The Premier of the Northwest Territories says her government wants to ensure the safety of the arctic expedition team that plans to travel from Yellowknife to the North Pole on wheels.
The Transglobal Car team made national headlines on March 2 when it was revealed that one of their members, a Russian national, had arrived by plane the previous day. That passenger and others involved were fined for violating a Canadian airspace restriction that was adopted on Feb. 27 in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a sitting of the Legislative Assembly on March 8, Premier Caroline Cochrane said her government wasn’t contacted by the team before their arrival: “The first time we got notice was when the Minister [of Infrastructure] found out that they were at our airport,” she said.
Once the GNWT did become aware of their arrival, “as a basic courtesy [we] tried to figure out what exactly their plans were, because the North is a harsh environment,” said Cochrane.
“We’re not worrying about what they’re here to do as much as we’re worried about their safety. We live in a harsh environment, so we want to make sure that they have plans, that they have the proper equipment, that they have the proper vehicles, clothing, et cetera, to be able to do this expedition.”
Although the Transglobal Car team doesn’t need a permit for their expedition, Cochrane said their all-terrain vehicles were inspected and found to not be highway safe, meaning they will instead need to be hauled on a trailer.
Despite the alarm caused by the planned expedition, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment Caroline Wawzonek said the GNWT wants to promote these kinds of expeditions: “This is obviously a place we like to promote for exactly the kind of exploration opportunities that we all know exist here,” she said.
She said the Northwest Territories Film Commission had been in touch with the expedition team about documenting their journey in order to “bring greater attention not only to our film industry, not only to the great folks that we have in Northwest Territories in this sector, but then the other opportunities that come with it,” said Wawzonek.
Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby met with the team and shared photos of the team and their vehicles on social media on March 6. “I think this was just very much a perfect storm of bad events that led to this situation happening, and I don’t think anything was ill intended, but rather just maybe ignorance of what was needing to be done,” she told the Assembly.