Canadian Arctic Capabilities by Sector – Canada

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This guide has been prepared by the Government of Canada as a resource on Canadian arctic capabilities. All of the information in the listings of organizations have been provided by the organizations themselves. Global Affairs Canada assumes no responsibility for the accuracy, currency or reliability of the content.

Table of contents


The intent of this new Canadian Arctic Capabilities Guide is to communicate information about the range of Arctic capabilities found in Canada—as well as exports of northern origin—in a comprehensive manner that encompasses most sectors. Our hope is that it will complement other publications, particularly directories of the many local and regional chambers of commerce and sector associations across Canada, and lead to greater exchanges of knowledge, expertise, products and services, and foster enhanced cross-fertilization between sectors.

The guide is organized by sector. Each sector comprises a broad overview of Canadian Arctic capabilities in that sector, and a listing containing brief profiles of companies and organizations with Arctic capabilities and who are interested in pursuing business opportunities internationally. Several companies and organizations are of northern origin. Users of the organizational listings should be mindful that each sector profiles only those companies that have identified the particular sector as its primary sector of focus. Notes have been inserted at the bottom of some sectors to cross-reference other companies listed in the guide with capabilities in that sector. In addition, a number of success stories are showcased throughout. The organizational listings and the success stories are not exhaustive, nor are they to be considered an endorsement. However, they do provide a representative exposé of the vast scope and quality of Canada’s Arctic capabilities.

The development of this guide was led and coordinated by the Canadian International Arctic Centre (CIAC), in partnership with the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) at Global Affairs Canada.


The Arctic makes up 40 percent of Canada’s landmass, and is an essential part of our collective heritage and future. Economic and business development in Canada’s Arctic, and in its sub-Arctic regions, has been shaped by a number of historical drivers that have resulted in a wide range of Arctic expertise across sectors.

Canada’s Arctic capabilities are reaching new heights as a result of today’s pursuit of enhanced scientific understanding, sustainable resource development and Arctic maritime readiness. Commercial opportunities are further advancing clean technology and renewable energy solutions, earth observation technologies and services, among many other areas of expertise.

Arctic know-how and competence is not only born out of or destined to the circumpolar Arctic. Each Canadian province has developed its own unique range of capabilities to address Arctic-like challenges locally. Although all provinces and territories have their particular strengths, a common thread spanning sectors across the country is a deep commitment to scientific research and education, technological innovation and sustainable economic development.

Canada’s North is home to more than 100,000 people, many of whom are Indigenous and whose traditional livelihoods—including hunting, fishing, and arts and crafts—have long been the lifeline of the northern economy. Rooted in tradition, these economic activities will continue to be a mainstay. However, creativity, adaptability and resourcefulness are defining qualities of northern inhabitants, and have propelled not only cultural and creative industries—but all sectors—toward a more diverse economy that embraces innovation and technological advancement.

Ice and ocean technologies and services

Bordering three oceans, Canada’s coastline is the longest of any country in the world, measuring more than five times the circumference of the earth. Canada’s waterways are inextricably linked to many sectors of vital economic importance to the country, including cultural industries, fisheries, maritime engineering, and oil and gas. This has facilitated a growing ocean technology sector that provides a range of niche products and services, such as instrumentation, environmental monitoring, underwater imaging and acoustics, and ice surveillance and management.

These capabilities have been adapted to a variety of cold climates and harsh conditions, from the rough Atlantic off the east coast, to the ice-ridden Beaufort Sea in the Arctic. The need to understand and safely navigate these diverse waters has driven the development of several clusters of expertise in ice and ocean technologies and services that are found across Canada—particularly in British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia. Indeed, this is one of Atlantic Canada’s largest advanced technology industries, with significant levels of research, development and innovation, a highly skilled labour force and a focus on exports. This has positioned both Atlantic Canada and the Pacific coast bases of operations for current and future Arctic-related activities.

Ice and ocean technologies and services listing

Other companies with capabilities in this sector include:
Enfotec Technical Services Inc., Kongsberg Digital Simulation Ltd.

Clean arctic technologies and services

Canada is a world leader in the development and deployment of clean technologies and services, in particular the generation of renewable energy. Through Canada’s rich history of economic development, many lessons have been learned and experience gained by companies across all sectors. In recent years, from the commercialization of clean technologies to the provision of services ranging from stakeholder and Aboriginal engagement to environmental remediation, Canadian companies have been breaking new trails.

Canada has the world’s fifth-largest capacity for renewable energy, and is the third-largest generator of hydropower in the worldFootnote 1. This applies to many remote communities in the north, where renewable resources are plentiful. The Yukon Territory, for instance, invests heavily in hydropower, which constitutes over 90 percent of its electricity generationFootnote 2. While renewables have been growing in the north, efforts to diversify continue, particularly in Nunavut and NWT where reliance on diesel generation remains high and offers substantial scope for off-grid growth and investment.

Canada also has the seventh-largest installed wind energy capacity in the world. Indeed, wind along with solar are the fastest growing sources of electricity generation in Canada, with Canadian firms offering a variety of novel technologies, products and services. While adaptations are often required to enable these technologies to operate off-grid and withstand harsh climates, Canadian companies have implemented successful demonstration sites throughout the north. Biomass is also a sector of growth in Canada. With more biomass resources per capita than any other nation, Canada is making steady progress in the bioenergy industry.

The Canadian clean technology sector has a lot to offer for cold climate locales. Examples include: energy efficiency solutions, microgrid technologies, off-grid solar panels and wind turbines adapted to cold climates, biomass heat technologies and energy storage systems built for harsh environments.

Through collaborative efforts between industry, government and research institutes such as Polar Knowledge Canada and the Foresight ARCTIC program, Canada is at the forefront of collaborative R&D that provides solutions to a wide range of challenges in the Arctic, to ensure a more sustainable future for generations to come.

Clean arctic technologies and services listing

Other companies with capabilities in this sector include: Stantec Consulting Limited.

Cold climate manufacturing

Representing more than 10 percent of Canada’s GDP, manufacturing is a cornerstone of the Canadian economy. Canada consistently ranks among the world’s top machinery-manufacturing countries. With more than 9,000 establishments and a labour force of some 170,000 workers, Canada’s machinery and equipment industry recorded sales of manufactured goods of nearly $50 billion in 2015, and exports accounted for over half of all sales. Traditionally, companies in Canada have served clients within the automotive and aerospace sectors, and Canadian manufacturers are also the country’s leading investors in new technologies.

The already solid foothold of this industry has given Canada a competitive edge and an excellent foundation as companies increasingly find themselves operating in cold climates. Relevant products and equipment include heating systems, vehicles and amphibious craft, rough-weather protective clothing, sensors and camera equipment. While these products are diverse, a common trait is that they are purpose-built to handle extreme Arctic conditions.

With a penchant for identifying emerging opportunities in the north, and close ties to the research and innovation sectors, Canadian manufacturers are perfectly placed to develop machinery and equipment solutions that are designed for the Arctic of the future.

Cold climate manufacturing listing

Other companies with capabilities in this sector include: AirBoss Defense, DEW Engineering and Development.

Northern infrastructure, engineering and design

The Canadian infrastructure sector is an important knowledge-based industry and a key contributor to the Canadian economy, employing over 1.1 million Canadians while representing 8.6 percent of Canada’s total GDP. Our Canadian infrastructure companies are globally recognized for their consulting engineering and architectural services, expertise in public-private partnerships (P3s), and supplying innovative, clean technologies and building products. In the decade ahead, the Canadian construction market is expected to become the fifth-largest in the world.

Few regions demand unique and purpose-built technical solutions like the Arctic. Engineering, construction, architecture and design of infrastructure in the north can be tremendously difficult. For example, foundation design, embankment and port engineering, winter road maintenance, structural engineering and wastewater management are but a few assignments that are complicated by challenges associated with operating in cold climates, such as icing caused by sea spray, snowdrifts, permafrost degradation, coastal erosion and avalanche risk.

In Canada’s North, the infrastructure sector has had particular success with public-private partnerships. Canadian engineering and infrastructure companies operating in the north often specialize in providing environmental impact assessments, as well as advising and consulting regarding community planning, energy efficiency and permafrost changes. Many also have broad experience with operating in remote, isolated regions.

Northern infrastructure, engineering and design listing

Other companies with capabilities in this sector include: Advantech Wireless, Cartwright Drilling Inc.

Northern transportation and logistics services

In addition to the many settlements and geographical features with names of Indigenous origin, Canada’s waterways and islands in the north are punctuated with the names of European maritime explorers spanning over 400 years, many of whom perished in their attempts to discover a commercial sea route to the established trading nations in Asia. Transportation in northern Canada has undergone considerable change since then thanks to decades of perseverance, experience and specialization. Today, and despite the invariable challenges of geography, seasonality, and climate change, there is a safe and increasingly efficient flow and movement of people and goods within Canada’s North.

Arctic maritime operations are faced with many challenges, including unpredictable, rapidly changing weather, varying sea ice conditions, remoteness and an overall absence of shore-based infrastructure. In part because of this, maritime regulations in Canada’s Arctic have received international recognition for their robust safety and environmental protection standards. This has contributed to shaping Canadian companies into leaders in delivering northern freight and passenger services, sealift services, dry bulk shipping, and shipping of petroleum and chemical products.

Over the years, air links have become a vital way to connect the north. Air passenger, cargo, all-weather helicopter SAR and medevac services, as well as remote and sea-ice/glacier operations, have become essential services for both onshore and offshore exploration and government and scientific research activities.

Naturally, the full suite of expertise and services supporting the northern transportation sector—including supply chain analysis and management, logistics solutions, cargo-handling and sealift support—has evolved in lockstep.

Canadian companies have demonstrated their resourcefulness and resilience in overcoming the range of transportation and logistics challenges the north presents. With expected growth in northern industrial activity and tourism, as well as the possibility of new northern trade routes in the coming decades, transportation and logistics companies in Canada are exceptionally well positioned to meet demand across the circumpolar Arctic.

Northern transportation and logistics services listing

Other companies with capabilities in this sector include: ARKTOS Developments Ltd. , Atlantic Towing Limited, Kongsberg Digital Simulation Ltd., Stantec Consulting Limited .

Arctic maritime

Canada has a long and proud naval and shipbuilding history. Today, a vibrant maritime industry continues to serve our expansive coastline and its network of marine communities dotted from sea to sea. Canada’s Arctic coastline, stretching 162,000 kilometres, is more than twice the coastline of the
European Union.

Canada’s maritime expertise in the Arctic has deep roots in naval architecture, design and engineering, shipbuilding, vessel support and supply, as well as businesses supplying related equipment, technologies and services. As the industry has continued to progress toward high-value-added segments of the market, the sophistication of technologies and the quality of equipment and expertise has become increasingly imperative. For Canada, this is becoming more and more applicable to products and services in the north.

Canadian capabilities encompass everything from designing and building a wide range of modern ice-class vessels, to retrofitting and upgrading vessels for Arctic operations. A number of Canadian firms specialize in ice navigation services, ice management and information services as well as maritime ice simulation systems and training. With Arctic maritime activity expected to grow, companies in Canada are well positioned to meet increasing demand.

Arctic maritime listing

Other companies with capabilities in this sector include: Advantech Wireless, ARKTOS Developments Ltd., Rutter Inc., Stantec Consulting Limited.

Northern mining equipment and services

Mining has deep historic roots in Canada’s North. Its early beginnings can be traced back to the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon in the late 1800s. Canada’s vast northern expanse is home to an abundance of mineral and metal deposits, leading to the development of a thriving mining industry across northern Canada and fostering cutting-edge innovation among Canadian mining equipment and service suppliers.

A testament to the strength of Canada’s mining industry is the fact that Canada consistently attracts on average 15 percent of worldwide exploration spending, produces some 60 minerals and metals, and boasts nearly 200 producing mines, many in the country’s northern expanses. The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and TSX-Venture Exchanges together accounted for 62 percent of the equity capital raised globally for mining in 2014, totalling $8.9 billionFootnote 3.

With mineral exploration and development becoming an increasingly important driver of the northern economy, Canadian companies continue to pioneer the advancement of mining operations in remote and harsh climate regions. Such operations require advanced logistics and geo-mapping tools, sophisticated drilling technology and equipment, as well as extensive experience in dealing with the challenges that accompany constant sub-zero temperatures, permafrost and thick layers of ice. In addition, Canadian companies are at the forefront of successfully integrating community relations, Indigenous engagement and environmental management practices into their business culture.

As exploration activity increases in harsh and remote regions, mining in the Arctic is an increasingly complex endeavour. Moreover, the effects of climate change present new challenges that demand fresh, innovative solutions. World-class proficiency in all of these aspects is the hallmark of the Canadian mining industry.

Northern mining equipment and services

Other companies with capabilities in this sector include: Advantech Wireless, Atlantic Towing Limited, BGC Engineering Inc., Stantec Consulting Limited.

Harsh environment oil and gas equipment and services

Canada is the world’s fifth-largest producer of oil and natural gas. Northern Canada is home to approximately 35 percent of Canada’s remaining conventional light crude as well as 38 percent of its remaining marketable resources of natural conventional gas. Despite these vast endowments of resources, as well as a long history of northern exploration dating back to 1920, it is off the Atlantic coast and in the northern reaches of Canada’s energy-rich provinces that have seen high levels of oil and gas exploration and development.

Faced with similar challenges of harsh climates in highly regulated environments, it is in these regions where oil and gas equipment and service suppliers have developed into world leaders in innovative oil and gas technologies and services for application in Arctic and sub-Arctic conditions. Key strengths developed across the Arctic include onshore engineering and construction, remote location operations, ice-road design, offshore human-made ice-island design, ice-based pipeline installation, subsea engineering and construction, and oil and chemical spill detection and response. In addition, Canadian companies have proven their ability to successfully adapt to various export markets across northern latitudes, collaborating with wide-ranging stakeholders, including local communities, governments and scientists, as well as other local industries such as fisheries.

Approximately 84 percent of oil and gas in the Arctic is expected to be found offshore, which presents significant challenges, including stormy seas, ice shelves, icebergs, vicious winds, months of darkness and isolated locations. Located in a region where drifting ice is a common phenomenon, Newfoundland and Labrador’s harsh environment oil and gas cluster has a deep pool of experience and expertise from which to draw to address these challenges.

With Canadian research institutions working closely with industry to address operational challenges and technology gaps, Canadian oil and gas equipment and service suppliers have emerged as world leaders in harsh environment oil and gas innovation. Not only does Canada have an extensive research infrastructure addressing oil and gas exploration, production and transportation in Arctic areas, the ability to conduct tests close to infrastructure offshore Newfoundland and Labrador is unique.

Harsh environment oil and gas equipment and services listing

Other companies with capabilities in this sector include: ARKTOS Developments Ltd., Atlantic Towing Limited, BGC Engineering Inc., Kongsberg Digital Simulation Ltd., Rutter Inc., Stantec Consulting Limited.

Harsh climate information and communications technology and arctic earth observation

Canada is the second-largest country in the world. Close to half of its territory lies in the rugged and harsh north, and few roads connect the north and the south. In the sparsely populated and vast northern expanse, there is a clear need for reliable, efficient and advanced means of communication. Canadian companies, often in public-private partnerships, have been instrumental in improving broadband speed, and wireless coverage in remote communities.

Information and communications technology (ICT) in the north is a critically important factor in human development and scientific research, as well as in creating economic opportunities. However, achieving desired coverage comes with unique challenges due to geography, the harsh environment and differing regional needs. Canadian companies and communities alike have typically relied on satellite technology, which has created a wealth of expertise within the satellite and earth observation technologies sector. Such technologies have many applications—navigation, environmental monitoring, ice observation, aviation, telemedicine and ship tracking, to mention a few. Thanks to tremendous amounts of available data, Canadian companies can export valuable information gathered in the Arctic at the flick of a switch.

Canada’s investments in RADARSAT satellites have provided a unique vantage point for observing Canada’s land mass and coastlines, for which the Arctic is a region of considerable interest with respect to ice movement, environmental monitoring, geological mapping and resource exploration. Canada’s next generation RADARSAT Constellation mission, which will be composed of three satellites and is scheduled for launch in 2018, will increase the daily revisit time over the Arctic, providing additional data that will aid in monitoring climate change, land-use evolution, coastal change, urban subsidence and even human impacts on local environments.

Harsh climate information and communications technology and arctic earth observation listing

Arctic aerospace and defence

Canada’s aerospace and defence industry is research-intensive, innovative and fast growing. Its aerospace sector is highly integrated into global value chains and exports 80 percent of its production. Canada is a proven market leader in aircraft and engine production, aircraft technology development, and flight simulation. Similarly, its defence sector is also highly integrated into global value changes and exports account for 60 percent of its sales. Central Canada accounts for the majority of aerospace and defence manufacturing, while western Canada is a significant player in maintenance, repair and overhaul, and Atlantic Canada is growing quickly in this sector.

Canada’s climate and geography naturally makes dealing with Arctic-like conditions a prerequisite for the aerospace and defence industry. For instance, Canadian companies lead the way in designing, testing and manufacturing innovative mobility, sustainment and protective equipment for cold climates. Manitoba is home to cold weather R&D/testing sites for the world’s largest engine manufacturers, with facilities in Winnipeg and Churchill in northern Manitoba. In the northern territories, Iqaluit, Nunavut has garnered a reputation as a reliable cold-weather testing site among airplane manufacturers. This may be just the beginning of growing aerospace activity in Iqaluit once its improved international airport project is completed, expected in 2017.

Arctic aerospace and defence listing

Other companies with capabilities in this sector include: Kongsberg Digital Simulation Ltd., Rutter Inc., Tulmar Safety Systems Inc.

Northern cultural, creative and specialty foods industries

Canada’s Indigenous peoples have deep cultural traditions. Each region has traditional subsistence economies, which are based on hunting, trapping, fishing, and traditional arts and crafts. In an unforgiving and unrelenting climate, Inuit art grew out of the skills needed to survive. Developed over the course of millennia, Inuit artwork and culture have become world famous for exquisite carvings of stone and bone, fibre arts, jewellery, ceramics and paintings.

In the north, Inuit art holds an especially prominent standing. It is estimated that there are 3,000 artists in Nunavut—and with a population of approximately 37,000 this means that the territory has more artists per capita than any region in the world. Traditional cultural artwork, as well as the growing array of contemporary creative activities, form an important part of the local economy in many communities and benefit from international exporting.

A variety of unique animal species and vegetation found in the remote north formed the subsistence basis for Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. Many northern specialty foods continue to be sought-after sources of food to this day. Northern Canadian fish and seafood products are harvested from some of the cleanest, most pristine waters in the world. For example, Arctic char—which is native to the Arctic—is known as a highly prized delicacy due to its fresh taste. Fish and seafood, long an economic driver in other circumpolar regions, is expected to have a promising future in several sub-regions of northern Canada.

Northern cultural, creative and specialty foods industries listing

Arctic research and education

Canada’s brand is based on consistent high quality and a reputation for excellence across the entire education sector. With less than 0.5 percent of the world’s population, Canada produces 4.1 percent of the world’s research papers and 4.7 percent of the world’s most frequently cited papersFootnote 4. And in a recent survey of over 5,000 leading international scientists, Canada’s scientific research enterprise was ranked as the fourth-highest in the worldFootnote 5.

Research on the Arctic is no exception to this track record; Canada is highly specialized in Arctic research. It ranks as the second most productive country in Arctic science, maintaining a constant share of about 15 percent of world papers in the fieldFootnote 6. Canada’s leading strength in Arctic research is in the subfield of environmental sciences, consistent with Environment Canada’s top world ranking this fieldFootnote 7.

Due to climate change, the Arctic is changing rapidly and is a unifying focus of activity for many Canadian researchers. In-depth knowledge about the Arctic is needed more than ever, and Canada’s Arctic research community is well placed to conduct such research, particularly northern colleges and those with access to research facilities in Canada’s North. Ecosystems, biodiversity, ocean observation, resource development, green technology, Indigenous knowledge and northern communities are related areas of Canadian scientific excellence.

Canadian researchers—governments, universities, colleges and other institutes—are providing leadership in Arctic science while working cooperatively with scientists internationally. For example, the Canadian Network of Northern Research Operators (CNNRO) and the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaking fleet provide the needed framework and infrastructure for international scientific collaboration. Atlantic Canada in particular has an extensive network of specialized centres and research facilities that concentrate on both established and advanced technology industries.

In addition to conventional educational programs on offer at reputable universities and colleges across Canada, some Canadian companies have become niche-providers of various types of specialized Arctic safety and survival training and support services.

Arctic research and education listing

Other organizations with capabilities in this sector include: Kongsberg Digital Simulation Ltd., Rutter Inc..

Government of Canada in the Arctic

The intent of this guide is to feature the Arctic capabilities of Canadian companies and research institutes. However, it would be remiss not to mention a number of government entities that make key contributions to help ensure that Canada remains a world leader in the Arctic. While much of the Government of Canada’s Arctic policy expertise resides within various departments, this section will highlight a few key federal entities that deliver northern economic development and Arctic knowledge and research programs and services. They work hand-in-hand with territorial and provincial governments, Indigenous land claims organizations, co-management boards, communities and other key stakeholders. Each of them plays a key role in laying the foundation for Canada’s Arctic capabilities:

There are many additional governmental entities at the federal, territorial and provincial levels that have long and proven track records in the Arctic and are instrumental to Canada’s leadership position across a wide range of Arctic capabilities.

The Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) are key facilitators of Arctic science collaboration and innovation funding.

The Canadian International Arctic Center

For more information on Canadian Arctic Capabilities, or to connect with organizations
listed in the directory, contact:
Tel.: +47 22 99 53 00

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