What Russia’s Arctic claim means for Canada

Canada and five other countries are using maps of the seabed to stake their claim to Arctic territory. (The Canadian Press)
Canada and five other countries are using maps of the seabed to stake their claim to Arctic territory. (The Canadian Press)
Russia has made a new bid for a vast swath of arctic territory to the United Nations and it appears the claim will overlap with Canada’s.

The area is thought to hold as much as a quarter of the world new oil and gas.

Canadian leader made Arctic a priority

Canada and Russia clashed over Arctic jurisdiction in 2007 when Moscow staked a symbolic claim to the North Pole by planting a flag on the ocean floor. Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2013 ordered officials to rewrite Canada’s claim to include the North Pole, and he has made it a priority to make yearly visits to the Arctic.

The Law of the Sea allows coastal nations to extend their jurisdiction beyond 200 nautical miles if they can prove the boundary is a natural extension. So countries with arctic coastline have been mapping the sea bed to make their claims.

Canada preparing its claim

Canada has an icebreaker currently collecting data in order to prepare its claim.

“The Russian claim–and this is a further development from an initial submission they made back in 2001—the claim seems to go even further than what the 2001 claim did and it’s clear that it’s overlapping in an area that Canada is right now, as we speak, actively examining for its claim,” says Rob Huebert of the University of Calgary.

“So there’s going to be some form of an overlap at one point or another.”

RCI Feature Interview

For more from the conversation between Radio Canada International’s Lynn Desjardins and Arctic expert Rob Huebert, click HERE 

Countries will likely negotiate claims

Matters are complicated because Canada has taken a hard line on Russia because of the situation in Ukraine and diplomatic relations are frosty. The claims on arctic territory will take five to seven years to work through the United Nations.

Countries that have overlapping claims can use instruments within the Law of the Sea to settle their claims or they can negotiate directly with each other. Says Huebert: “hopefully at that point in time, relationships…will be better and we will ultimately sit down and decide how this new border with Russia will be shaped.”

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada:  Canada to collect more data for continental shelf claim, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark:  Russia ready to talk North Pole with Denmark, Barents Observer

Iceland:  Revisualizing the Cryosphere, Blog by Mia Bennett

Russia:  Russia submits claim for North Pole, Barents Observer

Sweden:  Swedish ships mapped at bottom of sea, Radio Sweden

United States:  U.S. to collect Arctic data for modern navigational charts, Alaska Dispatch New

 

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Lynn Desjardins, Radio Canada International

Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Lynn has dedicated her working life to journalism. After decades in the field, she still believes journalism to be a pillar of democracy and she remains committed to telling stories she believes are important or interesting. Lynn loves Canada and embraces all seasons: skiing, skating, and sledding in winter, hiking, swimming and playing tennis in summer and running all the time. She is a voracious consumer of Canadian literature, public radio programs and classical music. Family and friends are most important. Good and unusual foods are fun. She travels when possible and enjoys the wilderness.

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