Who has sovereignty over the Arctic? Russia, Canada, America?

Who has sovereignty over the Arctic? Russia, Canada, America?

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August 27, 2007

Invoking the 15th century legal procedure we know as the Doctrine of Discovery, on August 2nd a Russian submarine placed a titanium Russian Flag on the Arctic seabed under the north pole, claiming sovereign ownership of the resources in the region, which includes an estimated 10 billion tons of oil and gas.

As discussed in some detail on Native America, Discovered and Conquered, “Russia is primarily relying on the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea for its claim to the Arctic floor, and the estimated 10 billion tons of oil and gas there, it is going to use the Doctrine of Discovery as a back up argument for its ownership of these submerged lands and assets if its argument to the U.N. fails, as it already has in 2002.”

In response to this bold endeavour, Canada and America have begun to prepare a response and also find themselves bickering over who has the sovereign right to the land. For instance, Prime Minister Harper made a commitment to boost Canada’s military presence in the Arctic, but Canada itself Claims sovereignty over the emerging Northwest passage… While Bush was apparently happy to hear of Canada’s hard-line bulk-up, he just doesn’t agree that Canada has a right to the resources.

Aswell, for the sake of mentioning it, Denmark and Norway are also considering/attempting to claim sovereignty…

Well, these states can play their fun little game all they want, but the fact remains that none of them have any genuine sovereign right to the land or resources. The Arctic is unceded indigenous Territory. As stated by Charles Etok Edwardsen, Jr in 1993: “Unlike the origins of the United States, France, and Russia, the Inuit call to freedom maintains our tradition of the longest peaceful occupation, co-existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Arctic since time immemorial.”

Now, based on statements made by various Inuit NGO’s, I assume that the vast majority of Inuit People view their Sovereign Relationship with Canada as one based in Peace and Friendship. That means respecting one another, honouring what agreements are signed, not encroaching on or threatening one another, and not pretending as if the other does not exist.

Whatever claim Canada thinks it has over the Arctic, and regardless of what archaic colonial schemes a State want to engage in, the fact remains the Inuit are the Sovereign holders of the region, and Canada and any other state must respect that.

Peace and Friendship or Fascism
As stated by Mary Simon, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, it seems that the Inuit People welcome Canada’s involvement and presence in the Arctic—as disturbing as it is that the only contribution they’re making is a military one, aside that is, from the fact that Canada is slowly colonizing the region by bringing in People from the South while the Inuit continue to struggle with poverty and various other matters—but in any case, Canada must respect the Peace and Friendship as well as the Inuit Peoples inherent right to the land.

In other words, Canada, along with America, Russia, Norway, Denmark and any other state that wants to claim the land and resources as as their own is prudently required to consult and involve the Inuit People… and no state may undermine the Inuit’s Sovereignty unless the Inuit give them permission to do so.

While there are no treaties or laws to compel a Nation State in this, Peace and Friendship is about acting with integrity and respect. To violate such a sacred agreement and carry on as if you’re some feudal lord without regard to the people on the land is no less than an admittance of the State’s inability to govern responsibly. Such violation makes a state into little more than some meek regime that can only get want it wants through brute force.

Canada, America, and Russia: are you prepared to reduce yourselves to such pathetic standing?

Further Reading
Inuit leader demands input on Arctic sovereignty
Ice Melting Under The Inuit & Action Call!
Leader says the Inuit key to Arctic sovereignty
Canada’s Sovereignty Over Arctic Waters on Thin Ice

The Inuit Circumpolar Council
Arctic Peoples

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