK was conducted in communities and locations across Canada’s Arctic including Nunavut, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and the Northwest Passage. The 2019 iteration of Op NANOOK included the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), other Government Departments and Agencies, domestic, and international partners.

Op NANOOK 2019 was conducted in four parts:

  • Op NANOOK-NUNALIVUT: Northwest Territories, March 17 to April 1, 2019
    • Main focus: High Arctic winter operations
  • Op NANOOK-TATIGIIT: Yukon, May 27 to June 7, 2019
    • Main focus: Wildfire evacuation training
  • Op NANOOK-NUNAKPUT: Nunavut, August 11 to 30, 2019
    • Main focus: Wildfire evacuation training
  • Op NANOOK-TUUGAALIK: Northwest Passage, August 9 to September 13, 2019
    • Main focus: Naval presence along and monitoring of Northwest Passage

Common to all aspects of Op NANOOK is the respectful partnership between the CAF and the peoples and communities indigenous to Canada’s North. Canadian Ranger units and local governments all contributed greatly to the success of Operation NANOOK 2019.

An annual event since 2007, Op NANOOK enhances Canada’s surveillance and presence across its northernmost regions, strengthens coordination with whole-of-government partners and the way Canada’s military operates in arctic conditions. In addition, it provides the CAF opportunities to work with mission partners to determine how best to respond to safety and security issues in the North.


Operation NANOOK 2018

Disaster response

From September 21 to 28, 2018, CAF members worked with partners in and around Yellowknife and Behchokǫ̀, Northwest Territories. They practiced how military and civilian organizations would respond to emergencies and natural disasters in Canada’s north.

The training focused on helping the Government of the Northwest Territories and a number of local municipal and Indigenous government partners exercise their emergency management plans.

Together, they went through a series of escalating scenarios. The CAF’s focus was to exercise how it would evacuate people in the event of a forest fire.

Major air disaster exercise

Approximately 270 CAF members participated in a major air disaster exercise in Yellowknife, NT from September 17 to 21, 2018.

While the CAF has the primary responsibility for aeronautical SAR—that is, searching for downed aircraft—a major air disaster would require a coordinated response. So, during the exercise, CAF members worked alongside other government departments, Non-Governmental Organizations, and private companies.

The exercise involved soldiers, airwomen and airmen, including medical professionals and support personnel. The following aircraft were involved:

  • CC-130 Hercules
  • CH-146 Griffon
  • CH-149 Cormorant

As part of the scenario, SAR technicians and health services personnel conducted a number of training activities, including initial triage, stabilization, medical treatment, and preparation for onward movement.

Maritime domain defence and security

About 300 CAF members deployed on Operation NANOOK from August 8, 2018 to September 4, 2018. They participated in a maritime domain defence and security exercise in Northern Labrador, Nunavut and Greenland areas.

HMCS Charlottetown and HMCS Kingston visited a number of communities in the Arctic. This gave the sailors an opportunity to connect with and strengthen relationships with northern communities.

CAF members worked alongside governmental partners and departments as well as international partners, including the Danish Navy.

Presence patrols

From July 16 to September 7, 2018, CAF members conducted a series of presence activities along the Northwest Passage. This included the following:

  • presence patrols
  • water and air reconnaissance
  • survival training

Members of 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group monitored internal waterways during the busiest time of year for maritime traffic.

Northern partners, including other government departments, participated in several activities.


Operation NANOOK 2017

Operation NANOOK 2017 took place from August 14 to 25, 2017, in Labrador and Nunavut. Nearly 900 CAF members and civilians took part.

Operation NANOOK 2017 had two parts:

  1. Rankin Inlet, Nunavut: Joint Task Force (North) focused on the full range of crisis response and consequence management activities resulting from an overwhelming emergency in an isolated community, engaging multiple tiers of government and partners including the Canadian Armed Forces.
  2. Labrador: Joint Task Force (Atlantic) led a response to a security scenario. CAF members and other government departments and agencies were involved.

This was the 10th iteration of Operation NANOOK.


Operation NANOOK 2016

About 850 Canadian military members and civilians served on Op NANOOK 16. It ran from August 21 to September 2. It took place near the Whitehorse and Haines Junction area of Yukon and in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. The CAF sent in land, sea, and air units. This included military members for command, staff and support. Civilians from federal and territorial organizations also joined in.

Op NANOOK 2016 took place in two parts. One was a safety exercise. It featured a whole-of-government response to a simulated earthquake. The other was arctic security training. This included military patrols, search and rescue training, and simulated combat exercises. The CAF showed that it could work well in the North with other partners. This is important in a real emergency.


Operation NANOOK 2015

Op NANOOK 15 was based out of Inuvik, Northwest Territories. It ran from August 16 to 30, 2015. About 650 military members took part.

NANOOK 15 centered on safety, security and defence in Canada’s North. The CAF worked with other government groups. It also worked to forge better ties with local authorities, Indigenous peoples and international partners.

Other countries also helped make NANOOK 15 a success. The United States took part in the training exercises. The United Kingdom and France sent observers.

CAF members from sea, land and air units took part in NANOOK 15. The CAF also supported government departments and agencies. There were several training scenarios. They included exercises on oil spill and consequence management, security, and safety issues. Safety and security themed training events took place in and around five northern communities. This did two things. One was to exercise Canada’s sovereignty in the North. It also showed how the CAF supported a national, regional and local response to crisis.

Op NANOOK confirms that the CAF can operate well in the Arctic. The exercises show that Canada’s supports its mission partners’ response to safety and security in the North.


Operation NANOOK 2014

Operation NANOOK 14 took place in the Baffin Island region of Nunavut from August 20 to 29. More than 800 participants took part. There were members from all CAF branches as well as people from federal and territorial governments. The Royal Danish Navy sent a ship. The United States Navy provided a surveillance aircraft.

NANOOK 14 was driven by training scenarios that provided a visible presence in the North. It showed Canada's ability to respond to security and safety incidents in the region. There were two key areas of focus. One was search and rescue (SAR) capabilities. The other was the CAF’s ability to support other government departments (OGDs) in remote areas of the North.

The two scenarios took place off the coast of Baffin Island in the Davis Strait and York Sound. Both were simulations. Both showed how the participants could work together and be effective.

  • A Search and Rescue (SAR) exercise (SAREX) was held from August 20 to 23 in the Davis Strait. It featured a fishing boat in distress. Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Halifax led the SAR operation to locate the boat and survivors. The JRCC was supported by HMCS Shawinigan, HMDS Triton, and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Henry Larsen with their aircraft.
  • From August 25 to 29, Canadian Armed Forces members responded to a 50-passenger cruise ship grounded due to mechanical difficulties in York Sound. The CAF sent out a major air disaster kit. It worked with OGDs to respond to the simulated crisis.

Operation NANOOK 2013

Operation NANOOK 13 had three main focuses. One was to support emergency management scenarios. The second involved a response to public safety threats. The last was to assist law enforcement agencies. The operation ran from August 2 to 23.

There were four separate scenarios. They took place in four different areas of Canada’s North with distinct geography.

  • In Whitehorse, CAF members, in the air and on land, provided the Government of Yukon with disaster relief. This was because of a national wildfire that was threatening that city.
  • Environment Canada asked for CAF assistance on Cornwallis Island, Nunavut, after a report of suspected poaching activities in the area.
  • The CAF worked with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Resolution Island. They helped investigate simulated suspicious activity.
  • The Canadian Rangers conducted simulated patrols on King William Island. This was to report on activity in the Northwest Passage.

Operation NANOOK 2012

Operation NANOOK 12 ran from August 1 to 26. It demonstrated Canada's Arctic capabilities in two locations that are far apart. One was Inuvik and Tsiigehtchic, Northwest Territories, in the western Arctic. The other was Hudson Strait, Hudson Bay and its shore area.

In both places, CAF members took part in simulated scenarios. In the West, CAF air and land forces worked with the RCMP and other government partners. The scenario involved a security incident. In the East, the RCMP led a whole-of-government response to a “vessel of interest” scenario. They asked for military assistance. Both cases centred on the primary focuses of the CAF at home. These are safeguarding the nation, stopping threats to Canadian security, and responding to emergencies anywhere in the country.

Global participants on Operation NANOOK 2012 included:

  • a warship from the Royal Danish Navy
  • a U.S. Coast Guard vessel
  • observers from the United Kingdom and the United States

More than 1250 CAF members took part in NANOOK 12. They were from:

  • the Royal Canadian Navy
  • the Canadian Army (including the Canadian Rangers)
  • the Royal Canadian Air Force
  • the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command

Operation NANOOK 2011

Operation NANOOK 11 ran from August 4 to September 1. It was planned in two phases. The first phase was conducted with international partners from the United States and Denmark. It included sovereignty and presence patrolling. This was done ashore on Cornwallis Island and at sea in Davis Strait, Baffin Bay and Lancaster Sound. It also involved the first use of an unmanned aerial vehicle in the high Arctic.

The second phase was an exercise using an air-disaster scenario. It was cancelled to allow the engaged forces to respond to a real crisis. On August 21, 2011, First Air Flight 6560 crashed near Resolute Bay, Nunavut. CAF members on NANOOK 11 were first on the scene. They helped the civilian authorities throughout the rescue and recovery operations.

About 1100 CAF members served on NANOOK 11. They came from:

  • the Royal Canadian Navy
  • the Canadian Army (including the Canadian Rangers)
  • the Royal Canadian Air Force
  • the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command

There were also more than 100 allied military personnel.


Operation NANOOK 2010

Operation NANOOK 10 ran from August 6 to 26. It took place in the eastern Arctic and high Arctic. More than 900 CAF members took part. There were also about 600 personnel from the Canadian Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Royal Danish Navy. The operation ended with a whole-of-government exercise. It was a simulated petrochemical leak in Resolute Bay, Nunavut.


Operation NANOOK 2009

Operation NANOOK 09 ran from August 6 to 28. It took place on the southeastern coast of Baffin Island. It had three phases. The first was sovereignty patrolling. The second was a military exercise focusing on warfare against submarines. The last was a whole-of-government exercise that involved more than 15 departments and agencies.


Operation NANOOK 2008

Operation NANOOK 08 ran from August 16 to 26. It took place in and around three communities on Baffin Island. These were Iqaluit, Kimmirut, and Pangnirtung in Nunavut. NANOOK 08 involved emergency exercises at sea. These included the evacuation of a ship in distress and an oil spill.


Operation NANOOK 2007

Operation NANOOK 07 ran from August 7 to 17. It took place on Baffin Island near Iqaluit and Kimmirut in Nunavut. It included drug trafficking and oil-spill scenarios. It involved about 650 CAF members, two surface ships, a submarine, and four types of aircraft.

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