The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Canada needs more independent media. And independent media needs you.

Did you know that most news organizations in Canada are owned by just a handful of companies? And that these companies have been shutting down newsrooms and laying off reporters continually over the past few decades?

Fact-based, credible journalism is essential to our democracy. Unlike many other newsrooms across the country, The Tyee’s independent newsroom is stable and growing.

How are we able to do this? The Tyee Builder program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip into our editorial budget so that we can keep doing what we do best: fact-based, in-depth reporting on issues that matter to our readers. No paywall. No junk. Just good journalism.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to be Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
Opinion

Stephen Harper and the North Pole

Why it's misleading for PM to imply international law will put the Arctic landmark on Canada's map.

By Michael Byers 24 Dec 2013 | TheTyee.ca

Michael Byers holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of International Law and the Arctic, recently published by Cambridge University Press. Read his previous articles published on The Tyee here.

Santa Claus is magic. How else could he live at the North Pole, above 4000 metres of frigid water?

The North Pole, indeed, is located near the middle of the Arctic Ocean. Covered by drifting sea-ice, pummeled by high winds, it receives no sunlight for several months a year and is regularly exposed to temperatures of minus 50 degrees.

Stephen Harper may not be magic, but he knows that for many Canadians, the North Pole remains an idyllic location -- complete with Santa's workshop, elves, reindeer, and a candy cane marker.

This explain why, earlier this month, the prime minister insisted that oceanographers withhold the Arctic Ocean portion of Canada's submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Harper ordered the collection of more data, followed by an eventual submission that includes the North Pole.

There is just one problem: international law cannot secure this symbolic location for Canada.

This is because a maritime boundary will be required between Canada and Denmark's seabed rights in the central Arctic Ocean.

The principle of equidistance is the standard method used to delimit maritime boundaries outwards from adjacent countries. In 2012, Canada and Denmark agreed on an equidistance line for the first 200 nautical miles north of Ellesmere Island and Greenland, to the limits of their "exclusive economic zones."

Both Canada and Denmark likely have rights beyond 200 nautical miles, on the "extended continental shelf." But again, an equidistance line would be used to delimit their respective zones. And like it or not, the North Pole is located well off to the Danish side.

Nor was Harper's intervention necessary to protect Canada's seabed rights vis-à-vis Russia.

To obtain international recognition of rights beyond 200 nautical miles, countries must scientifically demonstrate that the seabed in any given area is a "natural prolongation" of their landmass. These rights are generally limited to 350 nautical miles from shore, unless a "submarine elevation" extends them farther.

Whose submerged mountain range?

Canadian and Danish scientists believe that the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain range that crosses the Arctic Ocean, is a submarine elevation that constitutes a natural prolongation of the North American landmass (and specifically Ellesmere Island and Greenland). On the other side of the Arctic Ocean, Russian scientists believe the Lomonosov Ridge is a natural prolongation of the Asian landmass.

It is possible for all these scientists to be right. The Lomonosov Ridge may well be a "double-sided continental margin," that is, a natural prolongation of both North America and Asia. If so, Russia, Canada and Denmark would -- on the basis of the science -- all have legitimate claims.

However, even if this were the case, the Commission does not have the authority to draw a boundary separating Canadian and Danish rights on one side, and Russian rights on the other. The Commission is a body of scientists, not a court.

Any overlapping claims to the Lomonosov Ridge would have to be resolved through negotiation or adjudication. Once again, the principle of equidistance would likely be used -- this time to draw a line across the ridge, an equal distance from the coasts of Ellesmere Island and Greenland on one side, and the coast of Russia on the other. In this scenario, the current extent of Canada's seabed mapping would suffice.

And should the Commission determine that the Lomonosov Ridge is a natural prolongation of North America only, Canada and Denmark could at that point collect more data -- towards the Russian side of the Arctic Ocean -- and update their submissions accordingly. In other words, there is no need for Canada to spend more money on seabed mapping now.

These scientific and legal realities would have been explained to Stephen Harper before he requested a revised Canadian submission that includes the North Pole. But magic, rather than fact, dominates the public consciousness when it comes to this location.

Knowing this, would any prime minister put himself in the position of having to explain why an official map -- produced and published on his watch -- showed Canada not claiming the North Pole?  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free.

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

What Issue Is Most Important to You This Election?

Take this week's poll