52% of Northern – 60% of Southern Canadians think the Arctic is Key

29 01 2011

 

A new study says Canadians from across the country agree on one thing at least: the Arctic is a cornerstone of the country’s national identity and a stronger military presence is required to defend our Arctic claims.

And Canadians overwhelmingly think Arctic sovereignty should be the No. 1 foreign policy priority for the government.

The Ekos Research study of the eight Arctic countries, conducted for the Munk School of Global Affairs, found there is a strong consensus among northern and southern Canadians when it comes to the Arctic.

Fifty-two percent of northerners (those who live in the three territories) and 60% of southern Canadians (those who live in the 10 provinces) believe in strengthening the military presence in the Arctic, while 82% of northerners and 71% of southerners think the Canadian Rangers — a largely indigenous militia of reservists — should be expanded with more personnel and resources.

Also, while a majority of Americans (62%) want to compromise with Canada for control of the contested waters in the Beaufort Sea, 50% of Canadians want to claim the resource-rich section of the sea in dispute as our own, and don’t want to negotiate with the United States.

“I’m not surprised that Canadians are reacting so favourably to efforts that the government is making to highlight the importance of the Arctic,” Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in Winnipeg Tuesday.

“Much of that responsibility … falls to the Canadian Forces,” he said.

“Their visibility there and presence on the ground is critical, given the challenges.” The Arctic Rangers program has already been expanded (it’s expected to hit 5,000 members by 2012) and the Canadian Forces are looking into using unmanned aerial vehicles, similar to what is used in Afghanistan, to increase surveillance efforts in the Far North.

Even Liberal House leader David McGuinty credited the Conservatives for doing “some very good things” in Canada’s bid to assert its claims in the Far North.

“Establishing our sovereignty in Canada’s Arctic has been important, not just in terms of the Northwest Passage, which we know is going to open up and may lead to shipping,” McGuinty said. “It has a strong bearing on the Arctic resources that we have, natural gas fields, minerals, other findings that are evolving, so yes, it’s an important priority and there I think the prime minister has done some very good things.”

The Ekos Research study comes just months ahead of the next Arctic Council meeting of the eight Arctic countries — Canada, the U.S., Russia, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland — at which a new legally binding search and rescue treaty is expected to be signed.

Also, Arctic claims could ramp up with reports this week that a top U.S. naval boss who heads the navy’s climate-change task force thinks that by 2035-2040, the North Pole could be “essentially” ice-free for a month every year.

The Canadian government is currently mapping the Arctic Ocean floor and preparing a submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Canada is expected to claim huge swaths of the Arctic in the December 2013 submissions.

The surveys of 744 northern Canadians (who live in the three territories) and 2,053 southern Canadians (who live in the 10 provinces) are considered accurate to within 3.6 percentage points and 2.2 percentage points, respectively, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were all over the age of 18.

Source: Toronto Sun

 

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