Posts Tagged ‘dispute’

Dispute over Hans Island nears resolution. Now for the Beaufort Sea

February 6, 2011

JILL MAHONEY
From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011

Original article here

Negotiators are now confident that Canada and Denmark will resolve their dispute over Hans Island, and sooner rather than later.

Relations between the two countries have grown irritable at times in recent years because of their competing claims to the barren bit of rock perched halfway between Ellesmere Island and Greenland. Also in dispute is a patch of the Lincoln Sea even farther north.

But the two countries are in negotiations and have embarked on a joint mapping exercise, and both Canadian and Danish officials, speaking on background, said they were confident of reaching an agreement before Canada deposits its claim over the Arctic seabed to the United Nations in 2013.

Shared jurisdiction of the island is one possibility; another is running the border down the middle of the uninhabited, 1.3-square-kilometre knoll, which would give Canada a land border with Denmark.

In a recent poll, a large majority of Canadians said that asserting and protecting Arctic sovereignty should be Canada’s foremost foreign policy priority. In a statement to The Globe and Mail, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon insisted that it was.

“We continue to exercise our sovereignty in the Arctic while also making progress on outstanding boundary issues,” Mr. Cannon said.

In fact, negotiations are beginning to bear fruit after years in which Canada refused to discuss competing claims. The United States and Canada have long disagreed over where the border between Alaska and Yukon should be drawn, as it projects into the Beaufort Sea. While the Americans have sought a negotiated settlement, Canada preferred to agree to disagree.

But there is oil under the seabed, and petroleum companies are anxious to get at it. Last year, the Conservative government declared its willingness to reach a deal. The two countries have embarked on a joint mapping expedition of the ocean floor.

That exercise may not be completed until 2013, because the ice is too thick for much of the year, and a Canadian government official speaking on background said it might not be possible to complete an agreement until after then. In the meantime, a bilateral “dialogue of experts” is underway, with the next meeting scheduled for Washington in the spring.

Some Arctic-watchers believe the slow pace of the talks over the Beaufort is frustrating an impatient Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“The people at Foreign Affairs already have very full plates,” said Michael Byers, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia who specializes in Arctic issues. “They don’t see the urgency of negotiations now when a solution probably isn’t doable this year or even next year. So you have this tension between the Prime Minister’s Office, which wants to see progress, and the department, which doesn’t see it as a top priority.”

But Canadians officials maintained the pace had been agreed to with the American government. The Americans and Canadians “are committed to a win-win” agreement that satisfies both sides that their interests have been protected, one official said.

The U.S. government agrees. “Our technical teams have held productive meetings on the Beaufort boundary in the past,” the embassy said in a statement. “We look forward to continued discussions in the future.”

The nations that encircle the Arctic have agreed, under the Law of the Sea convention, to submit their claims over what they believe is their fair share of the Arctic seabed to the United Nations for arbitration. Canada’s deadline is 2013.

The UN will not arbitrate in areas where there is a border dispute, and an agreement over the Beaufort border is unlikely before 2014. But officials say this is only a minor impediment, especially since the U.S. hasn’t ratified the treaty anyway.

As for the biggest dispute of all, who controls the Northwest Passage, none of the players has even agreed to talk about it, and no resolution to the question of whether it is in Canadian or international waters is expected in the foreseeable future.

Inuit need greater role in protecting Arctic: Committee

June 18, 2010

By Juliet O’Neill, Canwest News Service June 17, 2010

An all-party report expressed "concern" that Indigenous peoples have not been accorded proper recognition for their historic role in helping ensure Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic by living in the region. Photograph by: Ed Struzik, edmontonjournal.com

OTTAWA — The government should get cracking on implementing Nunavut land claims and involving Indigenous peoples more in protecting Arctic sovereignty, the House of Commons defence committee said Thursday.

An all-party report expressed “concern” that Indigenous peoples have not been accorded proper recognition for their historic role in helping ensure Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic by living in the region.

“The assertion that our sovereignty depends largely on Inuit occupation of the region are a bit hollow if we continue to lag on our commitments to the Inuit and prolong the failure to implement the Nunavut land claims agreement,” Jack Harris, New Democratic Party defence critic, said at a news conference by committee members.

The MPs also recommended the Arctic Council should be strengthened, the government should re-establish the office of Arctic ambassador, create a cabinet committee on Arctic affairs and give priority to resolving a dispute over the Beaufort Sea with the United States.

The report generally supported the broad direction of government policy but chair Maxime Bernier said the recommendations aim to ensure Canada has the right tools. While the committee concluded the Canadian Forces are equipped to defend the region, it was concerned the building of Arctic patrol ships and the icebreaker John G. Diefenbaker are falling significantly behind schedule.

The committee recommended the government make development and long-term maintenance of viable Indigenous communities a priority and ensure that the Inuit be included in Northern environment scientific projects.

“It is especially important that Canada’s Indigenous peoples be an integral part of any decision making process affecting policies regarding the Arctic,” the report said. “In line with this, we believe it important that outstanding land claims in the region be settled quickly.”

Harris issued a supplementary report emphasizing the long-stalled process of implementing the 1993 Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

“After 17 years, only 50 per cent of the agreement has been implemented,” he said, citing provision of educational services as a key to the future of Nunavut’s ability to run its own affairs and participate in national and international decision making about the Arctic.

“We must stress the importance and urgency for the government of Canada to fulfil its obligations to our indigenous partners in the Arctic.”

The committee heard testimony that a dispute resolution mechanism in the agreement was not working and Inuit leader Mary Simon had told the committee that “along with the building of military infrastructure in the region we also need to build sustainable communities.”

The committee said “Canada’s legal title to its Arctic territories is well established” and there is no immediate military threat to Canadian territories either in or “through” the Arctic. But it said that “given the increased interest and anticipated activity in the Arctic, Canada needs to increase its ‘presence’ in the region.”

Meanwhile, Operation Nanook, the Canadian Forces’ summer Arctic sovereignty exercise, moves north of the Arctic Circle for the first time this summer, and in a twist will include ships from the Danish and American navies, plus a ship and dive team from the United States Coast Guard.

The participation by the Danes and Americans is notable for a Canadian sovereignty exercise, since Canada has lingering offshore boundary disputes with both Denmark and the U.S.

With a file from the Nunatsiaq News

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service
Original article here