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The Right of Passage

By Linda Tancs

Some time ago, National Geographic News reported that an Arctic thaw had opened travels between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the fabled Northwest Passage, which cuts through the Canadian Arctic. That the passage offers a convenient trade route for Canada, the U.S., Russia, Norway and Denmark should come as no surprise. Neither should the fact that an ice-free passage (estimated to occur by 2050) offers unprecedented opportunities for oil and natural gas exploration, which has the above-named parties jockeying for position. Canada, for instance, has claimed sovereignty over its share of the waterway, setting the stage for the international equivalent of a fight among schoolyard bullies. Not to be outdone, Russia planted a flag at the bottom of the Arctic, and President Bush officially repudiated Canada’s position in his Arctic Region Policy directive. Whether the route ultimately achieves status as an international strait is anyone’s guess, particularly if Canada persists in giving its chums the cold shoulder.

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