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Northern Exposure

Northern Exposure

SPYROS BOURBOULISnot in

SPYROS BOURBOULISnot in peril, but the public has been persuadedotherwise,” says FranklynGriffiths, a professor emeritus of politicalscience at the University of Toronto.Canada has a long history in theregion. Under the Rupert’s Land Act of1868, the British Crown took over thelands of the Hudson Bay Company andtransferred them to Canada in 1871.The territory included the NorthwestTerritories and Nunavut except for theArctic Islands. Britain completed the transfer of title on July31, 1880, handing over the rest of its possessions in the Arcticto Canada, including “all Islands adjacent to any such territories,”whether discovered or not.“The imperial government didn’t know what they were givingand the Canadian government didn’t know what they werereceiving,” quipped Whitney Lackenbauer, a history professorat the University of Waterloo, in a keynote address to theCanadian Council on International Law last October.In the early 1900’s, the Canadian government sent theQuebec explorer Joseph-Elzéar Bernier on numerous expeditionsto Arctic waters to conduct surveys and place markers tosolidify Canada’s claim to the Arctic Archipelago. He left abronze plaque on Melville Island in 1909 to “commemoratethe taking possession for the Dominion of Canada of thewhole Arctic Archipelago.”Throughout its history, Canada often relied on the Inuit, whowere shifted like pawns on a chessboard to secure Canada’sPeter HutchinsHutchins Caron & Associates,Montreal“Canada has assertedsovereignty over the Arcticthrough the Inuit, rather thanin spite of them.”claim. “In 1953, Canada responded toArctic sovereignty challenges by Denmarkand the U.S. by relocating Inuit familiesfrom their homelands in NorthernQuebec to an almost inhabitable desert inthe High Arctic,” says Tony Penikett, aformer premier of Yukon. In the past fewdecades “Canada has asserted sovereigntyover the Arctic through the Inuit, ratherthan in spite of them,” says PeterHutchins, a partner in the Montreal officeof Hutchins Caron & Associates and a past chair and founder ofthe CBA’s National Aboriginal Law Section.In a 1985 statement, Joe Clark, then minister of externalaffairs, made the relationship between Canada’s Arctic sovereigntyand Inuit use and occupation explicit: “Canada’ sovereigntyin the Arctic… embraces land, sea and ice… From timeimmemorial, Canada’s Inuit people have used and occupiedthe ice as they have used and occupied the land.”Since the 1970s, the federal government has engaged inlong negotiations with the indigenous people of the North tosettle land claims — most notably the 1993 Nunavut LandClaims Agreement — another factor reinforcing Canada’s sovereigntyrights over the Arctic Archipelago. “Ninety-nine percent of Canada’s Arctic is uncontested,” says Michael Byers, apolitical scientist at the University of British Columbia. TheDepartment of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’srecently released Northern Strategy makes the same point:“Our sovereignty over Canadian Arctic lands, includingJanvier · Février 2011www.cba.org23

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