Local MP considers unidentified object takedown in Yukon a “failure”

MP Bob Zimmer has criticized the federal government for failing to “maintain our arctic sovereignty and security” after an unidentified object was shot down over Yukon. 

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A group of soldiers in a small boat pull a large, white and dark metal apparatus out of the water.
In this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Feb. 5, 2023. An “anomaly” that military officials were tracking through the weekend before fighter jets downed an unknown object over the Great Lakes was first detected in Canadian airspace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-U.S. Navy via AP

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — MP Bob Zimmer has criticized the federal government for failing to “maintain our arctic sovereignty and security” after an unidentified object was shot down over Yukon. 

The object shot down over central Yukon was the third shot down in North American airspace this month and the first detected in Canadian airspace. 

The first object was shot down and recovered off the coast of South Carolina on February 5th. The second was shot down in Alaskan airspace on February 10th. The third over Yukon was shot down on the 11th, and the most recent one was shot down over Lake Huron on the 12th. 

Recovery operations by the Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP are currently underway to recover the downed object in the Yukon. 

Sean McGillis, executive director of federal policing strategic management at the RCMP, said that recovery will be difficult and take time due to the area’s rugged and mountainous terrain. 

In a statement released on Tuesday, Zimmer, the Opposition critic for Northern Affairs and Arctic Sovereignty, also criticized the prime minister for needing the objects to be taken down by a United States aircraft. 

“We need a prime minister who will take Arctic sovereignty and security seriously,” Zimmer said in a statement released on February 14th. 

The three objects over Alaska, Yukon, and Lake Huron were taken out by the combined forces of United States and Canadian personnel through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). 

During a visit to Whitehorse on the 13th, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called NORAD “one of the only jointly commanded territorial defence systems in the world.” 

Regarding having a United States aircraft take down the object, Trudeau said the point had been “running the operation smoothly and successfully” before the object was lost, not who would get the credit. 

Zimmer believes the lead Canadian NORAD base in Inuvik is in a poor state, saying there are “few personnel, no fighter jets on standby, insufficient fuel and an inadequate runway.”

“As I said last June in the House of Commons, I saw the government putting up a for sale sign on a crucial NORAD facility and getting rid of other essential equipment in Inuvik. This is due to the Liberal government underfunding the protection of Northern Canada,” Zimmer said. 

Zimmer also claimed that a Conservative government would “counter these threats with a stronger military, better intelligence and strengthened alliances with fellow democracies.”

The prime minister recently acknowledged the ongoing need for NORAD to be updated, something he plans to speak to President Joe Biden about in March. 

“This is a very serious situation that we are taking incredibly seriously,” Trudeau said. “The importance of defending our territorial integrity, our sovereignty, has rarely been as important as it is now.”

Allegations of a lack of security by the Conservative party at large were also combatted by Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, saying Canada and the U.S. are “working together seamlessly to ensure continental security.”

The takedowns of objects in North American airspace this month also come very shortly after NORAD’s completion of an air operation into the arctic in late January. 

According to NORAD, Operation NOBLE DEFENDER was executed from January 15th to 31st, 2023. The operation involved personnel from Canada and the United States and “demonstrated NORAD’s capability and readiness to defend Canada and the United States in the challenging Arctic environment.” 

At the time of publishing, the objects shot down over Yukon and Lake Huron have yet to be recovered, and there have been no other reports of objects to date. 

With files from the Canadian Press

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