The Arctic: The New Eldorado
By Claude Bachand
For millennia, a mantel of ice that has always been thought to be permanent has blanketed the Arctic Ocean. Climate change has now overturned traditional thinking and reshuffled the deck. New issues are emerging, primary among them being maritime traffic, natural resources and the environment, as well as many others.
The circumpolar nations are already waking up and taking an active part in discussion of these issues. Canada, the United States, Norway, Denmark and Russia are asserting their national sovereignty and staking their claims in the Arctic.
International Law: The convention governing the delimitation of future borders is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which establishes the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
The Commission has responsibility for setting the boundaries of the continental shelf, which is an underwater extension of the continent. In fact, Norway has just had its sovereignty recognized over 230,000 square kilometers, after it submitted its study to the Commission. Canada is to present its study in 2013.
The Conservative Party’s Northern Strategy: The Bloc Québécois considers it to be absolutely crucial that any strategy be developed in consultation with the people who live in the region. In fact, on November 28, 2007, the National Assembly of Quebec called unanimously for Nunavik to be included in the strategy for northern Canada. The federal government has to pay Quebec its fair share of the money involved so that Quebec can itself support and promote the socioeconomic development of Nunavik, in close cooperation with the Inuit living there. To date, no response has been given to that request.
Occupation of the Landmass: It is generally acknowledged that the Canadian Arctic archipelago is a definite advantage for asserting Canadian sovereignty. It is unanimously conceded that this corner of the planet has been occupied by the Inuit since time immemorial. Nunavut, Nunavik, Innuvialuit and Nunatsiavut are all pieces of the archipelago puzzle that makes up the North.
Control of the Territory and Military Implications: In attempting to assert full sovereignty, it is crucial not only that the territory be occupied but also that it be controlled. I believe that there must be international agreements to establish the legal basis, but that this is not enough. There must also be a requirement for control of the territory.
The government as a whole must therefore make an effort to demonstrate its presence and control. Departments such as Defence, Fisheries and Oceans, Public Safety, Environment and Indian and Northern Affairs all have a role to play. The extent to which each department is involved is a political issue in itself.
A number of aspects can be envisioned in the case of Defence. First, there is observation. The Canadian Rangers are very accustomed to the environment in the North. The Department has to provide the most complete support possible. Satellite observation is essential, given the great extent of the territory. This is the perspective that absolutely must be taken.
It will also be useful to have ships play a role, both by their presence and by the law enforcement activities they can carry out. The question of the type of vessel is a hot topic as well. Icebreakers and offshore patrol ships are being considered.
The air fleet, such as Aurora aircraft, has been put in service and will be staying.
The arrival of search and rescue aircraft will also make a not insignificant contribution.
The Northwest Passage: As we speak, a dispute has arisen between Canada and the United States over the Northwest Passage. Canada takes the position that the passage is within Canada’s territorial waters. The United States considers it to be an international strait.
The dispute will necessarily be resolved by negotiation and diplomacy. We must hope to avoid another quid pro quo like the case of the Polar Sea icebreaker. That vessel set off through the passage without seeking authorization from Canada, and provoked a diplomatic incident.
But that is not all; there is also the question of submarine traffic in the passage. Experts have told us that this could be cited to challenge Canada’s claims to sovereignty over the passage. They believe that control must be exerted over submarine traffic, and have even suggested that listening stations be established in Lancaster Sound and the McClure Strait and in Amundsen Gulf.
The Committee on National Defence is working hard on this issue, which could well take on growing importance with the gradual melting of the ice pack. In this case, as in the case of Afghanistan, my party will advocate a diplomatic rather than a military approach. With all due respect to the Canadian navy, I believe that it would not last long against the American or Russian navy, if I may be forgiven a truism.
Playing politics with PTSD
By Michael Nickerson
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a problem in the military. That was the public epiphany experienced last month by everyone in Ottawa from Liberal MP and vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs Judy Sgro to Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk. They concluded that PTSD is real and that more needs to be done about it. Sgro and her committee want to hear more from veterans, so they can study and “provide immediate recommendations.” Natynczyk made a forthright appeal for soldiers to come forward, seek assistance; in his words, “c’mon on in, because we can provide the help.”
Well good on ya, Uncle Walt. It’s a refreshing change from the Stanley Cup petting zoos your predecessor liked to hold to boost morale. But to all and sundry, what took you so damn long? You’d think everyone in Ottawa had spent their entire lives working their way through the dictionary and just now got to the P’s. While the issue has been wrapped in so much stigma for so long you’d be better off admitting to crucifying Christ than admitting “weakness,” surely the last two decades would have set people straight.
This especially goes for the men and women who served and now lead our military. These people saw the effects of PTSD following conflicts in Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo long before entertaining the idea of going to Afghanistan.
We’re into the eighth year of involvement in the most dangerous conflict Canada has faced since the Korean War and only now is the chief of defence staff telling his troops to get help?
And while most politicians not only belong to a generation exposed to the likes of The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now and Born on the Fourth of July, they’ve also listened to the very real and public revelations of Lt.-Gen (ret’d) now Senator Roméo Dallaire about his experiences and his ongoing fight with PTSD. How did they get gobsmacked last month with the knowledge that this just might be a problem, even if they’ve never so much as picked up a stick, much less a rifle? Are they also members of the Prozac generation that thinks a little medication makes all those inconvenient problems go away?
Well, no need to blame pharmaceutical companies on this one, just good old politics. For there is very little in it for a politician to be proactive, to exhibit anything like leadership in the grand new age of image over substance; you react when necessary, and make sure you get yourself on a committee because it’s good for the resumé.
But, under pressure from a Toronto Star series on PTSD, and a Commons defence committee report for reforms concerning the same (a report that apparently required the suspected suicide of Maj. Michelle Mendes to initiate), everyone squeaked “Oh my!” and started tapping text messages to their spokespeople.
Soon PTSD was not only everyone’s favourite cause, à la Judy Sgro, but apparently always had been, à la “Pistol Pete” MacKay. Monetary sums were quoted, a hearing was planned, pronouncements of solidarity and support were made, and then everyone packed up and headed off on summer break. So soldier, you’ll need to wait until September before you can tell your story and help with those immediate recommendations, assuming of course we don’t have an election, or Governor General Michaëlle Jean doesn’t eat some more seal and crowd out your cause in the public consciousness.
Fortunately, politics don’t quite explain Uncle Walt and his recent public pleas. Oh sure, the office of the CDS is more political than ever, and if anyone can work public relations better than Rick “press conference” Hillier, it’s the personable general and former footballer with the winning smile.
But Natynczyk wasn’t dealing just with politics, but with culture, with balancing the traditions of discipline and strength with the realities of still being a human being. Obviously that is something that will take time to change, though Natynczyk has thankfully taken a long overdue first step.
But so far it’s all still just words, be they from crisis managing politicians or mountain moving generals. Soldiers, veterans and their families are on waiting lists for counseling despite a decade of military spending driven by a government mantra of “if they need it, they get it.” Well they do need it, but they aren’t getting it, despite it costing less than that notorious fleet of dust-gathering Leopard tanks in Montreal. And unless there is continued pressure, public and governmental, it is all too likely given its history that National Defence will retreat from the difficult task of bringing mental health attitudes out of the 19th century.
That’ll require leadership, not politics… For once folks, prove me wrong.