Monday, April 10, 2006

Empty gesture

It's always a plus when Canada takes meaningful action to demonstrate (and give effect to) its sovereignty over its share of the Arctic. It's rather less so to put time and resources into a war of words:
It's one of the most celebrated and mythic areas on the Arctic map, but in the parlance of the Canadian military the Northwest Passage is no more.

"We're calling it the Canadian Internal Waters now," says Lt.-Col. Drew Artus, the chief of staff for Joint Task Force North, whose mandate includes protecting Canadian sovereignty over the vast area north of the 60th parallel.

"That's the guidance that we received. ... Sovereignty and the security of Canada and Canada's lands are important to (the government), and I guess that's part of their mandate to exercise authority, if you will, over what they believe is theirs."...

Several members of the Northern Forces said the direction to omit references to "Northwest Passage" came down their chain of command from Foreign Affairs in January.

However, it's unclear whether the direction came before or after the Conservative victory under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who made Arctic sovereignty an election priority.
Wherever the name change originated, it should be clear that it's not about to have any impact on the underlying debate. As the article points out, the real question is whether Canada can effectively control the region...and rewriting internal documents to imply that we can doesn't help at all in that effort.

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