He doesn’t speak English, but with hand gestures and the help of a fellow Canadian Ranger, Corporal Ookookoo Qaraq tells the story of the day he met a polar bear. He thumps his chest with an open palm, mimicking the blow the polar bear delivered with one broad paw. The soldiers around him lean forward and listen, amazed, as he tells them he escaped by lying still where he landed, feigning death.

At 72, Cpl Qaraq is an elder in his community of Pond Inlet, Nunavut, but he has joined nine of his fellow Canadian Rangers on Operation NUNALIVUT 2016, from April 1 to 22, to help more than 230 CAF personnel from across the country refresh their Arctic skills and demonstrate sovereignty in Canada’s high Arctic.

“We’re here to practice our ability to operate in the North,” explains Lieutenant-Colonel Timothy Halfkenny, commanding officer Task Force Nunalivut. “We’ve achieved what we set out to do, and then some. We’ve proven our capability, and contributed to demonstrating Canadian sovereignty in the North through our presence.”

With the Canadian Rangers providing predator control and advice on Arctic survival skills, members of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, and the 4th Canadian Division Arctic Response Company Group, deployed to Little Cornwallis Island and established an austere bivouac.

The huddle of arctic tents, protected by snow walls and warmed by camp stoves and lanterns, served as a base for long-range sovereignty patrols conducted by snowmobile. The…

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