Canada’s UFO landings and forbidden places

The mysterious and highly secretive radar domes of Canadian Forces Station Leitrim, as seen from the hill west of the base. Photo: James Morgan?

Criminal, not conspiracy

There’s nothing like a shadowy government investigation and the heavy presence of law enforcement officers to get the rumors and conspiracy theories going. That happened recently in New Mexico when an astronomical observatory was suddenly shut down, evacuated, cordoned off, and became the scene of an unexplained FBI investigation. The observatory has since re-opened and the reasons for investigation are far from extraterrestrial but are rather criminal; a janitor at the facility is being investigated for alleged downloading and distribution of child pornography. No aliens, no government conspiracies. This wasn’t another alleged Roswell incident like what happened in 1947.

Canada has something close to it’s own Roswell incident and has secretive places no person is allowed to go. 51 years ago, on the night of October 4, 1967, several people witnessed a bright object with flashing lights crash into the water off of Shag Harbour, a small fishing village in southwestern Nova Scotia. Most people thought it was a plane crash, but no physical wreckage has ever been found—at least to public knowledge. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Coast Guard, and navy all investigated, but their details are limited. Some eyewitnesses do recall seeing a bizarre yellow foam bubbling on the surface of the water. The Shag Harbour incident has since become Canada’s most prominent alleged Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) landings.

“Cooking steaks outside in Alert,” October 10, 1976. Soldiers having what is possibly the most northerly backyard cookout at the Arctic base.. Photo; Sergeant Leduc. Library and Archives Canada, Item IS 76-617, Vol. 36341, Ref. no: R112

No trespassing, no photography

There are no-go zones in Canada. Some are right in or around Ottawa, others are in places most people would not want to go to. Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert, is a place most people don’t want to go to. The ones who do go only do it because they’re told to. Alert is on the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island in Nunavut. It’s the most northerly, continuously inhabited place in the world. Alert is an intelligence and communications base, set up during the Cold War to try and spy on the Russians. Today, it’s used for well, spying on the Russians. Only military personnel are allowed there.  Those who get sent are nicknamed the “Frozen Chosen.” My late grandfather, an air force transport flight engineer, visited Alert, and my uncle, a former army plumber, did too. Alert is only about 250 miles/400 kilometers from the North Pole, and it was once a tradition for personnel who went there to bring back candy for their children as a gift from Santa Claus.

Surrounded by suburban neighborhoods and shopping plazas in the east end of Ottawa are the headquarters of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which is sort of like the CIA, and the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), the electronic intelligence agency that is similar to the NSA. The average person just can’t walk around on the park-like campuses of these agencies though. There are fences with high-security gates. Signs boldly state there shall be no photography. Inside, there is supposedly a museum and souvenir shop, but only CSIS/CSEC personnel are allowed to go to it, but they can purchase gift items for friends and family. But, typical of Canada’s modest approach to most things, there is a publicly accessible Royal Bank of Canada branch next to the main gate. Agency staff come and go on lunch break, crossing—and often jaywalking across busy Ogilvie Road to access restaurants and the mall on the other side. In Ottawa-speak, if someone says “I work for the Department of Public Safety,” it’s generally assumed they’re giving a cover for really working at one of those intelligence agencies. Evidently, they don’t mind being seen jaywalking to the mall on their lunch break though.

The entrance to Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) headquarters in Ottawa. Photo: James Morgan. Photo taken from the mall parking lot across the road.

Not far away from spy city, is Canadian Forces Station Leitrim. It’s another military intelligence base. To enhance the security of the site, the road in front of it was diverted further away from it a couple of years ago. However, the Canadian modesty shows again on the back part of the property where a hiking trail in the Pine Grove Conservation Area goes right up to the perimeter fence. But, most Canadians are a respectful, conformist lot. A “No Trespassing, By Order of the Minister National Defence” sign on a chain link fence is almost always obeyed. When most of the department’s headquarters was located in downtown Ottawa in a building across from the Rideau Centre mall, it was possible for many years to walk right from the Eaton’s—and later Sears store right into National Defence Headquarters. Mall renovations and higher security have ended that. I always thought it was convenient, the military just could have bought their uniforms and camping equipment there and charged it all to their Eaton’s or Sears card.

Canada has a much smaller military and state security complex than the U.S. Unlike our British founders, we don’t have anyone like James Bond, and on a comedic level, we don’t have anyone like TV’s Maxwell Smart either. But, we do have the odd unusual incident and high security place that no ordinary person is supposed to know about.

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