Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Icebreakers best bet in Arctic"

Letter of mine in the Toronto Star, March 14 (links after first added by me):
Re: Staking our Arctic claim, Editorial March 13

I fear your editorial has fallen victim to the efforts of the Conservative government to stoke jingoistic "use it or lose it" fervour over our supposedly threatened "Arctic sovereignty." You write that "... we should aim to project a credible military presence in the Far North ..." But no one except the Danes (Hans Island) has any claim on any Canadian land in the North.

Foreign countries are about as likely to invade the North as they are to invade Newfoundland.

As the editorial notes, the only areas in dispute are at sea: the status in maritime law of the Northwest Passage; the maritime boundary in the Beaufort Sea between the U.S. and Canada; and the economic rights to the Arctic seabed in offshore areas beyond various countries' coastal 320-kilometre exclusive economic zones.

I agree that "Gunboats alone can't guarantee Canada's claim to the Arctic." In fact, naval power is essentially irrelevant to the resolution of those issues. They will in the end be settled by diplomacy – not unnecessary new Arctic patrol vessels for the Canadian Navy.

To the extent that a governmental marine presence might help our legal claim to the Northwest Passage, Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers would be more than adequate.

Mark Collins, Ottawa
The Star left out the last sentence I sent:
The current fleet of six heavy and medium icebreakers is old and badly in need of renewal; the government should be planning several more new ones rather than the single ship, the so-called "Diefenbreaker", that it has said it will acquire--by 2017!


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