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Saturday, December 13, 2008

The European Union and the North-West Passage

Canada lays claim to the Arctic waters that are now being called the North-West Passage. Unfortunately Canada is having trouble convincing everyone else of this claim.

A recent European Union paper addresses their position on the Arctic waters. The most significant part of the report stated; (according to Embassy Magazine)

The document specifically states that EU member states "should defend the principle of freedom of navigation and the right of innocent passage in the newly opened routes and areas." It is this passage that has raised eyebrows in Canadian circles, especially as more of the ice pack melts.

The idea of 'freedom of navigation' in this case is in direct conflict with Canada's claim of sovereignty. The Europeans are basically saying that Canadian waters are open waters. That Canada's rights to police these waters are either limited or non existent.

Senator William Rompkey, chair of the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, best described the problem Canada is facing with its claim of sovereignty;

"The key word is control," he says. "We can prove that water is Canada's, but what people care about is control."

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on December 13, 2008 in International Affairs | Permalink


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I agree with Rompkey. Use it or lose it as the saying goes along with possession is nine tenths of the law.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-12-13 1:30:35 PM

We have the Liberals to thank for this, as well as the anti-military voters that propped them up. Are you listening, Toronto?

The EU may be stacked with anti-private-property types, but that's just because they're sixty-somethings dating from Europe's socialist days. The political climate in Europe of late is increasingly conservative, so perhaps in another two or three decades we'll be rid of these sanctimonious beatniks.

In the meantime, we can politely remind the EU that it doesn't matter how many papers they publish on the subject. The Northwest Passage is in Canada's territorial waters as defined by international law--our Panama Canal, as it were--and if they want to use it, they can pay. Or they can open negotiations with the Russians to use Russian waters, and see if the terms are any more favourable.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-12-13 3:12:01 PM

We believe that one of the very first things PM Harper did after taking office was to order the construction of three new ice breaker ships.once we have those ice breakers in place up north Canada will be able to effectively patrol the NW Passage shipping lanes and provide service to all registered clients using our seaway, - unregistered clients might just get stuck in the ice crushed and sunk by an act of God, any non client ship crew escaping will be eaten by Polar Bears while Canadian Ice Breakers salvage & confiscate their cargo.

.What other nation will have their own ice breaking cargo ships to get them through the Canadian NW Passage ?
Likely -Nobody..

Posted by: 419 | 2008-12-13 3:30:27 PM

Waste. Of. Time. And. Money.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-12-13 3:42:43 PM

This whole subject is totally irelevant. In this most recent rise in global temperatures the peak came in 1998 and if anything they are trending downward now which means the closest to an ice free Northwest Passage likely occurred this past summer . Geologic and other records show the much more likely scenario is that we are slipping back into a mini ice age such as occurred in the mid 1800s. I encourage anyone with a speck of skepticism to search the net for evidence and opinions from people such as Sir Christopher Monkton of the UK and Bjorn Lomborg of Denmark. They are only two of a legion of AGW deniers trying to overturn the monstrously false doctrine of those such as Maurice Strong, Dr Fruitfly, and the biggest hypocrite of all, Al Gore.

Posted by: Bob Wood | 2008-12-13 4:14:21 PM

I concur with your assessment of the climate situation, Bob, but it's still prudent to stand up for what is ours. For it will be ours for only as long as we don't let someone else make it theirs.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-12-13 4:36:07 PM

And we would defend the NW passage with what? The Army , Navy or Air force we don't have?. I agree with Bob Wood that the problem will solve itself. Submarines will continue their silly-boy games well within the 12 mile limit and we will continue to wonder what they are up to. We will continue to rely on the USA since their best interests and ours can at least be negotiated. They will also continue to use the passage as they seem fit since they do not recognize our claim to it.

Posted by: peterj | 2008-12-13 5:05:49 PM

Some years ago I attended a seminar where it became evident that the US does not recognize our claim to a Northwest Passage. The Law of the Sea Conference does not recognize our claim either. Even at the choke point between Canadian owned islands there is enough distance to deny us an exclusive claim to the passage. The best we can do is to exercise a right to resource exclusion.
Others here have spoken to the need to exercise military control. As a nation we don't have the wherewithal to exercise control. Successive governments have shown insufficent interest in guarding the North and what we consider to be our resources. The only people I have heard discuss the problem intelligently are professors from the University of Calgary, a maritime architectural design team from Calgary and the Canadian Military. While all of them had a vested interest, their views were well presented and made sense.

Posted by: DML | 2008-12-13 7:09:44 PM

The North Pacific is in it's cool phase which should last until 2037. The North Atlantic should be shifting to it's cool phase in 2017. Sun spot cycle is very slow in cranking up. These things should keep the passage closed for some time.

If this does not happen we can always build an ice dam using ice road technology. A wall of ice 100 feet thick would be hard to pass through.

Posted by: kent | 2008-12-13 7:47:21 PM

Can't tolls be charged on the honor system? We could leave a box on one of the islands so passing ships can drop their quarter.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-12-13 8:09:08 PM

What the U.S. does or does not recognize is irrelevant, Peter. Under black-letter international law, those are our territorial waters. If other nations continue to behave with recalcitrance, warn them and, if that fails, lay mines.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-12-13 8:27:44 PM

DML, I would like to see the specific statute that excludes the water between close-packed islands from that nation's territorial waters. The distance between Baffin Land and Nunavut is only 11 miles, well under the 12-mile limit, never mind the 200-mile resource extraction limit.

Nor is America's stubborn and pugilistic claim to Canadian waters anything new. Teddy Roosevelt threatened to send troops to survey the Alaskan Panhandle when the border with B.C., as defined by the British, failed to suit him. Point Roberts, the weird partition of Lake of the Woods, and the two-thirds of the Great Lakes they snapped up are further examples.

America's appetite for war will likely be slaked for some time to come. I doubt very much they will consider trading shots over something as mundane as a border dispute in which the law, as I understand it, places them in the wrong.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-12-13 8:34:39 PM

What the climate will be like in the Northwest passage is absolutely irrelevant to our claims. But then to even try to predict the climate is utterly laughable.


Posted by: epsilon | 2008-12-13 10:30:39 PM

So the rest of the world recognizes Canada's claim
to the Northwest passage in much the same way Ottawa recognizes our own personal claim to our own personal property...which is not at all.
Oh the irony. :)

Posted by: JC | 2008-12-14 9:04:09 AM

"warn them and, if that fails, lay mines."
That's going back to my first point. Lay mines with what? Even if we had a delivery system ( we don't)we have no mines. I'm sure the US would sell us some, and perhaps would rent a Nuclear sub for a few months so we could make their life more interesting. Not. The whole subject is academic as we will have enough problems in the coming years without looking for new ones.We are hardly in a position to get into a pissing contest with our friends...never mind our enemies.

Posted by: peterj | 2008-12-14 10:44:55 AM

,,underwater mines are cheap- many modern European nations have them, never use them, we can get lots of major kaboom underwater mines mines cheap-if that failsx, Canada can make a few of our own, sheesh we are still a first world nation capable of wiring up a couple of nice pieces of coldhardy hardware - This is not aggression this is defence, so it's OK..

we would be doing it for Santa Claus...

Posted by: 419 | 2008-12-14 3:41:48 PM

True but we still have no way to deliver them as our subs can not go under the ice cap. They would have to be tethered to the sea floor and only a Nuclear sub has that capability. You are right about Santa claus for sure cause he's a guy we can all trust.

Posted by: peterj | 2008-12-14 4:06:13 PM

I love your point (Oh the irony. :) Perhaps it gives them an idea on how we feel on that subject.
Nah...thats too much to hope for.

Posted by: peterj | 2008-12-14 4:34:46 PM

True but we still have no way to deliver them as our subs can not go under the ice cap.
Posted by: peterj | 14-Dec-08 4:06:13 PM

I don't think may of our subs can submerge never mind go under the ice cap.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-12-14 4:59:21 PM

Why all these suggested military options? I thought you Canadians were a peaceful people. Oh right, 1970 invasion of Quebec. Harassing innocent Spanish and Portuguese fishing boats, and threatening little Denmark. What bullies you people are.

Cooperation will achieve far more than confrontation.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-12-14 5:29:11 PM

Harassing innocent Spanish and Portuguese fishing boats, and threatening little Denmark. What bullies you people are.

Cooperation will achieve far more than confrontation.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 14-Dec-08 5:29:11 PM

Tell that to all the fishing families that were torn from their homes, and ended up in God forsaken Fort MacMurray. Those fishing boats were clearly breaking international law, and should have been siezed. They destroyed one of Canada's oldest industries, permanently.

Posted by: dp | 2008-12-14 6:12:39 PM

I thought you Canadians...
What bullies you people are....
Posted by: Zebulon Punk | 14-Dec-08 5:29:11 PM

The Punk thinks he's an American today. Too much or too little medication brings on a change of citizenship.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-12-14 6:41:13 PM

Oh yeah sure blame the "furniners" who "tuk our jobs". if the Cdn gov't - Liberal of course - had not been so belligerent and hostile, clearly to appease their base, then there would have been no problem. Blame the Easterners for this one.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-12-14 6:42:17 PM

Yo Peter J- I know for a fact that the oil exploration people can and have airdropped hundreds of one piece self contained high tech sensor units through the artic ice that sink, self anchor and then beep data signals to headquarters.These robot doo hickies transmit all manor of information from way down there, for years at a time and then as required, self release and float to the top where they are picked up and -- recycled...
its fairly do-able to add an explosive feature..Nuclear subs didn't map the Artic ocean floor, these oil exploration robot pods did in the 1980's.

Posted by: 419 | 2008-12-14 8:50:16 PM

Learn something every day , thank you. Whether or not this technology can be adapted to mines is questionable but does not seem improbable. Cheaper than a Nuclear sub.

Posted by: peterj | 2008-12-14 9:18:10 PM

I'm afraid that with the talk of dropping mines this discussion has degenerated. BTW the distance between islands in the northern passage (Barrow Strait) is more like 34 miles.

Posted by: DML | 2008-12-14 9:32:26 PM

419- By rights, the information that Dome et al gathered in the arctic should be private property. I wonder how much became public knowledge?

Posted by: dp | 2008-12-14 9:34:17 PM

have you ever read the " Manifest Destiny" of the USA? Mines are worth discussing, BTW this is a civilian yak show- not a govt policy meeting so we can impliment World of Warcraft for a few laughs .. another idea is for Canada to make a treaty with our Northern neibours, the USSR who if necessary send a cruise missile at any hostile ship trespassing in Canadian/Russian treaty waters , there. thats nicer than mines isn't it ?

Posted by: 419 | 2008-12-14 11:28:20 PM

Jon Stewart tackles Canada's parliamentary crisis

"But Stewart mused why should Americans care anyway about what is going on politically in Canada. He pointed out Canada is not a nuclear state..."

You want Yankee respect. Get nukes. They're cheap.

Minuteman III missile — $33.5 million each

* Armament:

o 3 W62 170 kiloton warheads
o or 3 W78 335 kiloton warheads

Total — ~$48.5 million each

Posted by: DJ | 2008-12-15 12:40:38 AM

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