Down to the Wire

Sahtu community improves wildlife safety on the Canol Trail

Stretching over more than 370 kilometers, the Canol Trail is strewn with debris from a short-lived World War II energy project. With funding from the Government of Canada, a local Sahtu community is taking steps to clean up this stunning landscape and position themselves for future opportunities.


The Canol Trail is the result of a pipeline constructed by the United States and Canada to supply oil from Norman Wells, NWT to Allied Forces stationed in the Pacific during World War II. By 1945, one year after oil began flowing, the project was abandoned.

Although several salvage operations have been conducted, remnants of the pipeline remain scattered along the trail, including oil tanks, buildings and bridges in disrepair, abandoned pipeline, contaminated soil and rusted machinery. The environmental and human health risk of most of these contaminants can be addressed under the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan (FCSAP), but there are also more than 370 kilometers of communications wire that poses an immediate entanglement risk for wildlife and a hazard to people. As a physical hazard, the wire on its own is not eligible for cleanup funding under the FCSAP program.

Ongoing discussions with local Sahtu Dene community members revealed immediate concerns of moose and caribou found dead from getting tangled in the wire. More than 40 kilometers of wire had been cleaned up in 2009 through a program initiated and carried out by the Tulita Dene Band Council and funded by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), but it was clear that a solution was needed for the remaining 330 kilometers of hazardous wire.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)'s Contaminants and Remediation Division (CARD) focused on the Northern development component of the Department's mandate in order to find a workable solution. INAC provided funding for a capacity building and training program in the Sahtu Region, in which participants were trained in project management, with the wire cleanup work providing the opportunity to obtain skills including managing work contracts, developing work plans, and drafting project reports. The wire cleanup program also provided training in field operations and health and safety.

Participants in this capacity building program cleaned up 114 km of wire from the Canol Trail in the summer of 2015. The wire was cut, coiled, and securely stored at transfer locations, where it can be addressed as part of future remediation activities. This work has significantly reduced the risk to wildlife on this land. The project maintained a perfect health and safety record, with no environmental issues, and full compliance with the Land Use Permit.

The 23 people who participated in the wire cleanup program were Sahtu beneficiaries. Also, a new Doi T'oh Territorial Park Corporation (DTTPC) was created to administer the program. This new corporation positions the Sahtu to participate in the Government of the Northwest Territories' plans to establish a territorial park in this area. Members in the corporation include the Tulita Dene Band, Tulita Land Corporation, Fort Norman Metis Land Corporation, Tulita Renewable Resources Council, Norman Wells Land Corporation and Norman Wells Renewable Resources Council. INAC will continue to work with the DTTPC to build community capacity and to support Sahtu beneficiaries in continuing to position themselves to benefit from project opportunities.

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© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, 2016

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