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U.S. and Canada 'must develop a plan now'

It's been called "the Arctic Grail." For centuries, European explorers were obsessed with the quest for a route around North America to the Orient. Norway's Roald Amundsen finally conquered the Northwest Passage in 1906. But long Arctic winters meant the route couldn't be exploited commercially. Global warming could change all that by melting the ice and making the passage a key shipping route. But as this happens, the controversial question of sovereignty becomes increasingly important. Does the Northwest Passage belong to Canada or the world?

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In just a few decades, the Northwest Passage may be navigable year-round. In fact, as climate change melts the ice, it may soon become the preferred commercial route from the U.S. to Asia. That's why a White House adviser is saying Canada and the U.S. need to come to an agreement on use of the waters now, before ship traffic grows. This may be a complicated endeavour, however - as this 2006 CBC Radio News clip points out, the U.S. still doesn't accept Canadian claims of sovereignty over the Northwest Passage. 
• During the 2006 election campaign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it a campaign promise to defend Canada's Arctic sovereignty.

• In January 2006, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, stated publicly that America simply doesn't recognize Canadian claims to sovereignty of the passage. He added that most other countries don't recognize those claims either. The newly elected Prime Minister Harper made headlines when he later rebuked Wilkins' statement: "The Canadian government will defend our sovereignty... It is the Canadian people we get our mandate from, not the ambassador of the United States."
Medium: Radio Program: World Report Broadcast Date: June 15, 2006 Guests: John Amagoalik, George Newton Reporter: Josee Bellemare Duration: 1:50

Last updated: October 3, 2013

Page consulted on May 21, 2014

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