Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for August 5, 2013

Hundreds of soldiers here for mock disaster exercise

The armed forces have invaded Whitehorse.

By Stephanie Waddell on August 5, 2013 at 2:34 pm

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

MASS ARRIVALS – Some of the military personel involved in Operation Nanook arrive Sunday in Whitehorse. An Airbus (above) and a C-17 Globemaster (seen landing below) brought 200 soldiers and their gear. Commanding officer Lt.-Col. Patrick Robichaud 1st Battalion of the Royal 22nd Reg. Vandoos is in charge.

The armed forces have invaded Whitehorse.

More than 530 soldiers are now in the city, with the Yukon’s portion of Operation NANOOK in full swing.

The event sees a full-scale emergency scenario – in this case, a major wildfire.

Activities will be played out all week as an exercise to test emergency responses from federal, territorial, city and Whitehorse General Hospital officials.

Under the scenario, last Wednesday, the Yukon government sent a request to Public Safety Canada to deal with the wildfire.

Armed forces were “deployed” Saturday and arrived in the territory on Sunday.

“The recent flooding in southern Alberta serves as an illustration that major emergencies occur with very little warning,” Mayor Dan Curtis said in a statement.

“Closer to home, there have been several wildfires in the region very recently. Therefore, exercising this kind of emergency disaster relief effort is relevant for us.

“I appreciate the opportunity to experience working with our Canadian Armed Forces to strengthen our emergency response.”

The Takhini Arena, Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre and Porter Creek and F.H. Collins secondary schools will be used for the exercise.

Some of those facilities have already been employed in the preparations leading up to the mock disaster.

Speaking shortly after Sunday’s arrival of the armed forces, Lt.-Col. Patrick Robichaud, commander of the first battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment Van Doos and
Immediate Reaction Unit, said in this scenario it’s his unit’s job to provide security for residents.

They must also assist local authorities in moving people, should that be required, and help with any firefighting efforts as needed.

“We’re just happy to be here to, hopefully, provide a helping hand,” he said.

A visit from David Johnston, Canada’s Governor General and commander-in-chief, and his wife, Sharon, will also be part of the events. The couple is set to arrive at 5:15 p.m. today at Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport.

They will visit Operation NANOOK headquarters tomorrow morning.

That will be followed by a briefing on what the Yukon government is doing for emergency preparedness.

The Johnstons will also visit a Habitat for Humanity build happening in Takhini for members of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.

As well, the couple will travel to Haines Junction to visit the new Da Ku Cultural Centre before a community dinner at Klukshu, a traditional fishing camp of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.

On Wednesday, there will be more opportunities for the Governor General to take in the NANOOK exercises.

Her excellency is set to spend part of the morning cooking and baking with Bridges Café employees at the Yukon government main administration building.

Bridges is operated by the Challenge-Disability Resource Group, a non-profit agency which assists people with disabilities to become active in their community by learning job skills and entering the job market.

In the afternoon, a reception will be held at the Wheelhouse Restaurant. Johnston will present the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award to two people “who contribute to the well-being of their community.”

The award recognizes Canadians and permanent residents “who have made significant, sustained, unpaid contributions to their community, in Canada or abroad.

“Often working behind the scenes, these individuals volunteer their time and efforts to help their fellow citizens.

“The award also brings to light the example set by volunteers, whose compassion and engagement are a part of our Canadian character,” notes a press release.

Other NANOOK exercises will be happening in Nunavut on Cornwallis Island, King William Island and Resolution Island.

The NANOOK exercise in Whitehorse will end Saturday with a community day event at Shipyards Park.

There, residents can meet soldiers involved, view some of the armed forces equipment and take in other festivities.

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