2014 marked the end of Canada’s longest military commitment, a 12-year engagement in Afghanistan.
Arctic Front is the first chapter in a long-term project examining Canada’s post-Afghanistan military. In this larger photographic project I aim to present the viewer with a glimpse of contemporary military culture—whether that is in training, peacekeeping, capacity-building or all-out war—and the many ‘fronts’ of Canada’s involvement, since 2014, as its military regroups to face new challenges and adapt to potential future conflicts. My series Arctic Front examines Canada’s role in the Far North.
Canada’s Arctic is its last frontier. The Far North makes up more than 40 percent of its landmass (roughly 2,436,855 sq. km), but contains less than 1 percent of Canada’s population. Rising sea and air temperatures due to climate change are contributing to sea-ice loss, which has opened up international interest in control over new ‘ice-free’ shipping routes in the Northwest Passage, as well as access to the significant natural resources such as oil, gas and precious metals found there.
The Canadian Rangers unit is part of Canada’s answer to establishing sovereignty over the North. This part-time military force, tasked with keeping watch over the Arctic, is made up of roughly 5,000 personnel, many of whom are Indigenous, from more than 200 remote communities spread across the region.
The unit conducts surveillance patrols and reports anything unusual to other branches of the military. The Rangers also importantly teach southern personnel survival skills, take part in search-and-rescue operations and other humanitarian aid in remote communities. Within the military community they are deeply respected for their intimate knowledge of the land and living off it.
The Rangers have been a visible military presence in remote northern communities for over 65 years and they continue to serve as the military’s “eyes, ears and voice” of the North. As the Canadian military refines its ability to operate in the region, the Rangers will continue to play an essential role in asserting Canada’s sovereignty over its Arctic land and sea.
Arctic Front was made possible through support from: the Canadian Forces Artists Program; the Ontario Arts Council (Visual Arts Grant), an agency of the Government of Ontario; the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council (Visual Arts Grant).
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