An Aboriginal Perspective on the Remediation of Mid-Canada Radar Line Sites in the Subarctic: A Partnership Evaluation

  • Brandy Sistili
  • Mike Metatawabin
  • Guy Iannucci
  • Leonard J.S. Tsuji
Keywords: Mid-Canada Radar Line, remediation, partnerships, Aboriginal perspective


The Mid-Canada Radar Line (MCRL) was built during the 1950s in response to the perceived threat of a Soviet nuclear attack over the Arctic. The MCRL was an entirely Canadian project, consisting of 98 radar stations that stretched across the 55th parallel from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Hopedale, Labrador. Seventeen MCRL sites were located in Ontario, and by 1965, all had been closed for strategic and economic reasons. Since these sites were improperly decommissioned, they have become point sources of contaminants in northern Canada. In 2001, MCRL Site 050 was remediated. The Fort Albany First Nation (located near Site 050), the Department of National Defence, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources had formed a “partnership” to undertake this. We determined that from an Aboriginal perspective, a true partnership (as we define it) did exist between these organizations; a partnership based on the essential elements of respect, equity, and empowerment. We show that these cornerstones of a true partnership were present in the initial documents that discussed remediation of this site. This evaluation will provide insight, guidance, and a potential framework to benefit future partnership endeavours, helping to foster stronger collaborative relationships between Aboriginal organizations and governments at all levels, especially with respect to the remediation of abandoned radar line sites.