True, NORTH, Strong...
During the 2005-2006 federal election campaign, US Ambassador David Wilkins stated the United States doesn’t think Canada owns the north: “We don't recognize Canada's claims to those waters... Most other countries do not recognize their claim."
Last I checked there is a perfectly good map showing Canada’s boundaries extend up through the Artic and run smack dab into Russia up there in the land of eternal winter.
In military circles it is well known that other countries do submarine reconnaissance through our (yes, our) northern waters without our permission.
If you buy there is some kind of global warming underway, and most of us do, the potential for an open waterway and easy access to rich resources, including oil and diamonds, is a siren call for other nations. Some suggest the waters could be fully open by 2015, 170 years too late for Franklin’s ill-fated expeditions but just in time for the rest of us.
Other nations have been perfectly happy to let Canada steward the region when it wasn’t accessible, but now that our north is becoming steadily more valuable, the Americans and Danes are sniffing around like dogs in heat.
Up until recently, the most we’ve done to protect our northern border was the odd research mission and the frequent flying of supplies into isolated Inuit communities. Canada also placed radar stations across the north, mainly to measure electrical fields and currents.
Beyond that, it didn’t really seem all that important for generations of Canadian politicians. The three northern territories have a combined population of 140,000 – about the same as Kelowna or Abbotsford – they are hardly a political epicentre.
Last weekend, Prime Minister journeyed to the North to launch a 12 day military operation to fulfill a campaign promise that his government will not tolerate other countries messing around on our real estate.
Because the Northwest Passage is 7,000 kilometres shorter than the route through Panama, the US and European countries would like to see it declared international waters. Canada maintains that international waters start 200 kilometres outside our borders.
By asserting our sovereignty, Harper is ensuring that Canada won’t just roll over and capitulate to international pressure when it starts to ramp up over the next decade.
Beyond the economic concerns about handing away the Passage, come grave environmental worries.
The government has recently introduced tough new marine regulations governing the shipping industry. After this week’s oil spill near the Philippines, controlling shipping through this sensitive area becomes as important as ownership.
Canada needs to be vocal and strong about our boundaries or they will gradually be eroded, even by our friends.