The True North Strong And Free?

Posted on Friday, November 03 at 16:12 by Chris Harder
What appears to be at stake is Canada’s ability to oversee entry into these waters. This would give Canada the ability to refuse entry to vessels that don’t conform to certain environmental and construction standards – which is vital to the protection of the Arctic’s fragile ecosystem, where pollution or fuel spills could cause severe and long-lasting damage. Because predictive climate models show the Arctic becoming entirely free of summer ice between 2050 and 2100, there currently exists a renewed urgency to establish unequivocal Canadian sovereignty in the region, and an equal urgency has been observed in the U.S. to dissolve any recognition of this sovereignty. While the former U.S. ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, says that it would be a security risk to the U.S. if they did not support Canada’s Arctic sovereignty, the U.S. official line is that they intend to use the strait for international navigation, regardless of Canadian consent. According to Cellucci, keeping the Northwest Passage open to international travel would jeopardize the continental security of the U.S. by allowing hostile countries, and countries with unsafe shipping practices, access to these waters. On this point the former ambassador diverges with his replacement, David Wilkins, who argues that “the Northwest Passage is a strait for international navigation and that’s been our position and continues to be our position.” Legally territorial waters only extend 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometres) from land masses – such as the islands that make up the Arctic Archipelago. Canada has a legal case for its control over these islands, as the Arctic peoples, the Inuit, provide one of the primary qualifications for ownership of a land – habitation. The contention, however, is that the waters of the Arctic strait, which are more than 96.6 kilometres wide in some locations, do not fall under Canadian jurisdiction because they are not considered territorial waters. Even if the U.S. recognized Canadian sovereignty of the Arctic, they would still be legally allowed nautical travel through the area – including territorial waters – as would other foreign ships (both military and civilian). However, many Canadians believe that the U.S. does not want Canada to have sole access to the mineral and petroleum resources purported to exist under the thinning arctic ice. This is a vital point – one which underlines an often overlooked aspect of the Arctic disputes. Story Link (with Hyperlinks):


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