Straight Talk
Asserting Arctic sovereignty

A view of HMCS Toronto as the ship sails in Frobisher Bay off the coast of Baffin Island during Operation NANOOK 09, August 2009.

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues his annual tour of the upper reaches of our Great White North, he must start talking tough to any country that thinks it owns any piece of our action this side of the Arctic Circle.

We know a good place to start.

Why France would have an ambassador to the polar region is beyond us, but it does.

He's Michel Rocard, a former French prime minister and, even after riding around the Arctic aboard one of our icebreakers, he's telling the world we're "too small" -- his words -- to finance the tapping of the Arctic's resources as well as spur commercial traffic through the Northwest Passage.

In fact, he said the Russians represent the true Arctic force, and that they should have the sovereign rights to maintain what could become the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

Harper has no choice.

He has to crudely tell intruders like Michel Rocard to stay out of what is clearly our business.

That, of course, is easy to do when it comes to nations like France, but a little harder to do when staring down Russia or China.

Hidden under our patch of the Great White North, however, is 25% of the world's untapped oil and gas deposits.

That's a motherlode.

Aside from the necessary hard talk to the Russians and Chinese -- who are building icebreakers like we build half-ton trucks -- it is time for action to replace rhetoric.

Even tiny Denmark is getting in on the act. On Monday, for example, it presented its Arctic Strategy for the next decade, confirming it intends to lay claim to the North Pole sea bed by 2014 at the latest.

It is China, however, that sees itself as chief of non-Arctic countries, and it isn't building those icebreakers in case hell freezes over.

It's building them to challenge our sovereignty over the natural resources that could power much of the world into the next millennium.

Harper must enforce the undeniable fact that the Great White North is our Great White North.

It represents Canada's ticket for the future, for our children and our children's children.

It has to be Priority No. 1.

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