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This article was published 7/6/2018 (792 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — Parliamentarians will be boarding an icebreaker in Churchill next month, to carve out the northern Manitoba town’s future in Arctic research, after Ottawa promised to restore railway service before the winter.
A team of University of Manitoba scientists are aboard the CCGS Amundsen icebreaker, led by David Barber, and are scheduled to arrive July 2 at the Port of Churchill.
"We intend to explore the different perspectives of science, policy and Indigenous groups. We hope this will open up communication channels, and allow for the exchange of knowledge and experience represented by the group," Barber wrote in an email Thursday from the coast guard ship.
The scientists have completed one-third of a six-week expedition to conduct research on ice samples, while speaking with locals about the future of the region, especially Indigenous youth. The journey is funded by the federal government, Manitoba Hydro and other groups.
Next month, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, Manitoba Sen. Patricia Bovey and other dignitaries will board the ported ship "to discuss various aspect of the Arctic, climate change and how to address both challenges and opportunities created by our changing climate."
The two-day event will include presentations on sustainable tourism, beluga whale health research and economic development.
Carr (the Liberal MP for Winnipeg South Centre) said the summit would help Ottawa plan its Arctic strategy, which examines everything from Churchill’s economic ties to Nunavut to how the military protects the region’s sovereignty.
"I'm happy to be going back up," he said, calling Barber "an expert who is renowned internationally."
Barber is the Canada Research Chair in arctic system science, and he’s leading the Churchill Marine Observatory, a U of M project to build a $44-million research base -- once the supplies can reach the town via the railway.
The visit was supposed to happen last July, but the icebreaker Barber was aboard had gotten temporarily stuck along the way, and couldn’t reach the town in time. This year, the presentation will have a bit more certainty.
"The recent sale of the port and rail line in Churchill, and the benefits of this to the country, will also be a focus," Barber wrote. (An agreement-in-principle was reached last month to transfer ownership of the railway and port into local hands.)
Churchill Mayor Mike Spence said Barber’s been pushing for an ice-focused research centre since they first met 15 years ago.
"We wouldn't be talking about these things if it wasn't for scientists like Dr. Barber," Spence said. "Now, the region is playing a pivotal role in (research) development, because of climate change."
Spence said the visit shores up the northern Manitoba town’s economic strategy, which put research as one of four pillars to focus on. So far, that’s meant boosting awareness of the existing Churchill Northern Science Centre, and helping the Frontier School Division to craft science-focused curriculum.
"Let's work together to strengthen our partnership, not only for Churchill, but for our planet," Spence said in a chipper tone.
Meanwhile, at least one Senate committee is planning on visiting the town this year.
The Senate’s temporary Arctic committee has asked for budget approval for the nine senators to visit Churchill as part of a tour of the region. Some senators on the Aboriginal affairs committee have also pushed to visit Churchill as part of a look at the federal government’s relationship with Indigenous people.
The office of Nunavut Sen. Dennis Patterson, chairman of the committee, said the group was asked to merge a western- and eastern-Arctic trip into one -- and Patterson made sure to include Churchill in that request.
"It's great to see the Senate is taking a role in looking at this," Spence said. "It's all about working together to position ourselves for the future."
Updated on Thursday, June 7, 2018 at 11:29 PM CDT: Fixes typo
June 8, 2018 at 10:33 AM: Cutline fixed.
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