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Backgrounder / February 17, 2015

Exercise ARCTIC BISON 2015 (Ex AB 15) will be conducted by 38 Canadian Brigade Group (38 CBG) from 13-22 February 2015 along the length of Lake Winnipeg.  Ex AB 15 will see approximately 110 members of the Canadian Army travel by snowmobile from Gimli to Grand Rapids, with approximately 40 members remaining in Gimli in the Land Component Command (LCC) headquarters or in supporting roles.  The exercise will focus on the achievement of the Arctic Response Company Group (ARCG) Full Operating Capability criteria, specifically focussing on the ability of the ARCG to force project and sustain itself 300 km from its support base. 


Canada faces a variety of domestic threats such as forest fires and floods, other environmental hazards, and man-made incidents including accidents and potential criminal/terrorist actions. Within the 38 CBG area of responsibility – a large region that is varied in terms of geography, climate, ecology, population and industry – there is considerable scope for a domestic emergency to occur that would be beyond the capacity of provincial authorities, and could potentially lead them to call upon the CAF for assistance.  38 CBG, being one the primary force generation organizations for land based domestic operations in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Northwest Ontario, needs to be able to provide a relevant, responsive, and effective task-tailored force to respond to any request for assistance requested by the various federal, provincial, and municipal government organizations.

Additionally, the Canada First Defense Strategy mandates a significant Canadian Armed Forces presence in the Arctic.  The remoteness of the Arctic, combined with the vast distances between operating bases, the lack of infrastructure, and difficulties in communications necessitates that the North be regarded as an expeditionary type theatre requiring forces to be uniquely trained, deployable, scalable, and as self-sufficient as possible. In order to enhance Northern sovereignty, each Canadian Army Division maintains a trained and responsive ARCG force generated primarily from the Army reserve, and is trained and equipped to operate in all Arctic conditions.


Ex AB 15 will provide realistic and challenging scenarios in harsh environments to the ARCG to ensure readiness for events that may arise. The exercise scenario will include response to a major air disaster, support to Ground Search and Rescue, and public relations activities in some communities along the shore of Lake Winnipeg.

The exercise will see coordination with other government agencies such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Transportation Safety Board, as well as military units from outside 38 CBG such as the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, and 440 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Environmental Stewardship

The vicinity of Lake Winnipeg is not typically used as a training area for the Canadian Army, and as such, will provide a new environment with its own challenges to the ARCG.  The CAF takes every precaution to minimize the impact of its activities on the environment through the application of appropriate technology, expertise, and risk management practices. Accordingly, an environmental assessment has been completed prior to the exercise.

Media Contacts

Lieutenant Derek Reid, 38 Canadian Brigade Group Public Affairs Officer

Phone: 204-833-2500 ext. 6543


After Hours: 204-688-3267

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