Read 'Secret' memo for Trudeau on unidentified object shot down over Yukon
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was provided a classified memo on the subject of "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)" in February, CTV News has learned.
Obtained through a freedom of information request, the heavily redacted document offers a glimpse into how the Canadian government responded to the unidentified object that was detected and shot down over northern Canada's Yukon territory on Feb. 11. According to the "Secret" memo, the Yukon object was the 23rd so-called "UAP" tracked over North America in the first few weeks of 2023.
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"NORAD numbers objects on a sequential basis, per year, to track every detected object that is not immediately identified; upon cross-examination most objects are found to be innocuous and do not meet the threshold for higher reporting or engagement," the memo explained. "Object #23's function, method of propulsion, or affiliation to any nation-state remains unverified."
After decades of denial and dismissal by U.S. authorities, the Pentagon, NASA and American lawmakers are now investigating what they call "unidentified anomalous phenomena" or "UAP" – official terms for what are more commonly known as "unidentified flying objects" and "UFOs."
"UAP #23" was one of three unidentified objects shot down by fighter jets over North America earlier this year, immediately following the Feb. 4 downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon. While the three objects have not been publicly identified, all were reportedly much smaller than the 200-foot-tall apparent Chinese surveillance device. On Feb. 16, U.S. President Joe Biden said the three mysterious objects likely posed no threat and were probably private or research balloons.
Transmitted on Feb. 14, the "Memorandum for the Prime Minister" was classified "Secret" and for "limited distribution." It was CC'd to Trudeau's national security advisor, Jody Thomas, and signed by Janice Charette, who then served as the powerful clerk of the Privy Council.
Canada's Privy Council Office, or PCO, is a centralized hub that directs the country's public service and is responsible for providing non-partisan support to the prime minister and cabinet as they make policy decisions.
Detected on the afternoon of Feb. 11, the Yukon object was shot down the same day by a U.S. F-22 fighter jet. At the time officials described it as a "suspected balloon" that was "cylindrical" in shape.
"NORAD Canadian CF-18 Hornets had been scrambled but the F-22s were better located based on time, space, and fading light," the memo stated. "As additional UAP are detected, we will continue to keep you apprised."
Due to harsh winter conditions and the remote mountainous terrain, efforts to recover debris from the Yukon object were called off on Feb. 17.
"It is unknown whether it poses an armed threat or has intelligence collection capabilities," the memo added. "The area in which the impact occurred is a known (caribou) migration route, which opens the possibility of future accidental discovery by Indigenous hunters."
Extensive redactions were made to the memo under sections 15 and 69 of Canada's Access to Information Act, which pertain to national security and cabinet confidentiality.
The declassified document was provided to CTVNews.ca by a civilian researcher who wished to remain anonymous. CTVNews.ca verified the document's authenticity by filing a new information request with the Privy Council Office. The PCO and Prime Minister's Office did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement to CTVNews.ca, Canada's Department of National Defence would not disclose how many other unidentified objects have been detected over North America since the flurry of February incidents.
"Following the identification of the larger high-altitude surveillance balloon, NORAD adjusted our detection capabilities to give us better fidelity on seeing smaller, slower objects at various altitudes," a Canadian defence spokesperson said. "Each event is unique and NORAD's response is determined on a case-by-case basis."
Short for North American Aerospace Defense Command, Norad is a joint Canada-U.S. defence group that is responsible for protecting the continent from incoming attacks.
Iain Boyd, a professor of aerospace engineering and director of the Center for National Security Initiatives at the University of Colorado, says the memo shows how Canadian and U.S. elements of Norad effectively work together "without regards to national boundaries."
"It also appears to indicate a low level of understanding of the object in terms of its capabilities and function," Boyd added. "Under normal circumstances, you’d like to think that the decision to shoot it down would only be made after a thorough assessment had been made of the danger it posed based on all information available."
Boyd says the events of February illustrate Canadian and U.S. limitations when it comes to detecting, tracking and identifying objects in their airspace.
"We have gone from a crazy few days where four objects were shot down, to nothing in the six months since," Boyd said. "It would be interesting to know what changes in procedures, if any, have been undertaken by Norad and other organizations charged with protecting Canada and the U.S."
The Canadian military routinely states that it "does not typically investigate sightings of unknown or unexplained phenomena outside the context of investigating credible threats, potential threats, or potential distress in the case of search and rescue."
A federal aviation incident database shows that reports of unusual lights and objects in Canadian airspace have been filed for decades by police officers, soldiers, air traffic controllers and pilots on medical, military, cargo and passenger flights operated by WestJet, Air Canada Express, Porter Airlines, Delta and more. Transport Canada, which operates the database, also does not typically follow up on such reports.
In March, CTVNews.ca revealed that the federal government's top scientist had launched the first official Canadian UAP study in nearly three decades. Known as the Sky Canada Project, the effort from Office of the Chief Science Advisor of Canada seeks to understand how UAP reports "are managed in Canada and to recommend improvements." A new Sky Canada Project webpage promises a final public report in 2024.
Do you have an unusual document or observation to share? Email CTVNews.ca Writer Daniel Otis at firstname.lastname@example.org.