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June 01, 2009— Ottawa, Ontario

R&D in the North for the North

"I see a new Canada: a Canada of the North!" – John G. Diefenbaker

"You have not seen Canada until you have seen the North."Pierre Elliot Trudeau

Or, to paraphrase another prominent Canadian, Whitney Lackenbauer, Fellow of the Canadian International Council and historian at St. Jerome's University in Waterloo, it's time we stop viewing the Arctic as a "there" and really make it a "here."

Throughout NRC's history, our researchers have truly lived these principles. NRC has long been committed to research, science and technology development, and innovation that benefits northern Canadians. Our R&D work — whether as partners of industry, of other government agencies at home or abroad, or of universities and other research institutes — is not only in the North, it is for the North and the people of the North.

So just why do we need R&D for the North? On the one hand, consider some of the technology challenges posed by the Canadian Arctic: the vast distances and isolation, the harsh and increasingly unpredictable environment, and the small, widely-dispersed population. On the other hand, the technology opportunities are very real — some might even say exciting — for scientists, business leaders and policy-makers alike. Shipping in the Arctic, oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort Sea, and bioremediation are just a few of the vast ventures that demand the expertise of scientists.

Recognizing these realities, in 2007 the Government of Canada launched a new strategy for the North that aims to help Canada's Arctic region realize its true potential, as a healthy and prosperous region within a strong and sovereign country. The Northern Strategy sets out to protect Arctic sovereignty, encourage economic development that benefits northerners, respond to the challenges of climate change in the North, and provide northerners with more control over their political destiny.

"Our Government will build a world-class Arctic research station that will be on the cutting edge of Arctic issues, including environmental science and resource development. This station will be built by Canadians, in Canada's Arctic, and it will be there to serve the world." (Speech from the Throne, October 2007)

The Strategy includes a pledge to establish a High Arctic Research Station (HARS) that will focus on four priority areas: sustainable resource development; environmental science and stewardship; climate change; and healthy and sustainable communities. Building on this promise, Budget 2009 recently announced a $2 million feasibility study to determine the function, design, construction, location and governance of HARS.

Canada is currently the only circumpolar nation without this type of facility. We have a robust Arctic science capacity, but no year-round location in the North. NRC has been looking very closely at how we can contribute to the success of the HARS, complement the work of others, and advance our already extensive involvement in Arctic S&T expertise.

As a matter of fact, NRC will host an internal workshop on Arctic research this June to help determine our capacity to provide S&T for the Canadian Arctic by drawing on our multidisciplinary expertise and complementary resources in government, universities and the private sector; and to develop models for potential cross-cutting programs in S&T for the North.

Today, NRC projects span a wide range of Arctic technologies. We have expertise in biotechnology, life sciences and environmental technologies; information and communication technologies, Arctic construction, marine, land and air transportation; and weather, atmosphere and space monitoring.

In the Arctic:

  • NRC is advancing the safe and economical extraction of oil and gas resources in the Beaufort Sea and High Arctic islands. Our research is quantifying ice loads on offshore structures, improving navigation, improving ice forecasting, ensuring safe evacuation from structures in the event of an uncontrolled incident, and providing methods to engineer ice to reduce platform costs.
  • NRC is addressing the problem of Arctic contaminants through bioremediation. Using a genomics-based approach, we are helping to clean up contaminated soils on Ellesmere Island.

NRC is at the forefront of research on gas hydrates [see: Energy from fiery ice], one of the world's largest untapped reservoirs of energy, which are abundant in the Canadian Arctic. By some estimates, gas hydrates have the potential to meet global energy needs for the next ten thousand years.

NRC has the facilities, equipment and trained staff necessary to perform extraordinary Arctic-related work for Canada and our international partners. Our assets include world-class facilities for ocean research, including the world's longest (90-metres) ice tank; Canada's largest climatic engineering and testing chamber, a "weather-on-demand" facility; one of North America's largest hydraulic engineering laboratories; unique icing facilities for testing and certifying aircraft engines, powered tail rotors and wing sections; and a hydrogen environmental chamber to assess the performance of everything from fuel cells to aircraft technology.

Clearly, NRC has the track record, resources, knowledge and infrastructure needed to help the Government of Canada achieve its goals in the Canadian North \xE2\x80\x94 by delivering science-based solutions that will benefit the North.

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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