Thursday, January 26, 2006

Not the Same Old Sovereignty

This is trouble waiting to happen. Happily, Stephen Harper seems to get it.

The Arctic sovereignty issue first came to my attention in December and made the news again today, with reports that the US Ambassador to Canada does not recognize Canada's claim to Arctic waters:

We don't recognize Canada's claims to those waters... Most other countries do not recognize their claim...

and opposes Harper's plan to increase Canada's military presence there:

There's no reason to create a problem that doesn't exist.

Sure, there's no problem for the US as long as we have no problem with what they're undoubtedly planning.

Stephen Harper intends nonetheless to defend our sovereignty up there as well he should.

This issue might not seem like a big deal but it absolutely is.

There are oil reserves up there waiting to be developed. It's also entirely possible that global warming will lead to the opening of the fabled Northwest Passage to shipping, and rights of passage will be a very big deal.

If there is any dispute as to who owns this territory, surely we will need some clout behind our claims; better would be to move now to establish our sovereignty and for this we need exactly what Harper proposed in December: increased surveillance and actual military presence there.

I'm no lawyer but as I understand it, international law pertaining to coastal borders says that sovereignty over an area depends on the ability to defend that area and also on actual occupation and use of the area. Logically that implies that if another country can send its subs there unnoticed, this is not really *defense*. And further, that if another country can establish some operations there (probably unnoticed, just like the subs) they have gone a long way towards being able to claim those resources.
I looked for references, found one site that seemed to cover some of this, but I'd like to be much clearer on the topic of exactly where Canada stands on Arctic sovereignty, so if someone out there can help I'd appreciate it.

Is it really too outlandish to think that some time in the future, the US might decide that our resources, Arctic and otherwise, are just too tempting and too easy to acquire for themselves?

We need to fix this and I hope Harper will do just that.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

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