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Defending Canadian Arctic Sovereignty

lenaitch

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If I remember correctly that is already the status quo, and why they set it up that way several, several decades ago.

If Canada went along and recognized it as international waters, it would allow the Chinese and Russians to sail ships through there legally. The same way the US sails between China and Taiwan now.

The reason the NW Passage isn’t international waters is precisely because of what you suggested. They know they can access it anytime without question, but nobody else can. (Unless sub surface.)

Smarter politicians than the current lot made some good decisions way back when, that we benefit from today ☺️👍🏻


(Anybody notice how quickly Pompeo STFU about that suggestion of his, after he made it? Almost like someone took him aside and explained some things to him) 😅🤷🏼‍♂️
The way I understand it, the 'high seas vs. internal waters' issues is a UN Law of the Seas convention (which I don't think the US is a signatory to anyway). We claim the NWP as internal water, to which the US disagrees, but we allow them passage anyway provided they call us first (that may no longer be in place). It's a little awkward for them to complain if China wants to go for a cruise through it. If the US formally supported our claim, it would cost them nothing.

Quite frankly, if China wanted to get really frisky, they could find a shallow spot, dredge an island and claim it, removing the 'near Arctic' ambiguity.
 

CBH99

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The US clings to its 'freedom of the seas' doctrine pretty tightly, but if they were to recognize the NW Passage and all waters in the archipelago as domestic Canadian waters, they would be declaring a position WRT China (who claims to be a 'near-Arctic' nation - whatever that is) but not impeding they freedom of movement, knowing that they will never by denied permission by us.
You are probably right. I'm just recalling something I read a few years ago, which in itself could have been wrong.

I'm curious to hear what our resident Navy guys have to say?
 

Underway

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The US clings to its 'freedom of the seas' doctrine pretty tightly, but if they were to recognize the NW Passage and all waters in the archipelago as domestic Canadian waters, they would be declaring a position WRT China (who claims to be a 'near-Arctic' nation - whatever that is) but not impeding they freedom of movement, knowing that they will never by denied permission by us.
It's not the freedom of the seas doctrine that is the sticking point. It's how the US draws baselines around its territory vs how Canada, China, Russia, NK , Lybia etc... draw baselines.

The US would in normal circumstances be happy to have Canada make the claim of its internal waters, but in doing so it would validate all those other countries' claims. They can't have that, so oppose Canada on principle. Hence the unofficial agree to disagree policy.
 

Oldgateboatdriver

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Here goes one of the resident Navy type, which happens to have been a lawyer too!

And this is going down the rabbit hole because I know we've addressed this before, bu here goes:

There are all sorts of issues relating to Arctic sovereignty and Arctic ocean waters qualification.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the Arctic ocean (AO) is ... well an ocean. At approx. 14 millions square kilometres, it is about six times the size of the Mediterranean sea. The largest countries bordering that ocean, with almost all of the ocean's land borders between them, are Russia, Canada and the USA. The rest are a few European countries, but they don't amount to much land borders on the AO. Also, within those 14M Km2, there is something called the Canadian Arctic archipelago (CAA), which encompasses nearly 1.4M Km2. It is also an unusually shallow ocean, averaging about 1 Km depth of fairly even bottom (no Marianna trench up there that humans have found yet).

So: All the countries that border the AO are entitled to the usual internal waters (basically the river estuaries, the tidal area and some bays and inclusions subject to the use of baseline, then from there, the usual 12 NM territorial waters and the usual 200 NM Exclusive Economic Zone. Everything else is international waters as for every other ocean. This means that, when the ocean opens up for navigation on its whole surface, it will be just like every other ocean: open to any country the world and nobody being able to claim anything particular about it (save for continental shelf rights - we will see later).

As far as land masses in the Arctic are concerned, there are, at this time, no international disputes or conflict, except for Hans Island between Canada and Denmark, and it's a pretty cold conflict (which is appropriate for the Arctic :)). Otherwise, just about every nation recognizes the current claims to land sovereignty of Arctic nations.

There is, however, one special "animal" up there: The CAA. At about 10% of the AO area, it is unlike anything else out there (or in the world, really). While Russia and European countries have some Arctic Islands, even a few groupings of Islands scattered here and there North of their Northern mainland border , they do not have anything that could be considered an archipelago. The North East passage (North of Russia and Europe) is basically an ocean ocean passage in international waters that follows along the Russian mainland and, from time to time comes in between Russia's mainland and some of its Islands - but those Islands are more than 24 NM distant from Russia's mainland and thus, you can sail by remaining in international waters.

The CAA is different, both by its scope and by its make up, whereby there are no points whatsoever where you can go through without having to come within 12 NM of the Canadian coast of any of the archipelago's islands. In other words, you must enter at the very least Canadian territorial waters to transit the North West passage.

So what are the competing claims?

Canada: The CAA is a special case because (1) there is nothing like it anywhere in the world; (2) it is covered in impassable ice most of the year, and as result has never been used as an international shipping route to date; and (3) when iced over, it has been used as if land by the Inuit from times immemorial and it must be preserved as such for them. Therefore, we are justified in considering the archipelago as internal waters of Canada and enclosing then by straight baselines at the edges and "calculate our territorial waters and EEZ from there.

The US: While we recognize Canada's right to internal waters and territorial waters around each of the CAA's islands (which, BTW means they recognize that a great deal of these waters will be Canadian territorial waters no matter what), we do not recognize a right to create baselines at the edges. Moreover, since (1) navigators the world over have been looking for passage through the archipelago (the famed NW passage) as a way to China (that was not under Dutch control); (2) such passage exists and goes through the CAA; (3) this passage is fast becoming available for navigation for a reasonable and foreseeable amount of time every year; and, (4) clearly it connects two parts of international waters, then the US considers the NW passage to be an International Strait.

These differing positions matter because:

Internal waters are waters where the authority of Canada is absolute and unrestricted by anything in the Law of the Sea (LoS), thus we can keep anybody out any time we want, for no reason, at our whim.

Territorial waters are subject to the right of innocent passage of commercial shipping, but we can keep warships and other government vessels from entering at our discretion.

International straits, while traversing territorial waters, are subject to the right of innocent passage by commercial shipping AND warships and other government vessels under strict transit obligations (weapons in stored position, combat systems off, no hydrographic work or any scientific research/experiment to be carried out - self defence only for warships. The country whose territorial waters are so transited do retain, however, all the authority to regulate transit for safety and traffic control and pollution control reasons, amongst others. Whilst it is not in the LoS, I would suspect that, since the LoS and various organizations related to its development and application are now within the aegis of the UN, a country (such as Canada) would likely be able to also regulate on the basis of its obligations (either in international or recognized internal law or in treaty rights) towards aboriginal people.

As of now, Canada and the US have agreed to disagree and have agreed that to transit the NW passage, the US government will ask permission and that Canada will grant permission, the whole without prejudice to either nation's claim.

The final aspect of Arctic sovereignty is the continental shelf. Countries that border on the ocean have some extra rights as regards exploitation of resources within their continental shelf, even if this shelf exceeds the limits of their EEZ. That is why, for instance, Canada has rights to exploit the riches of the nose of the Grand Bank of Newfoundland that sticks outside of our EEZ. As we have seen earlier, the AO is shallow: basically it is almost all continental shelf of the bordering countries. That is why the Arctic nations have agreed to a process to determine who can claim what as their continental shelf in the Arctic: every one has until l "x" date (I can't remember it) to develop legitimate scientific evidence (subject to each other's review) of what it considers it's continental shelf and to present it to an international arbitration panel, leading to an ultimate decision on where each country's shelf ends.

I hope I was clear (if not succinct ;)
 

CBH99

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As clear as mud ;)

Jk jk. I had to read it a few times, but just so my brain could absorb and visualize what you were talking about. Thanks for posting that, that was more helpful than you may have realized :)
 

lenaitch

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Here goes one of the resident Navy type, which happens to have been a lawyer too!

And this is going down the rabbit hole because I know we've addressed this before, bu here goes:

There are all sorts of issues relating to Arctic sovereignty and Arctic ocean waters qualification.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the Arctic ocean (AO) is ... well an ocean. At approx. 14 millions square kilometres, it is about six times the size of the Mediterranean sea. The largest countries bordering that ocean, with almost all of the ocean's land borders between them, are Russia, Canada and the USA. The rest are a few European countries, but they don't amount to much land borders on the AO. Also, within those 14M Km2, there is something called the Canadian Arctic archipelago (CAA), which encompasses nearly 1.4M Km2. It is also an unusually shallow ocean, averaging about 1 Km depth of fairly even bottom (no Marianna trench up there that humans have found yet).

So: All the countries that border the AO are entitled to the usual internal waters (basically the river estuaries, the tidal area and some bays and inclusions subject to the use of baseline, then from there, the usual 12 NM territorial waters and the usual 200 NM Exclusive Economic Zone. Everything else is international waters as for every other ocean. This means that, when the ocean opens up for navigation on its whole surface, it will be just like every other ocean: open to any country the world and nobody being able to claim anything particular about it (save for continental shelf rights - we will see later).

As far as land masses in the Arctic are concerned, there are, at this time, no international disputes or conflict, except for Hans Island between Canada and Denmark, and it's a pretty cold conflict (which is appropriate for the Arctic :)). Otherwise, just about every nation recognizes the current claims to land sovereignty of Arctic nations.

There is, however, one special "animal" up there: The CAA. At about 10% of the AO area, it is unlike anything else out there (or in the world, really). While Russia and European countries have some Arctic Islands, even a few groupings of Islands scattered here and there North of their Northern mainland border , they do not have anything that could be considered an archipelago. The North East passage (North of Russia and Europe) is basically an ocean ocean passage in international waters that follows along the Russian mainland and, from time to time comes in between Russia's mainland and some of its Islands - but those Islands are more than 24 NM distant from Russia's mainland and thus, you can sail by remaining in international waters.

The CAA is different, both by its scope and by its make up, whereby there are no points whatsoever where you can go through without having to come within 12 NM of the Canadian coast of any of the archipelago's islands. In other words, you must enter at the very least Canadian territorial waters to transit the North West passage.

So what are the competing claims?

Canada: The CAA is a special case because (1) there is nothing like it anywhere in the world; (2) it is covered in impassable ice most of the year, and as result has never been used as an international shipping route to date; and (3) when iced over, it has been used as if land by the Inuit from times immemorial and it must be preserved as such for them. Therefore, we are justified in considering the archipelago as internal waters of Canada and enclosing then by straight baselines at the edges and "calculate our territorial waters and EEZ from there.

The US: While we recognize Canada's right to internal waters and territorial waters around each of the CAA's islands (which, BTW means they recognize that a great deal of these waters will be Canadian territorial waters no matter what), we do not recognize a right to create baselines at the edges. Moreover, since (1) navigators the world over have been looking for passage through the archipelago (the famed NW passage) as a way to China (that was not under Dutch control); (2) such passage exists and goes through the CAA; (3) this passage is fast becoming available for navigation for a reasonable and foreseeable amount of time every year; and, (4) clearly it connects two parts of international waters, then the US considers the NW passage to be an International Strait.

These differing positions matter because:

Internal waters are waters where the authority of Canada is absolute and unrestricted by anything in the Law of the Sea (LoS), thus we can keep anybody out any time we want, for no reason, at our whim.

Territorial waters are subject to the right of innocent passage of commercial shipping, but we can keep warships and other government vessels from entering at our discretion.

International straits, while traversing territorial waters, are subject to the right of innocent passage by commercial shipping AND warships and other government vessels under strict transit obligations (weapons in stored position, combat systems off, no hydrographic work or any scientific research/experiment to be carried out - self defence only for warships. The country whose territorial waters are so transited do retain, however, all the authority to regulate transit for safety and traffic control and pollution control reasons, amongst others. Whilst it is not in the LoS, I would suspect that, since the LoS and various organizations related to its development and application are now within the aegis of the UN, a country (such as Canada) would likely be able to also regulate on the basis of its obligations (either in international or recognized internal law or in treaty rights) towards aboriginal people.

As of now, Canada and the US have agreed to disagree and have agreed that to transit the NW passage, the US government will ask permission and that Canada will grant permission, the whole without prejudice to either nation's claim.

The final aspect of Arctic sovereignty is the continental shelf. Countries that border on the ocean have some extra rights as regards exploitation of resources within their continental shelf, even if this shelf exceeds the limits of their EEZ. That is why, for instance, Canada has rights to exploit the riches of the nose of the Grand Bank of Newfoundland that sticks outside of our EEZ. As we have seen earlier, the AO is shallow: basically it is almost all continental shelf of the bordering countries. That is why the Arctic nations have agreed to a process to determine who can claim what as their continental shelf in the Arctic: every one has until l "x" date (I can't remember it) to develop legitimate scientific evidence (subject to each other's review) of what it considers it's continental shelf and to present it to an international arbitration panel, leading to an ultimate decision on where each country's shelf ends.

I hope I was clear (if not succinct ;)

Great post! Thanks very much. I wasn't fully cognizant on the status of the various waters, nor the baseline issue. I thought our claim to the NWP was fairly unambiguous (and the US was just being, well, the US) but was not aware of the International Strait concept.

Hopefully the Arctic nations can come to an agreement on the Continental Shelf issue so China cannot claim some type of 'near-Arctic' special status. Last I heard, our hydrographic efforts were lagging.

Cheers.
 

CBH99

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Great post! Thanks very much. I wasn't fully cognizant on the status of the various waters, nor the baseline issue. I thought our claim to the NWP was fairly unambiguous (and the US was just being, well, the US) but was not aware of the International Strait concept.

Hopefully the Arctic nations can come to an agreement on the Continental Shelf issue so China cannot claim some type of 'near-Arctic' special status. Last I heard, our hydrographic efforts were lagging.

Cheers.
We all already know the answer to this...

But does ACTUAL Arctic nations really need to claim resources and territory sooner vs later, so that China doesn’t put its foot down as a “self-proclaimed” near arctic nation?

Like China declaring itself a near arctic nation shouldn’t even be an issue. China never should have been written down on whatever document makes this official.

Surely the governing person or body knows basic geography, and could exercise discretion...

Do Chinese school children not have access to maps? Do Chinese diplomats know where China is, when they walk into these sessions and make statements like these?

Calling them ridiculous isn’t racist. Might not be diplomatic, but neither is declaring yourself a near Arctic nation when you’re closer to Australia. (I have a gut feeling one of you is going to Google the actual distances 😅 I don’t know for sure, I’m quickly typing this while waiting on a ride. I DO know that China is nowhere near the f**king Arctic tho)

Calling people/organizations/countries out for stupidity shouldn’t be forbidden - it’s required at times.
 

Retired AF Guy

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Attached is a declassified US Embassy (Ottawa) report from 1955 on Canadian soveriegnity claims to the Arctic. Old report, yes, but it does a good give provide a background (1880s to 1954) to the issue.
 

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  • CIA-RDP08C01297R000800210014-8.pdf
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Oldgateboatdriver

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Just to build on the document that Retired AF Guy put up above, three small points:

1) The reference to 3 NM is due to the fact that in those days, the 12 NM limit of territorial waters had not yet been universally recognized, and in fact, the US was the last country to recognize it and use it. But today, the 12 NM limit is the norm. It is of note here that with the 3 NM limit of the time of the memo, there were then ways to transit the NW passage while remaining in international waters, if the ice would let you.

2) You may also note that Canada indicated it considered the waters in the archipelago to be "territorial", not "internal" as they now do. I think the Americans could live with territorial "within straight lines" if we agreed that the passage is an international strait.

3) We have long since abandoned the idea of "sector" sovereignty over the Arctic ice, though I am not sure Russia has abandoned it totally yet.

P.S.: There is no such animal as a "Near-Arctic" nation. It is a pure fantasy of the Chinese government and as of yet, they have not even started to give it any content. I see it more as an imperialistic move akin to a card player in Vegas putting down a marker to indicate he's in. At this point, China is just saying it may, or may not, want in on some things, but they don't know what yet. They just don't want to be told at a later time when they come up with demands that they are too late and should have spoken earlier.

P.P.S.: Speaking of Vegas: GO HABS GO! GO HABS GO! GO HABS GO!
 

Underway

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China can't even win in court for the South China Sea given recent UNCLOS rulings. They have no leg to stand on in the Arctic and are really just there for information gathering purposes whatever their big statements are. Stating, that the last time a Chinese state ship was in the Arctic they were greeted by the MCDV's and hailed. Apparently, they were honest in their reply stating they were checking things out.
 

lenaitch

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This is by no means a complete list, seems the Soviets/Russians are a tad shy of providing such information.

As magnificently explained above, it seems Canada's sector or baseline claim is not widely accepted (and not enforced by us) and a polar transit is not the 'Northwest Passage' - a route through the archipelago - as traditionally understood.
 

Underway

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I would be willing to bet that none of those "transits" went through the Northwest Passage. Canada's arctic waters do not equal the NWP. Granted the NWP is also a relatively vague handwavy name, variously defined as a way through the arctic archipelago or the choke points on that way through.
 

daftandbarmy

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I would be willing to bet that none of those "transits" went through the Northwest Passage. Canada's arctic waters do not equal the NWP. Granted the NWP is also a relatively vague handwavy name, variously defined as a way through the arctic archipelago or the choke points on that way through.

I assume that our Navy has done an estimate of our northern waters and located all the strategic 'choke points' we should consider manning/ fortifying in the event that we need to control access through our territorial waters, right? ;)
 

Underway

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1624062521426.png

There's your routes, basically two. The northern deep water route and the "traditional" route along the continent. You can change them up by going through different channels west of Resolute but that's really just ice dependant. The northern route has a better chance of multi year ice as you approach the Beaufort Sea. The southern route runs into ice packed up in dams and sheets in the narrow channels near places like Cambridge Bay, even with warmer water because of wind and storms.

The southern route would be suicide for a submarine. The ice regularly scrapes the bottom. The northern route is deeper which might work. However if you are going to the north pole you don't go through the passage. You either go straight shot from the Beaufort Sea or you go straigh shot from Baffin Bay. You don't risk the packed up ice and shoals in the badly sounded Canadian Arctic Archepelago if you can avoid it in a submarine.

I don't consider the Beaufort or Baffin Bay as part of the NWP, perhaps the entrances/exits to it.

And as for bases, Resolute is an Army facility IIRC and just east of it on Baffin Island, along the Eastern entrace to the NWP is Nanisivik, the new refueling station for the RCN and Coast Guard.
 

Colin Parkinson

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A CCG officer went aboard the Russian icebreaker helping the USCG Polar Star that sheared a blade, he said they had better charts of the Canadian Arctic than we did.
 
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