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From left to right, Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Store, Russsia's Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, USA's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Denmark's Minister for Justice Lars Barfoed take part in a photo during the Arctic Ocean Foreign Ministers' Meeting  in Chelsea, Quebec, Canada, Monday, March 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press)

From left to right, Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Store, Russsia's Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, USA's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Denmark's Minister for Justice Lars Barfoed take part in a photo during the Arctic Ocean Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Chelsea, Quebec, Canada, Monday, March 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press)

Notice anything about the photo to the right? It’s of foreign ministers invited to a Canadian forum on the Arctic, designed to further cooperation in the region.

Yep, there’s not an indigenous person in the lot.

And U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is mad about that. Not a single representative from the region’s indigenous groups was invited to yesterday’s Arctic Coastal forum, she says, according to this story by Rob Gillies of the Associated Press. Clinton didn’t hold back.

In remarks termed by the Canadian press as a “bombshell,” Clinton said that “Significant international discussions on Arctic issues should include those who have legitimate interests in the region. And I hope the Arctic will always showcase our ability to work together, not create new divisions.”

As Gillies writes:

    In what appeared to be a further expression of her displeasure, Clinton did not attend what was planned as a group news conference following the meeting. Instead, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon ended up doing the news conference by himself.

    Although the goal of the gathering was to improve Arctic cooperation, just the U.S., Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway were invited.

    Sweden, Finland, Iceland and indigenous groups are a part of the broader Arctic Council group that meets regularly, but were not invited to the Canadian forum.

A number of countries are vying for control of the Arctic and its rich mineral and petroleum resources – newly accessible as melting ice, due to climate change, creates new shipping routes. Canada says that if a reliable Northwest Passage opens, it belongs to Canada. But the Unites States and others say those would be international waters.

Gwen Florio

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 at 7:43 am and is filed under climate change, First Nations, Indigenous people, Inuit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One comment


People should inform themselves of the facts (including Hillary Clinton) before using “TV Diplomacy). Quite Shameful.

There are two distinct groups – Arctic Coastal Nations – this was the meeting held in Quebec last week. The first meeting was held in Norway in 2008, again with the protest of Iceland, Finland and Sweden (I don’t belive they would qualify as Arctic Coastal Nations – please look at a map.)

The Arctic Council was initiated by Canada in 1996 with 8 member nations. Canada, Russia, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and US. Prior to each Arctic Council Mtg, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister meets with members of the Canadian Arctic Council in preparation for the international meeting. Indiginous peoples are key members of this Council, along with the youth of the Arctic. The Canadian Gov’t provides funding for these groups to attend these meetings.

Hillary Clinton’s statements are COMPLETELY unfounded and certainly constitute a “hidden agenda” on the part of the US.

Please read article below – originally published in 2006 and updated in 2009.


Special to Globe and Mail Update Published on Thursday, Feb. 09, 2006 1:37AM EST Last updated on Sunday, Apr. 05, 2009 1:32AM EDT

In 1870, three years after Canada was made a nation by the British North America Act, the fledgling country ranked as the second largest in the world. This ranking was achieved largely through the 1870 cession to Canada by Britain of lands formerly belonging to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Covetous eyes to the south were being cast on that huge expanse of empty land just north of the border; the owners of those eyes looked on that land as a fruit to be picked. But Canada was having none of it: It was already planning for the construction of a transcontinental railway to tie the country together.

Canada was barely four years old, had a population of 3.5-million and was already set to spend untold millions over a period of perhaps more than a decade, at a time when a man’s wages were a dollar a day. Under the circumstances, one could have been excused for entertaining the thought that the idea might be reckless. There were men and women of vision, though, who thought not only that it could be done but that it had to be done to ensure the survival of their country.

The Americans were against the building of a Canadian transcontinental railway. They pointed out that there already was such a railway in the U.S. and that it would be a lot easier if north-south branches from that railway were built to the areas in Canada that needed servicing. The Americans visualized a northern plum falling into their hands. But Canada was not seduced by these offers, and the last spike in the transcontinental CPR route was driven on Nov. 7, 1885.

Today, Canada faces another threat to its sovereignty from below the border. We again need men and women of vision to counter that threat. No doubt, there will be those who think the actions and money required constitute a reckless venture. There will be pressure from the U.S., with Americans trying to seduce us into thinking their way. I am speaking, of course, of American ships, surface and underwater, violating Canadian Arctic waters by sailing through them with impunity and without asking permission.

The seduction has already started. “We don’t recognize Canada’s claims to those waters,” U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins said last month. “Most other countries do not recognize their claims.” And he dismissed the issue as “a problem that doesn’t exist,” questioning why “there needs to be such a military buildup” in our Arctic.

Canada’s claim to sovereignty in our Arctic waters is soundly based, and we do, indeed, have a problem with the intrusion of U.S. ships in our waters.

Norway has a deeply indented coastline with long, narrow fiords penetrating deeply into the interior of the country. In 1935, the Norwegian government took steps to prevent foreign ships from penetrating into the indentations of its coastline north of the 66th degree of latitude. The Norwegians did this by coming up with the idea of what are called “straight baselines” to define their coast. In other words, instead of defining their coastline by following every large or small indentation, they drew straight lines from headland to headland, across the mouths of indentations and fiords, and declared that, for purposes of sovereignty, those straight baselines would define their coastline. This initiative was meant to prevent foreign ships from entering the fiords and indentations without permission.

In 1951, Britain contested the validity of the straight baseline principle at the International Court of Justice. The court ruled in Norway’s favour, that it was within its rights to establish the baselines for the purpose of exercising sovereignty. The following year, Norway established straight baselines along the remainder of its coastline. Since then, the entire Norwegian coastline from its border with Russia in the north to its border with Sweden in the south has been defined by straight baselines. No other challenges have been made to Norway’s actions.

In 1982, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) came into effect when Fiji became the first country to ratify it. Since then, about 150 countries have ratified it, including the European Community, the U.K., Russia, Japan, China, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Canada. The U.S. is the only major country that has not ratified the convention, with one exception: landlocked Switzerland. Of the 40 or so other countries that have not done so, nearly half are landlocked and couldn’t care less.

Article 7 of UNCLOS describes the steps that a country must take to enclose its coastline with straight baselines for establishing its sovereignty. Some of the language and most of the concepts of the ICJ’s 1951 ruling regarding Norway have found their way into UNCLOS. In 1986, Canada took the steps required by UNCLOS to establish straight baselines around its Arctic Archipelago, which included the waters of the Northwest Passage. Canada also published official maps and tables defining the baselines. Despite these measures, the Americans continue to violate the sovereignty of our Arctic waters.

This is a crucial issue that must be settled internationally at the legal and diplomatic levels. No amount of Canadian defence hardware, software or human resources can protect our sovereignty over Arctic waters if the U.S. continues to violate our rights. It is ridiculous to think that Canada could ever stand down U.S. military might in our Arctic waters. This is an issue that must play out on the stage of international justice. Canada’s case is sound, and should be brought before the ICJ.

But Canada cannot afford to wait until the issue is settled before initiating action to provide this country with whatever hardware, software and personnel are required to adequately manage the operation of a Northwest Passage that will one day, perhaps sooner than we think, be seeing many of the world’s ships sailing through it.

It will take a long time and a lot of money for Canada to be equipped to properly manage the Northwest Passage. We must seek the collaboration of other interested countries as well as private enterprise to share the costs of establishing an adequate system to safely manage the expected maritime traffic in the Passage. Likewise, there should be a sharing of the revenue that will be derived from user fees. The time to act is now.

April 6th, 2010 at 9:29 am

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  1. No aberration « USImperialism2010    Apr 05 2010 / 3pm:

    […] a side note, I’m curious what people think of the recent controversy over the Arctic (  Canada held a forum for potential Arctic investors without including any indigenous people, and […]

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