Protecting Canada’s northernmost borders.
Throughout his illustrious career with the Canadian Armed Forces, one thing continued to motivate now-retired Col. Pierre Leblanc: the security of Canada’s North.
Pierre was initially captivated by the Arctic nearly 50 years ago during his first Army patrol there, and forged an intimate relationship with the region that continues to this day.
“I fell in love with the Arctic and I did whatever I could to get back,” he recalls. “The first time I went to Canadian Forces Station Alert, I wanted to feel what it was like to be at the top of the world.”
In 1994, Pierre was instrumental in augmenting the capabilities of the First Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, based in the Arctic. The Rangers are critical to the security of the North as they patrol the region, report any unusual activity, support regular forces deployments and assist in search-and-rescue missions. Pierre describes them as “eyes and ears of the Canadian Forces.”
“Many of the members in the 1st Canadian Rangers group are Inuit,” he says. “It is always crucial to me to support the local northern communities and ensure there are job opportunities for the people living in the North. They know the land the best and they have vested interests.”
The Passage is within the internal waters of Canada, which means we have the ultimate right to protect those waters.
Pierre also contributed to the creation of the Junior Canadian Ranger Program which has proven to be a great success for the youth of the Arctic.
He commanded Canadian Forces Northern Areafrom 1995 to 2000, and near the end of that tenure he formed the Arctic Security Working Group to better coordinate and exchange information between various federal agencies such as the Canada Border Services Agency, the coast guard, CSIS and the RCMP.
In 2000, Pierre also sounded the alarm as global warming began opening up the Northwest Passage. He alerted government to the risks to Canada’s security and sovereignty in this fragile part of our country.
“The Passage is within the internal waters of Canada, which means we have the ultimate right to protect those waters,” he explains.
But some still challenge that claim, declaring that the waterway is an international strait. Pierre feels strongly that opening the Passage to surface vessels, submarines and aircraft would expose the Arctic to increased maritime traffic, environmental accidents and the possibility of introducing invasive species.
“The food chain in the Arctic is vertical and very short,” he says. “Any pollution that affects the fish hurts the seal and hurts the polar bear. The very top of that food chain, of course, being the people living in the Arctic who hunt these animals for food.”
More recently, Pierre managed the North Warning System, a line of 47 air defence radar sites in the Arctic that stretches from the Alaska/Yukon border to the southeast tip of Labrador. Today, his work as president of Arctic Security Consultants centers on improving the protection of Canada’s northern security and sovereignty. He continues to write extensively on the Arctic, backed up by his considerable knowledge and passion for the ongoing improvement of all-domain awareness in the region.
“My days are spent meeting with government organizations and the defence industry,” Pierre says. “I help them better understand the Arctic and its logistic and weather challenges, meet with local business, Inuit and political leadership, and identify opportunities whenever I can.”