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Canada’s Arctic Sea Floor Claim Challenged by U.S


Once again, Canada finds itself pushed around on the world stage as our allies stake claims in the Arctic.

Despite ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Canada is failing to assert control over its own backyard. The United States, refusing to even join the multilateral treaty, now encroaches on sections of the Arctic seafloor that Canada also claims.

This humiliation highlights Trudeau’s total inability to stand up for Canada on the world stage. Our allies treat us like a doormat while they pursue their own interests in the Far North.

And while the U.S. seems to shy away from upsetting Russia in the Arctic region, it seems to have no issue upsetting Canada, which is very telling of Trudeau’s position in the international community.

Is this how Trudeau is “stepping up” for Canadians?

Once again, Canada finds its Arctic sovereignty threatened by aggressive maneuvering from its southern neighbor.

It seems that the United States is looking out for itself, the same as any nation should be doing, yet Trudeau’s Liberal government seems to be missing that point.

Last month, the United States submitted a claim to the United Nations for large chunks of the Beaufort Sea floor – territory that Canada also claims as its own.

This shocking move demonstrates America’s willingness to pursue its interests even at the expense of allies like Canada. But it mostly highlights the Trudeau government’s inability to firmly assert control over Canada’s Far North.

Canada’s Arctic weakness damages national sovereignty and energy security. It also risks surrendering access to potentially enormous oil and gas deposits under the seabed.

Trudeau doesn’t seem to be engaged in strengthening our military and international relations at all, yet still claims that he has Canadians’ backs.

The federal government is now pledging to work with its American counterparts after the U.S. filed its claims, but things don’t seem promising at all.

The reason this recent news is so alarming can be linked to a landmark piece of international law that the U.S failed to ratify, that being the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS.

The convention has been called the “constitution of the oceans.” Originally completed in 1982, it includes 320 articles and 9 annexes, making up perhaps the most comprehensive collection of international law in history.

Grantly Franklin, a spokesperson for Canada’s Department of Global Affairs, stated in an email that Canada intends to adhere to the procedures outlined in the United Nations agreement, even though the United States has not even ratified it.

The international convention allows countries to control and utilize the environment and natural resources on the ocean floor beyond 200 nautical miles, or about 370 kilometers from their coast, and is a natural extension of their continental shelf.

Rights over an extended continental shelf don’t include control over fishing or shipping.

The UN doesn’t decide borders, but reviews the science behind each country’s claim and leaves it up to the countries involved to negotiate an agreement.

The convention has been ratified by 168 UN member states, including Canada, as well as an additional 14 states, who have signed UNCLOS but have not ratified it.

On the other hand, the United States has neither signed nor ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

And while the United States has pledged to work within UN provisions, there is no formal obligation for it to do that due to its failure to ratify the treaty.

Trudeau’s willingness to cooperate with the US outside of the UN convention demonstrates his weakness as a leader and lack of backbone when standing up for Canadian interests.

Canada ratified UNCLOS back in 2003 and made its case for an expanded Arctic continental shelf in 2019.

It seeks to extend its control over 1.2 million square kilometers of Arctic seabed – an area equal to about 20% of Canada’s total landmass.

The current dispute centers around the Beaufort Sea. A major part of the conflicting claims relates to how the maritime border should be drawn.

Canada wants the border to extend straight north along the 141st meridian, while the US argues it should extend perpendicularly from the coastline based on the underwater geology.

The Amerasian Basin region, which includes the contested Beaufort Sea area, is believed to hold substantial oil deposits. The US Geological Survey estimates it could contain up to 10 billion barrels of oil or equivalent – however this is considered a probabilistic guess based on the Arctic geology rather than a definite figure.

The U.S. claim takes about 57,000 square kilometers that Canada views as its own.

While the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf will analyze both scientific claims, it does not have the power to impose binding borders.

That means the two countries will likely have to negotiate a settlement themselves – a process that could take years. And considering the current state under Trudeau’s weak leadership, who knows how many years it could end up taking?

Rob Huebert, a professor at the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies, gave his two-cents on the matter.

“It’s stuff that we’ve always suspected they were going to do. The Americans have been very careful not to have any overlap with the Russians but they have overlap with us,” he said.

The American decision to avoid conflicting claims with Russia in the Arctic while aggressively encroaching on Canadian territory demonstrates the blatant lack of respect the U.S. has for Canada under Trudeau’s weak leadership.

Russia is a rival superpower that cannot be trifled with, so the U.S. treads carefully to avoid direct confrontation in the Arctic. But Trudeau’s Canada poses no real threat to American interests, so the U.S. freely ignores Canada’s sovereignty claims and stakes its own flag across our Northern borders.

Huebert also pointed out that since Canada submitted its claim in 2019, it now has conflicting claims over Arctic territory with Russia, Denmark, and the United States. As Huebert stated, “Every single one of our Arctic neighbors has an overlap with us.”

He notes that rising geopolitical tensions globally will make it even harder to resolve these maritime boundary disputes diplomatically.

According to Huebert, “You have to resolve things peacefully if you’re part of the convention.” However, he adds, “But you have to overlay that with the geopolitical situation we have now. We’re in such a conflictual environment – with Russia, primarily, and now our two key allies. It’s one ugly chicken soup.”

In essence, Canada is stuck in territorial disputes over the Arctic with all of its regional neighbors.

And growing global tensions, especially with Russia, will complicate efforts to peacefully negotiate solutions.

Canada faces a complex web of competing claims in the Arctic that will require nuanced diplomacy and firm defenses of sovereignty to untangle, which Trudeau doesn’t seem to have.

This is the end result of Trudeau’s failed foreign policy and inability to stand up for Canadian interests against bigger powers like the U.S. His weak rhetoric and photo-ops might play well at home among leftist supporters, but they mask a feeble geopolitical strategy that leaves Canada pushed around on the world stage.

Huebert even said that Canada’s willingness to work with a country outside the convention may weaken the treaty.

Real leadership means projecting strength and demanding respect from allies and rivals alike. Under Trudeau, Canada is dismissed as a joke, an irrelevant middle power that can be ignored with impunity.

To be taken seriously as an Arctic nation, Canada must back up its claims with concrete actions and willingness to stand up to friend and foe alike.

With the U.S. once again claiming huge chunks of Canada’s Far North, especially those reportedly containing billions of barrels of oil, the Trudeau government faces a critical test of its Arctic sovereignty policy.

If Canada falls short against an ally who refuses to even recognize the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it will signal the surrender of national control over huge portions of Canadian territory.

That would represent a monumental failure to defend national sovereignty.

It would also sacrifice access to oil and gas resources that could transform Canada into an energy superpower.

Here we witness another textbook case of Trudeau once again fumbling on the world stage, and it’s always Canadians who end up paying the price.

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