Cannon launches PR tour in Arctic

RESOLUTE, Nunavut — Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says he’s confident science can settle any international disputes over Canada’s Arctic borders.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon arrives in Resolute Bay

Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon arrives in Resolute Bay

RESOLUTE, Nunavut — Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says he’s confident science can settle any international disputes over Canada’s Arctic borders.

He offered that assessment as he arrived at Resolute Bay — at the northern tip of the Northwest Passage — early Monday afternoon to get a first-hand look at Canadian Arctic sovereignty efforts.

Cannon will spend two days observing the work of scientists who are mapping Canada’s Continental Shelf limits. They are conducting the fieldwork necessary to prepare Canada’s submission to the United Nation’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which will eventually decide competing Arctic claims.

“As you know, all of this initiative is done under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Seas. It is scientific based and it is in the spirit of co-operation that Canada does this,” he said after stepping off a Hercules transport plane into a crisp -15C overcast day.

“It’s extremely important … We’ve committed to be able to table before or at 2013 our information, and I think we are on schedule.”

Cannon will travel another 650 kilometres farther north on Tuesday, to Borden Island Ice Camp, at the tip of the Arctic Ocean.

Several countries are laying claim to Arctic territory as global warming raises interest in exploration for oil, natural gas and mineral wealth. Canada has butted heads with Russia, the United States and Denmark on claims.

Since taking power in 2006, the Harper Conservatives have made the Arctic a priority. They have pledged to increase Canada’s military presence in the Northwest Passage, where the pace of melting ice could make it a regular Atlantic-Pacific shipping lane. Canada claims sovereignty over the passage, but the U.S. and others say it’s an international waterway.

Tension flared between Canada and the U.S. last week when Cannon hosted a meeting of foreign ministers from the five Arctic Ocean coastal states. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said indigenous peoples and several other countries should have been invited.

A study last month suggested that Arctic sea ice is back to previous levels, giving some climate-change skeptics cause for celebration. But the study’s authors at the U.S.-based National Snow and Ice Data Center warned that a few weeks of cold Arctic weather has simply skewed the numbers, and that the findings don’t mean global warming has come to an end.

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