Canada talks tough in jockeying over Arctic

Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:28pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada will promote itself as an Arctic power in asserting its sovereignty over the resource-rich region, the government said on Friday in a paper laying out its foreign policy plans for the Far North.

The move highlights the growing tensions among countries with Arctic borders as global warming makes rich mineral and energy deposits increasingly accessible and opens its ice-covered seas to shipping.

Canada will step up efforts to resolve boundary disputes it has with the United States and other allies, but that does not mean it is softening its sovereignty claims to the region including the Northwest Passage, officials said.

"Let me be clear, the number one priority of our northern strategy is the promotion and protection of Canadian sovereignty in the north," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calling it "non-negotiable."

Canada rejects suggestions international governance of Arctic needs to be changed, although it recognizes the region is undergoing fundamental changes, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters.

The policy statement released on Friday largely repeated statements Ottawa has made in the past, but officials said was intended to signal that Canada views its domestic and foreign policy claims to the region as intertwined.

"For far too long we feel the Arctic has not been spoken for, and we believe it is time Canada takes full recognition of the Arctic," Cannon told reporters in Ottawa.

Canada claims a large swath of the Arctic including the Northwest Passage, which could become an important shipping link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as climate change melts away the northern ice cap.   Continued...