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VIEW: ‘We see the Arctic as a colony’, says Saunders

Columnist Doug Saunders writes in the Globe and Mail today that, “(On March 29), the five states that border the Arctic Ocean – Canada, Norway, the U.S., Russia and Denmark – will gather in Gatineau to divide up the undersea resources.”

The Canwest News Service reported earlier this month that the summit is “aimed at encouraging ‘new thinking on ecomomic development and environmental protection’ to exploit opportunities for oil and gas production while preserving fragile ecosystems.”

The Toronto Star has reported that, “the United States Geological Survey estimated the (Arctic Circle) has 90 billion barrels of ‘technically recoverable’ oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. …Much of the energy reserves lie in waters where sovereignty is disputed among Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway and Denmark.”

Saunders writes that, “The meeting will exclude the Arctic Council (an intergovernmental body of the eight countries with land above the Arctic Circle) and the Inuit.”

He also writes that, “Canada’s policies appear, to the more collegial Nordic states, to be devoted singularly to domestic energy.”

“We own the Arctic but, unlike most of our northern neighbours, we are not Arctic. So when Canada tried to impress the world’s finance ministers and media with its Arctic identity by holding a summit in Iqaluit… it didn’t completely work. …What those leaders realized, and what Canadians instinctively know, is that we relate to the Arctic not as a part of our identity or culture or traditional economy, but as a foreign, faraway land we happen to control.”

He concludes, “The Far North is, in short, our colony. The discovery of northern resource wealth, and the fear that others may lay claim to it, has suddenly turned us into the better sort of colonial masters. (But we only pay attention, because it matters to us now.)”

The Arctic summit is to be followed by a G8 foreign ministers meeting in Gatineau, Quebec on March 29-30. The G8/G20 summit will take place on June 25-27 with reports that climate change – in advance of COP 16 in Mexico in December – will be high on their agenda.

An earlier campaign blog on the Arctic summit can be read at