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Helping Americans in the Arctic

What happens if a cruise ship arrives in a Canadian Arctic community and one or more of the many American passengers on board encounters difficulties, such as a lost passport, serious illness or trouble with the law?

A few American diplomats made a trip to Cambridge Bay April 17-19 to meet with local political leaders and administrators to discuss various scenarios and how to resolve them.

"We're a resource for American citizens... we're not first-responders. We rely on and we're very grateful for Canadian authorities, who do a fantastic job country-wide," said Michael Barkin, minister counsellor for consular affairs. "We act as the facilitators with the U.S. Government and, probably more importantly, with the families of the people back in the U.S."

Barkin, who works out of U.S. embassy in Ottawa, was accompanied by colleagues who specialize in political and economic affairs.

He said he and other American diplomats travel to communities across Canada to better understand local resources and capabilities, as well as to inform local officials of the role diplomats can play.

While in Cambridge Bay, the visitors were given insights into the history and culture of the Copper Inuit and taken on a tour of the community, including the new Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS).

"It's an amazing facility. It really is cutting edge in every way... obviously CHARS is going to be a draw for academics and other research institutions from all over the world, including the United States, so we would expect in the coming years there will be an increasing number of Americans coming to do research here," Barkin said.

U.S. diplomats visited Cambridge Bay April 17-19 to get a better sense of the community's resources and to explain their roles in case American tourists or visiting scientists ever need assistance. From left, Cambridge Bay assistant senior administrative officer Jim MacEachern, Canadian Ranger Jimmy Evalik, Mayor Pam Gross, economic development officer Cathryn Epp, deputy mayor Christina L'Heureux, U.S. Consulate General political, economic, public affairs specialist Alexandre Ruel-Bourassa, U.S. Consulate General representative in Quebec City Franca Ricci, minister counsellor for consular affairs at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa Michael Barkin, and consul at the U.S. Consulate in Quebec City Michael Hackett.
photo courtesy of U.S. Consulate General