Harper bolsters military strength in Arctic
Published Friday, August 10, 2007 10:16PM EDT
In an effort to strengthen territorial claims in the Arctic, Canada will build an army training centre and construct a deep-sea military port in the heart of the Northwest Passage, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Friday while touring the region.
Harper said the North holds a special place in the nation's soul and needs protection.
"That's why we react so strongly when other countries show disrespect for our sovereignty over the Arctic," he said.
The 4,100-member Canadian Rangers force will also be increased by 900, Harper said in Resolute Bay, Nunavut.
The prime minister has been asserting Canadian sovereignty over the region while touring the far north this week.
"Protecting national sovereignty -- the integrity of our borders -- is the first and foremost responsibility of the national government," he said.
The Canadian Forces training centre, which will be built in Resolute Bay, will be a year-round facility that can accommodate 100 personnel.
The deep-water military port will be constructed in Nanisivik. The Rangers will also be re-quipped, Harper added.
The prime minister made the announcement on the last day of his tour and alongside Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor, who is expected to be moved in a cabinet shuffle early next week. A contingent of Rangers -- the rifle-toting, Inuit volunteer force -- was also on hand.
The multimillion-dollar announcements stem from Conservative campaign commitments.
Harper flew in for the announcement as planned, even though strong Arctic winds had kept his military aircraft grounded in Yellowknife overnight.
Harper's trip comes after a recent Russian submarine expedition that planted a Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole.
Denmark, meanwhile, is mapping the Arctic ridge as the polar race heats up. A team of scientists are heading to the region on Sunday looking for evidence Denmark has claims to the region that is potentially home to vast amounts of oil and other resources.
The month-long Danish expedition will try to prove the Lomonosov Ridge, a 2,000-kilometre underwater mountain range, is attached to the Danish territory of Greenland, making it a geological extension of the Arctic island.
If that's the case, it might allow the Nordic country to stake a claim under a United Nations treaty that could stretch all the way to the North Pole. Canada and Russia, however, also claim the ridge is theirs.
"The preliminary investigations done so far are very promising,'' Helge Sander, Denmark's minister of science, technology and innovation, told Denmark's TV2 on Thursday.
"There are things suggesting that Denmark could be given the North Pole."
The Danes plan to set off aboard the Swedish icebreaker Oden, which will be assisted by a powerful Russian nuclear icebreaker that will plow through ice as thick as five metres north of Greenland.
"No one has ever sailed in that area. Ships have sailed on the edges of the ice, but no one has been in there,'' expedition leader Christian Marcussen of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland said in Copenhagen. "The challenge for us will be the ice.''
The team, which includes 40 scientists and crews of icebreakers, will use sophisticated equipment, including sonar, to map the seabed under the ice.
"We will be collecting data for a possible (sovereignty) demand,'' Marcussen said. "It is not our duty to formulate a demand of ownership.''
Canada, the United States, Russia and Norway have competing claims in the Arctic region, where a recent U.S. study suggests as much 25 per cent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas could be hidden.
The race for sovereignty has heated up as of late partly because global warming is shrinking the polar ice, which could someday open up resource development and new shipping lanes.
With a report from CTV's David Akin and files from The Canadian Press