Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon visits the Far North Monday to get a first-hand look at how scientists will help bolster Canada's future Arctic sovereignty claims.
Cannon's two-day trip will take him to Resolute Bay and the Borden Island Ice Camp, where scientists are conducting the fieldwork necessary to prepare Canada's submission to the United Nation's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
Canada has until 2013 to present its submission to the UN commission, which will decide Arctic boundaries among countries eager to exploit an area that contains an estimated one-quarter of the Earth's untapped oil and gas wealth.
"The information being gathered at the ice camp is essential to our submission," Cannon said in a statement.
"At some point, there will be another line on the map of Canada showing the outer limits of the expanded continental shelf. The staff of the Borden Island camp are among those who will have helped put that new line on the map."
Cannon will watch the deployment of a Canadian-made underwater vehicle, which is being used for the first time to collect data.
Work at the camp is being done by several federal departments, including Natural Resources, Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada and branches of the Defence Department.
Cannon has been charged with overseeing the Conservative government's Arctic sovereignty strategy, which has been contentious in the past.
Canada has butted heads with Russia, the United States and Denmark on claims to various portions of the region.
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 United States and others say it is an international waterway.
Tension flared between Canada and the United States just last week when Cannon hosted foreign ministers from four other Arctic Ocean coastal states.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left the summit early after criticizing Canada for not inviting three other Arctic countries as well as indigenous groups to the meeting. She said they all had legitimate interests in being there.
A new study this past week suggested that Arctic sea ice is back to previous levels, giving some climate change skeptics cause for celebration.
But the author of the study, 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.