Out of curiosity, how far north do the posters here think that sovereignty should be enforced? I ask because in the past several countries have failed to recognize Canada's sovereignty north of 80 degrees and others still contest that the northwest passage is a sea route open to all countries. (There are also other disputes over the Dixon Entrance and other key areas along Canadian west and east coasts).
Examples: (ISUMA Dec 2001)http://www.isuma.net/v02n04/huebert/huebert_e.shtml
The melting of the ice that covers the Northwest Passage gives rise to questions about the impact this has on Canadian claims of sovereignty. There is no question about the status of the land territory that comprises the Canadian Arctic archipelago. All conflicting land claims were settled in the 1930s,[ 10 ] with the sole exception of a dispute over the ownership of a small island between Baffin Island and Greenland named Hans Island. The government of Denmark contests the Canadian claim of ownership. The only relevance of this claim is its impact on the determination of the maritime boundary line between Canada and Greenland in the Davis Strait. Canadian claims of sovereignty of its Arctic areas with respect to maritime boundaries have resulted in three disputes. Canada disagrees with both the United States and Denmark over the maritime boundaries that border Alaska and Greenland respectively. Neither dispute will be influenced by reduced ice conditions.
It is a third dispute, concerning Canada’s claim over the international legal status of the Northwest Passage, which will be adversely affected by a reduction of ice cover in the Passage. The Canadian government’s official position is that the Northwest Passage is Canadian historical internal waters. This means that Canada assumes full sovereignty over the waters and thereby asserts complete control over all activity within them. The Government of Canada’s most comprehensive statement to this end was made by then Secretary of State for External Affairs, Joe Clark, in the House of Commons on September 10, 1985. In that declaration, he included the following statement:
Canada’s Sovereignty in the Arctic is indivisible. It embraces land, sea, and ice. It extends without interruption to the seaward-facing coasts of the Arctic Islands. These Islands are joined and not divided by the waters between them. They are bridged for most of the year by ice. From time immemorial Canada’s Inuit people have used and occupied the ice as they have used and occupied the land.[ 11 ]The United States and the European Union position is that, contrary to Canadian claims, the Northwest Passage is an international strait. The Americans in particular do not accept the argument that ice cover makes a difference for the international legal definition of an international strait. The Americans have always maintained that the International Court of Justice’s ruling in the Strait of Corfu case is applicable for the Northwest Passage. In that case, the Court ruled that an international strait is a body of water that joins two international bodies of water, and has been used by international shipping.[ 22 ] The United States argues that the Northwest Passage joins two international bodies of water and has been used for international shipping, albeit a very small number of transits.
Trivia - In 1999, the first non-American passage (note - surface vessel)
for commercial shipping purposes took place when a Russian company sold a floating dry dock based in Vladivostok. Its new owners decided to move the dock to Bermuda. With the aid of a Russian icebreaker and an ocean-going tug, the dry dock was successfully towed through the Passage. This use of the Passage to avoid storms in the open ocean demonstrated its advantage for international shipping should the ice be reduced. The fact that the dry dock was then almost lost in a storm off Newfoundland seemed to confirm the benefits of sheltered waters of the Passage route.Also in 1999, a Chinese research vessel visited Tuktoyaktuk. While the Canadian embassy in Beijing had been informed of the Chinese plan to send a vessel to the western Arctic, local Canadian authorities were not informed. Consequently, local officials were considerably surprised when the Chinese arrived in Tuktoyaktuk. The voyage of the Chinese vessel demonstrated the limited Canadian surveillance capabilities. Canadian officials did not learn of the vessel’s entry into Canadian waters until it actually arrived.
The U.S. Navy has begun to examine the issue of conducting surface vessel operations in Arctic waters. In April 2001, the U.S. Navy organized a symposium on the subject. This strongly suggests that it perceives the possibility of an ice-free Arctic where it may be required to operate and has begun to give the subject serious thought.