Canada flexes its muscles in scramble for the Arctic
Canada is demanding all ships passing through the Northwest Passage register with the Canadian Coast Guard from now on. This is a shock to their British cousins.
On the other hand, Washington says not so fast.
is not the kind of militaristic statement expected of the peace-loving Canadians. In front of a choreographed line-up of 120 sailors in their summer whites at a naval base outside Victoria in British Columbia, the prime minister, Stephen Harper, gave a warning to other nations with their eye on the potentially oil-rich Arctic.
"Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic," he said. "We either use it or lose it. And make no mistake, this government intends to use it."
In other places at other times his words could be dismissed as posturing. But he backed them up with the chequebook, announcing that he was ordering up to eight military patrol ships that would be converted for use in ice up to a metre thick, and a new deep-water port that would service them. Total bill: C$7bn (£3.3bn).
Mr Harper's message, and the belligerent style in which it was delivered, are a sign that the Arctic, the vast ice-covered ocean around the North Pole, is hotting up - both literally, through global warming, and metaphorically as a political issue. With Canada, Denmark, Russia and the United States all having claims on the region, together with those of Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland, international tension in the region is mounting.
There was no dissembling in Mr Harper's speech. "The ongoing discovery of the north's resource riches, coupled with the potential impact of climate change, has made the region a growing area of interest and concern," he said.
Washington says hold on, and disputes Canada's claims.
TORONTO -- A long-standing legal wrangle between the United States and Canada could complicate future shipping through the Arctic as global warming melts the ice in the Northwest Passage.
The United States contends that the Northwest Passage, though owned by Canada, is an international strait with free passage for all, like other straits around the world. U.S. officials say they are following a long-standing position in favor of keeping straits free to all navigation and want unimpeded movement of U.S. ships.
Canada counters that it has sole jurisdiction over the Northwest Passage and wants to enforce its own laws on ships in the Arctic waters. Canadian officials argue that their authority over the myriad channels and straits that make up the legendary route from the Atlantic to the Pacific is the best way to minimize unsafe ships and accidental spills in the pristine North.
As the ice cap recedes due to global warming, ironically it is opening up more oil-rich areas and making them accessible. It's that oil that threatens this fuss could turn into a family fued.