An Inuit consortium from across Canada looks to recapture North Warning System contract

The group previously held the contract from 2001 until 2014, before losing it to Raytheon.

By Jim Bell, Nunatsiaq News - August 21, 2020
The Cam Main station at Cambridge Bay, a long-range radar installation that’s part of the North Warning System. Pan Arctic Inuit Logistics Corp. and ATCO Frontec announced earlier this week that they will bid on a contract to operate and maintain the NWS. (Jane George / Nunatsiaq News)

With its non-Inuit joint-venture partner, an Inuit business consortium from across Canada’s Arctic said earlier this week they plan to recapture the North Warning System operation and maintenance contract they lost in 2014.

The Inuit group, called Pan Arctic Inuit Logistics Corp., or PAIL, is a partnership formed by most of the Inuit birthright firms within Inuit Nunangat, stretching from Nunatsiavut in the east to the Inuvialuit settlement region in the west.

PAIL and ATCO Frontec each own 50 percent of Nasittuq Corp. That company won the lucrative North Warning system contract in 2001 and held it until 2014, when they lost it to Raytheon, a large U.S. defense contractor.

At that time, the federal government said that by going with Raytheon’s bid, the government would save $13.8 million a year compared with the previous PAIL-ATCO Frontec deal.

But now, the PAIL-ATCO Frontec partnership says they’re ready to take that contract back.

“In ATCO, we have found a highly competent partner that understands the North and acknowledges the central role of Inuit within it,” said Patrick Gruben, chair of the Inuvialuit Development Corp. and president of PAIL, in a news release.

This map shows the extent of the North Warning System, as it was envisioned by Canada and the United States in 1987. (Canadian Department of National Defence)

And in their news release, the two companies said that should Nasittuq Corp. win the contract, PAIL would become a majority owner. That’s under the terms of a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, that the two companies recently signed.

“While Inuit have enjoyed a long-standing association with ATCO, I don’t view this MOU as just an extension of an existing partnership—instead, it reflects an evolution in how we will work together going forward,” Gruben said.

In the fall of 2018, the Inuit companies that compose PAIL formed an organization called the Inuit Development Corporation Association, set up for the express purpose of lobbying for federal government contracts. Gruben is chair of that association.

Should they win the contract, Nasittuq would be in charge of operating and maintaining 47 different NWS sites in the Canadian Arctic, and three facilities in Ontario.

They still hold a contract to provide support services to the Canadian Forces signals intelligence and weather station at Alert on Ellesmere Island.