Arctic Sovereignty or How I Learned to Live with Nuclear-powered Ice Breakers.

In August 2010 Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, took his yearly tour through the Arctic, spending 5 days visiting various spots.  Harper loves the Arctic, it would seem. During his tour he made an announcement about funding for a kick-ass new airport in Churchill, Manitoba, checked out a military operation and had a bit of fun with reporters and an ATV. Harper also had strong words for anyone who wants to fuck around in Canada’s part of the Arctic, saying that Canada’s Arctic sovereignty was “nonnegotiable.”


As you can see, it gets a bit messy in the middle there.

Harper is a Conservative and a huge responsibility of being a genuine Conservative is having reason to spout off very robust nationalist rhetoric (and rhetoric is really all it is as Canada still lacks behind every other nation with a stake in the Arctic in terms of real cash investment, but that’s another story for another day). Arctic sovereignty is an ideal issue for Harper to secure his legacy of nationalism and patriotism; a perspective he is very eager for us all the view him from (still waiting on that book about hockey, though). It allows him to emphasize Canada’s North-ness, something we’ve long  been associated with (“Oh, honey look, what lovely tundra they have”), talk tough with other countries  for once and spend money on new military toys. Add a flag and that’s patriotic gold right there.

However, there are more reasons Canada is suddenly interested in its Arctic sovereignty. There are delicious petroleum resources up there but the extraction of these resources had previously not been economically viable. As global warming continues it war on industry and the human way of life, it is turning the Arctic into a less icy, more habitable frozen hellhole.

Secondly, there is the question of the Northwest Passage, a passage that in this novice’s humble opinion is totally part of Canadian internal waters. However, two of the world’s biggest international bullies the US and Russia insist that it is an international strait or “transit passage,” meaning they want to be able to pass through it whenever they please without having to consult the Canadian authorities. You see, as the ice cover in the Arctic melts away never to be seen again, the possibility of creating a usable shipping route through the Northwest Passage is getting more and more likely. The Americans and the Russians (and to a certain extent countries like Norway and Denmark) want to be able to use it without having to pay tariffs. Would the Americans be as generous if they had a passage that connected the Atlantic and the Pacific? I think not! Quite simply it appears that those fucking Canucks have something that everybody else wants to use and are prepared to use force to get it. For now though we’re still waiting on those icebreakers Harper said he was going to have built back in 2006. Actually it was degraded to eight shittier kinds of boats and then downgraded to six of those shitty boats. The Russians have icebreakers, you know. Nuclear powered ones.

Graphic: Durham University


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