New permafrost research to improve understanding of climate change on northern highways, airports

News release

February 12, 2019    Whitehorse, Yukon    Transport Canada

Climate change affects the North more than any other part of Canada and threatens the efficiency, safety and reliability of northern transportation. Making our northern transportation system more resilient to the effects of climate is important given the key role transportation plays in the region’s social and economic development.

Today, the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, visited Yukon College where he announced details of two climate change adaptation research projects under the Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative:

  • Starting in 2019-20, funding of over $368,000 over two years to support the Northern Climate ExChange at Yukon College to design and put into use systems to alert about potential permafrost-related hazards, such as landslides and ground subsidence. This project involves sites on the Dempster Highway in Yukon, at Iqaluit Airport in Nunavut, and in Tasiujaq and Salluit in Nunavik, Quebec.
  • With more than $339,000 in funding between now and March 2021, the Université Laval will assess the effectiveness of climate change adaptation techniques being used at the Iqaluit Airport in Nunavut, and identify further permafrost-related risks that may surface over the short to long term. Funding will also support the transfer of knowledge to the Government of Nunavut and local airport managers so that they can monitor permafrost conditions and manage associated impacts in the future.

Each of these projects will improve our understanding of how climate change is affecting northern transportation infrastructure built over thaw-sensitive permafrost resulting in better decisions about design, construction, maintenance, and operations of northern roads and airports.


“Canada’s North needs safe, efficient, and secure transportation connections and services. Support from the Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative is building science-based knowledge to make transportation infrastructure more resilient to climate change. Through the research projects announced today, we ensure our Canadian communities can live, thrive, and grow here in the North.”

The Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport

“Our communities need to develop innovative technologies and build science-based knowledge to better prepare for the impacts of climate change. The funding announced by our Government is strengthening our climate change expertise while encouraging the development of economic opportunities throughout Yukon.”

Larry Bagnell
Member of Parliament for Yukon

“Our government is committed to science and evidence-based decision-making. The research that will be carried out by Université Laval, a world-class academic institution, will assess the effectiveness of climate change adaptation techniques on northern infrastructure and ultimately contribute to the resiliency of communities across the country.”

Joël Lightbound
Member of Parliament for Louis-Hébert

Quick facts

  • Transport Canada’s Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative aims to strengthen the capacity of northerners to adapt their transportation systems to climate change, through support for research, development and testing of adaptive technologies.

  • The Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative provides funding to help meet some of the challenges of climate change in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and communities in Nunavik and Northern Labrador.

  • Northern infrastructure is particularly susceptible to climate change impacts and adaptive strategies are needed to deal with the increasing number of hazards emerging across Canada’s northern transportation corridors.

  • The collaborative nature of the two projects announced today will develop and strengthen partnerships and build northern adaptation capacity for the longer term.

Associated links


Delphine Denis
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport, Ottawa

Media Relations
Transport Canada, Ottawa

Erin Holm
Yukon College - Research Communications
(867) 456-8625

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