The Arctic and Canada’s Foreign Policy

Written by  //  May 29, 2008  //  Arctic and Antarctic, Canada, Geopolitics  //  6 Comments

the first principle of Arctic sovereignty is: Use it or lose it
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Resolute Bay, August, 2007


M. Cpl. Kevin Paul/Canadian Forces
The Canadian flag flies from the back of a snowmobile at sunset during a 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group patrol of Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, March 29, 2008.

Background: “Polar vision or tunnel vision: the making of Canadian Arctic waters” Rob Huebert; Protecting Canada’s Arctic
See also Arctic meltdown – economic and security implications of global warming and related posts and Wednesday-night.com on Arctic

May 29
Five countries reach Arctic deal
Five countries bordering the Arctic Ocean agreed on Wednesday at a meeting in Greenland to use the United Nations’ Law of the Sea Treaty and other international protocols to resolve any future disputes over the potentially oil- and gas-rich region. The U.S., Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway also agreed to try to protect the Arctic from environmental damage as global warming melts the ice and opens up the area to shipping and energy exploration. BBC (5/29) , The New York Times (5/29)
Summit sees Arctic Group of Five form
(National Post) ILULISSAT, Greenland — An Arctic Ocean summit aimed at easing territorial tensions among Canada and the four other nations bordering the northern sea appeared to evolve Wednesday into something more substantial: an Arctic Group of Five, with ambitious plans to oversee polar oil and mineral exploration, maritime security, transportation and environmental regulation.
Arctic Claimants Say They Will Obey UN Rules
(Planet Ark) ILULISSAT, Greenland – Five Arctic coastal nations agreed on Wednesday to let the UN rule on conflicting territorial claims on the region’s seabed, which may hold up to one fourth of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbon reserves.
Under the 1982 UN Law of the Sea Convention, coastal states own the seabed beyond existing 200-nautical mile (370-km) zones if it is part of a continental shelf of shallower waters. The rules aim to fix shelves’ outer limits on a clear geological basis, but have created a tangle of overlapping Arctic claims.
The United States has not yet ratified the convention, but US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte urged Congress to do so as soon as possible.
The countries, most major oil exporters, agreed to settle conflicting territorial claims by the law until a UN body could rule on the disputes.
May 28
ILULISSAT: ARCTIC NATIONS MEET
(RCI) Canada and the four other Arctic nations began a high-level two-day meeting in Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, on Tuesday, the other states represented being the U.S., Russia and Norway. Canada is represented by Resources Minister Gary Lunn. On their agenda is discussion of their various territorial claims in the region. The claims are taking on increasing significance as the melting of the Arctic ice opens up the possibility of drilling for oil and natural gas, as well as sailing through the Northwest Passage. Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller expressed the hope that the five Arctic nations would settle their claims “in a responsible manner.” Other topics include co-operation over accidents, maritime security and oil spills.
May 26
Greenland summit to discuss carve-up of Arctic
(Reuters in National Post) COPENHAGEN — Officials from five Arctic coastal countries will meet in Greenland this week to discuss how to carve up the Arctic Ocean, which could hold up to one-quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves.
Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States are squabbling over much of the Arctic seabed and Denmark has called them together for talks in its self-governing province to avert a free-for-all for the region’s resources.
Russia angered the other Arctic countries last year by planting a flag on the seabed under the North Pole in a headline-grabbing gesture that some criticised as a stunt.
Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller and the premier of Greenland’s government, Hans Enoksen, will meet the Norwegian and Russian foreign ministers Jonas Gahr Stoere and Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn at the two-day conference opening on Wednesday in the town of Ilulissat.
The issue has gained urgency because scientists believe rising temperatures could leave most of the Arctic ice-free in summer months in a few decades’ time.
This would improve drilling access and open up the Northwest Passage, a route through the Arctic Ocean linking the Atlantic and Pacific that would reduce the sea journey from New York to Singapore by thousands of miles.
Canada makes claim for Arctic ridge in the Canadian way!
Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service
A year after Russia’s controversial flag-planting dive to the North Pole seabed to assert ownership of a sprawling underwater mountain chain, pictured, Canada is launching a less brazen but potentially more effective counterclaim for control over parts of the disputed Arctic ridge–perhaps even the pole itself — by publishing a scientific paper in a scholarly journal. The federal geologist heading Canada’s bid to extend its continental shelf in the high Arctic says the early findings from a joint Canadian-Danish study of the Lomonosov Ridge suggest the massive undersea rock formation are “very positive” for Canada’s case, and that the sea floor at the pole could eventually be ruled part of this country’s territory.
May 23
Canada’s foreign minister belongs at Arctic summit
Diplomacy and international law are not the job of a natural resources minister
Where is Canada’s top diplomat? Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier is needed in Greenland.
Oh, Please! To refer to Mad Max as Canada’s top diplomat is an insult to all self-respecting Canadian diplomats of which he is not one. He’s a politician. Frankly, though we are not thrilled with all of Gary Lunn’s past performances, he has been the Harper government’s point man on Arctic issues for some time. Far better he than Mr. Bernier.
Ottawa: Canada wants continued Arctic co-operation
(RCI) Natural Resources Canada says its minister, Gary Lunn, will push for continued co-operation in the Arctic at this weekend’s five-nation conference in Ilulissat, Greenland. A spokeswoman for the department has told the Canadian Press that Canada’s goals are to address new Arctic challenges, to reaffirm support for the international Law of the Sea Treaty and to plead for continued security and scientific co-operation. The other participants are the U.S., Russia, Denmark and Norway. Their representatives will discuss such matters as climate change and increasing exploitation of natural resources. The conference comes with a backdrop of competing territorial claims in the region.
May 22
Denmark seeks Arctic peace on eve of Greenland summit
OTTAWA – Denmark’s foreign minister has made a plea for peace among Arctic nations, including Canada, on the eve of an international summit in Greenland aimed at easing territorial tensions in a region experiencing unprecedented melting and thought to contain a quarter of the world’s remaining oil reserves.
Per Stig Moller’s appeal for countries to end the “rush” for control over the Arctic and the emerging competition over “who comes first or who plants their flag where” — a clear reference to last summer’s controversial Russian expedition to the North Pole — coincides with a new prediction by U. S. scientists that, for the first time in recorded history, the pole itself could become ice-free at the height of this summer’s thaw.
And with the Arctic facing major diplomatic and environmental challenges again this year, one of Canada’s leading experts on polar issues is criticizing the Conservative government for failing to send Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier to the Greenland summit.
Mr. Bernier’s absence “is a mistake,” said University of British Columbia political scientist Michael Byers. “Denmark has invited foreign ministers, and not sending ours is a bit of a snub to our Danish allies.”
May 21
Denmark calls for law to prevail on Arctic disputes
(AFP) — Denmark’s foreign minister called Wednesday for international law to prevail over territorial claims in the oil-rich Arctic ahead of a meeting next week on the region’s disputed borders.
Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States are at odds over 1.2 million square kilometers (460,000 square miles) of Arctic seabed, thought to hold 25 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas according to the US Geological Survey.
April 19, 2008
Race to map Arctic is about environment as much as oil: MP
MIKE DE SOUZA, Canwest News Service
Mapping the outer limits of Canada’s continental shelves in the Arctic is essential in allowing the country to control oil and mineral exploration in a responsible way, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said yesterday.[He] said he was confident scientists would finish their work on schedule by 2013, allowing Canada to stake its claim to controlling development near the North Pole.
Lunn said that under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, scientific research is the key to mapping out boundaries. He said it means that the only major question about Canada’s claims was on how far its shelves would be extended.
Jacob Verhoef, the director of Canada’s UNCLOS program, said that the government researchers were trying to work closely with its counterparts from Denmark since the two share some common interests.
February 21
(RCI) A group of 13 American and Canadian academics and former diplomats have drawn up a report in which they recommend that both their countries stop arguments about who owns the Northwest Passage and jointly manage Arctic waters. The group agreed that the question of Arctic sovereignty is a challenge for both sides, Canada regarding the region as Canadian and the U.S. not wanting its activities in the North challenged for fear it would set a bad legal precedent for straits now considered international. Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci says that while both sides have strong arguments, it’s no reason for them not to focus on immediate concerns like melting ice. Mr. Cellucci also notes that it’s time to plan for the shipping volume that may sail the North in 15 or 20 years. The experts have sent a list of nine recommendations to both governments, including the drafting of rules to governing the stopping of ships and on environmental, navigation and safety standards. They also call on both nations to co-operate on immigration, search and rescue and surveillance.
February 19, 2008
(National Post) Possible solution for Arctic dispute
U.S. and Canadian teams engaged in two-day ‘model negotiation’
In an extraordinary exercise in simulated diplomacy, two teams of experts on international relations and polar politics — one representing the United States and the other Canada — have completed a two-day “model negotiation” on the future of the Arctic Ocean and are now pressing the two countries to begin official talks on a host of urgent issues confronting the rapidly warming region, including the thorny question of who should control the Northwest Passage.
The mock summit, organized by University of British Columbia political scientist Michael Byers, counted Paul Cellucci, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada, and Pierre Leblanc, the former commander of the Canadian military’s northern forces, among its participants.
While Mr. Cellucci himself is on record urging the U.S. to recognize Canadian control over the disputed Northwest Passage as a way to boost overall North American security, the negotiators fell short of recommending immediate American acceptance of Canada’s claims.
Divvying up the Arctic
The Peterborough Examiner, By STEPHEN HANDELMAN
It’s hard to imagine a U.S. presidential candidate this spring or fall issuing a policy paper on the Arctic. But don’t be fooled. A combustible series of events has already pushed the polar region high on the agenda of the next president in 2009.
Russia’s exercise in polar brinksmanship last summer started the clock ticking. A Russian deep-sea submersible dove below the Arctic icecap in August and planted a flag on the seabed 1,311 meters below the surface to claim rights to half the Arctic. A week later, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Nunavut to reiterate Canadian claims to sovereignty over the Northwest Passage.
Officially, the U.S. reaction to both events was measured and calm. Spokespersons repeated long-standing American contentions that the Northwest Passage was an international waterway, while noting cooly that Russian efforts were unlikely to get anywhere.
But then the Danes moved in as well, sending their vessels north to lay claim to their own Arctic patch of ice and water.
Privately, Americans were furious – and frustrated. “We haven’t really had a review of Arctic policy since 1994,” a senior official admitted at a small gathering of foreign policy insiders in New York last week.
That’s changing. A review is now underway – although presumably it will languish in some bureaucratic in-basket until inauguration day on Jan. 20, 2009.
February 13
Tussle seen over Arctic sea floor
Rich resources eyed by Canada, U.S.: scientist

(National Post) A leading U.S. government scientist says his country and Canada are on a collision course over seabed rights in the Arctic Ocean, where vast, untapped oil and gas deposits are fuelling an undersea land grab and researchers from all polar nations are racing to collect data backing their countries’ territorial claims.
September 14, 2007
Interest in and anxiety over Canadian Arctic sovereignty is growing. Over the past few weeks, billions of dollars in new federal funding has been announced for new armed ice-strengthened vessels, a deep-water port on the Northwest Passage and a military training centre in Nunavut. Canada’s projection of itself in the circumpolar international realm is changing. But what, and who, is informing this projection? Do the billions of dollars in new funding reflect or address Northern Canadians’ concerns, interests and anxieties? With regard to the Arctic, what is the best way to “use it”, and avoid “losing it”?
Such questions were the focus of a discussion convened in October 2006 by the Gordon Foundation. A 2-day workshop focused on renewing the northern dimension of Canada’s foreign policy, prompted by the new window of opportunity opening up at the federal level, the territorial governments’ emerging collective interest in Arctic international affairs, and a concern that Canada was falling away from the leadership role it once had in circumpolar affairs.
We brought together a diverse group of 24 thinkers, including Arctic Indigenous Peoples, territorial government officials, policy practitioners, academics, industry and others, with the goal of developing practical short-term recommendations in advance of the most recent Arctic Council Ministerial meeting, as well as practical medium-term recommendations that link northern, domestic and foreign priorities.

6 Comments on "The Arctic and Canada’s Foreign Policy"

  1. Diana Thébaud Nicholson September 19, 2007 at 8:31 am · Reply

    Arctic sea route opens as ice melts
    September 15
    LONDON (Reuters) – The Arctic’s Northwest Passage has opened up fully because of melting sea ice, clearing a long-sought but historically impassable route between Europe and Asia, the European Space Agency said.
    Sea ice has shrunk in the Arctic to its lowest level since satellite measurements began 30 years ago, ESA said, showing images of the now “fully navigable” route between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

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