Mark Collins – Arctic Sovereignty Hoo Hah Letter to Editor Printed!

In the Winnipeg Free Press, May 24–scroll down, title theirs (links added):

Arctic sovereignty undisputed

Robert Murray’s May 21 article, Harper embraces multilateralism on Arctic issues, claims “the necessary actions that would be required to actually protect Canada’s Arctic claims” have not been taken by the Conservative government. But there is no need for such protection.

The government’s own major 2009 paper on the North, in the section headed “Exercising Our Arctic Sovereignty“, states clearly: “Canada’s sovereignty over its Arctic lands and islands is undisputed, with the exception of [tiny] Hans Island, which is claimed by Denmark.”

There is as much need to assert our land sovereignty by increasing Canada’s military presence in the North as there is in, say, very sparsely populated and resource-rich Labrador. Yet no one is suggesting the government take action to ensure that Labrador stays safely within Canada.

Canada and the U.S. actually do have a dispute over our claim that the Northwest Passage is an internal waterway. But it’s not just the Americans. Ours is a claim that almost no one accepts, including the European Union and Japan. (There is also a bilateral dispute with the U.S. over the Beaufort Sea boundary.)

And in fact our claim to the passage is quite shaky in terms of international law. This is a major reason no Canadian government has sought to have that claim adjudicated by, say, the International Court of Justice — no legal action to “protect” is really feasible.

The passage aside, the great mass of our Arctic waters are as undisputed as our land. We have not “lagged behind” concerning our sovereignty, as Murray as asserts.


The final paragraph of the letter was omitted:

So perhaps it would be best if we could all calm down about supposed threats to our precious Arctic sovereignty–threats the Conservative government has far too often raised, with an unwontedly jingoistic response on the part of far too many Canadians.

For a thorough discussion of NW Passage issues see the piece by James Kraska at p. 36 here.

Arctic–and Antarctic–Hoo Hah in Canadian Media/”Fighters and Arctic sovereignty”

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute

One thought on “Mark Collins – Arctic Sovereignty Hoo Hah Letter to Editor Printed!”

  1. At the (essential) newsletter, “The Arctic this Week” from the Arctic Institute (D.C.), links in original:

    Reads of the Week

    If you’re pressed for time, we believe the following articles will give you the most “bang for the buck.”

    Robert W. Murray’s piece in the Winnipeg Free Press this week, “Harper embraces multilateralism on Arctic issues,” frames Canada’s desire to chair the Arctic council within the broader Canadian legacy of multilateralism. Murray notes that, whatever Canada’s prominent figure in the Arctic may be, “the rhetoric about Canada’s role in the Arctic has not been met with the necessary actions that would be required to actually protect Canada’s Arctic claims.” In a letter to the editor responding to Murray’s accusations, Mark Collins of the Canadian Defense & Foreign Affairs Institute raises the important counter-argument that “there is no need for such protection” and military presence, since Canadian sovereignty in its Arctic territory is, with very minor exceptions, undisputed…’

    Mark Collins


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