The Danish government has claimed sovereignty over Hans Island, a small island in the high Canadian arctic. Denmark has even sent a warship and sailors have gone so far as to occupy the island during regular arctic patrols (in our waters?) and to raise the Danish flag over the island.

The Canadian government is being typically complacent. Aileen Carroll, the Minister of International Co-operation says that “No assertion by the Danish ambassador or other Danish officials detracts from the absolute sovereignty that Canada enjoys over Hans Island. This is also the official position of Foreign Affairs.

She says this despite the fact that Mr Taksoe-Jensen from the Danish Ministry of Foriegn Affairs has stated that “it is part of Danish territory, [and] we feel officials have that right [to raise the flag]. It is only natural that Danish officials go there from time to time.” He also said that Copenhagen would take issue if Canada also landed soldiers on the island.

It seems pretty clear to me what Denmark’s intentions are.

You may say that it is only a small island in the high arctic, so who cares. I would counter that by saying that this is just one of several disputes where Canada is both unwilling and unable to protect its sovereignty. We have under-funded our military for so long that there is very little we could do about this even if there was a political will. This is also just the beginning. The United States has repeatedly claimed that they have a right to drill for oil in the Canadian arctic waters. The only thing that has stopped them so far are technical difficulties and cost. Our government’s weak protests seem to go unheard in Washington.

If you would like to write to Aileen Carroll and let her know how you feel about this, you can email her at, write to her in Ottawa at House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6 or at her Constituency Office, 7 Anne Street South Unit 10, Barrie, Ontario, L4N 2C4. You may also want to email Paul Martin about this and his disregard of the military. His email address is

9 Responses to “About Time We Started Defending Our Sovereignty”

  1. on 31 Mar 2004 at 7:49 amtick

    It is correct that Canada does need to review the policy on military spending.
    Any nation giving up their military is giving up their freedom.

    Canadas international role is much too important to render it helpless in the present situation and force its professional military into the direction of private contracting with no appealing alternative.

    Canada does have some of the best soldiers to show in the international arena.

    This specific event may not weigh much, it is as Rob states just an island somewhere in the arctic, so who cares, nevertheless it is of symbolic nature, and as long as the territorial dispute continues, it should be handled with care.

    Denmarks act could be seen as an act of provocation we dont need among Western alliances in the time of a waging war on terror.

    If this should indeed become an issue I can only hope the European Union would call Denmark to raison.

    As in the oil business mentioned, again, here I would think that the USA should find a way of cooperation in the interest of Canada, not single corporations whose first interest is profit and not necessarily international diplomacy.

    Aside from the question whether drilling for oil in the arctic makes sense, and should be persued…we do have alternate energy means and perhaps should consider to end our enslavement to the black gold…

    Perhaps at this point it would not be in the best of diplomatic interest to act, but rather let Denmark set its flag for symbolic purposes, and lean back.

    See, how they may respond to the next Canadian visit on Hans and whether their diplomacy weighs as much as Canadas. After all this could have an impact on whether our international alliances have the meaning we give them or are just another farce and act of convenience.

    I believe a small detachment was supposed to be on the way?

  2. on 01 Apr 2004 at 1:34 amJim

    Rob raised two points here which both effectively got everyone’s back hairs up. The first was correct, and the second simply inflammatory.

    The spineless politicians who have allowed our fine military to waste away may well be seeing the thin edge of the wedge with respect to Hans Island. As allies and trading partners, I cannot see this carrying on to a poor conclusion.

    His comment about the US drilling for oil in Canada’s arctic displays the common misconception most Canadians hold for the mining industry. Yes, oil and gas is a part of the mining industry.

    Any company, no matter where they are from, that completes the permitting processes and fulfills the Canadian legal requirements is entitled to explore for oil/gas/minerals in Canada. In the same fashion, Canadian mining and exploration companies are active all over the globe. In 14 years in the industry, I’ve only once heard someone complain about “Sovereignty” with respect to the deposit we were mining. The individual was a corrupt politician looking for a bribe, and he was quickly shusshed up by 100 or so of the local men who were the best paid in the country for the job that they did.

    I was with you 100% Rob, right up to your second last paragraph.


  3. on 01 Apr 2004 at 12:52 pmRob

    As for the second point, I have no problem with any company exploring for resources in Canadian territory if they are given permission by the government to do so. What I was referring to is that the United States was claiming a number of years ago that our arctic waters were in International waters and they therefore had a right to do whatever they pleased. I am not sure how the matter was resolved, but at the time, there were complaints that we couldn’t establish our sovereignty over the waters because we didn’t have any warships that could patrol them. Just a bit of deja-vu.

  4. on 02 Apr 2004 at 5:43 pmtick

    Another aspect I would like to add to Denmarks action:

    It seems to be quite coincidental with the recent expansion of NATO and now EU coming.

    Denmark has not accepted the Euro, the mood all over is not very pro European as far as reports go.

    A query with another nation, and thus a break with the diplomatic lineage of the EU could serve a purpose, for Denmark and others interested in weakening or leaving the alliance in order to protect their ”national” interests.

    It remains to be seen.

    But perhaps as mentioned above in the sight of our international trade and political agreements this just drawn scenario will remain utopic and the incident meanwhile minor.

    An American icebreaker could help.

  5. on 03 Apr 2004 at 3:20 pmMorten Hansen (A Dane)

    Should say it all:

    In the movie Wag the Dog, public attention in the U.S. is diverted by a fake war, with graphics, to enable a lecherous, scandal-ridden president to be re-elected.

    Something mindful of that seems underway at the National Post, which has been churning controversy about Canadian troops undertaking a five-year campaign to march soldiers to uninhabited regions of our Arctic to establish sovereignty.

    The central issue is the far northern island of Hans, an ice-bound speck of rock, 3 km long and 1 km wide, situated between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, and claimed by both Canada and Denmark.

    Canada has discovered that Danish ships have visited the island, left footprints in the snow and — horrors — planted a Danish flag!

    By making this a headline story, the Post diverts attention from various Liberal shenanigans and scandals that threaten the continued divine reign of the party, which the National Post endorses.

    Who cares?

    Hans Island is so insignificant that it doesn’t appear on some maps. It’s at the top of Greenland, where there is nothing.

    Twenty soldiers, supported by Canadian Rangers (mostly Inuit) plan to snowmobile to Hans from Alert, Canada’s most northerly weather station.

    Hans is some 700 km north of the most northerly Inuit settlement, and 3,000 km north of the nearest Canadian city (Edmonton).

    Why bother, one might ask.

    A question of pride

    Well, it’s a question of pride and sovereignty.

    Remember in the 1970s the shock of learning that Soviet submarines were snooping under our Arctic ice, with the Americans doing the same?

    The government wanted to get nuclear subs — not with nuclear weapons, but nuclear engines, so we could track Soviet subs and inform the CBC if they disturbed our walruses, or something.

    The trouble with this dispute with Denmark (which owns Greenland), is that the Danes have better ice-coping ships than we do.

    They often visit Hans Island — in itself suspicious, because only seals go there.

    The National Post’s initial story was followed by one saying the Danish ambassador was not backing down.

    This was followed by a headline story: “Forces to ‘flex muscles’ in the north — largest exercise ever ‘sends a message … we are here.’ ”

    This “largest exercise ever” consists of one frigate, 200 soldiers and some helicopters. (Judging by how the Liberals have gutted the military, I suppose this is a large force.)

    The Post warns that although Canadians outnumber Danes (32 million to 5.4 million) Denmark’s navy is better equipped than ours. If the dispute gets ugly, “Canada would take a Danish pasting,” warns the Post.

    Denmark has four icebreakers to Canada’s none, and five functioning submarines. Canada has four British reject subs that leak when under water.

    Queen Adrienne

    None of our ships can get past the ice, and our subs daren’t go under it. Which puts the whole sovereignty load on the Rangers and 20 regulars.

    Since this is a symbolic issue of sovereignty, the suggestion of Vancouver’s David Williams has merit. In a letter to the Post he suggested: “Since Canada wants to reclaim the Arctic and boast our nation’s visibility … this represents an opportunity for Adrienne Clarkson (with or without her value-added husband) to take up residency on Hans Island.”

    What a splendid idea!

    If not Queen Adrienne, how about Alfonso Gagliano, who used to be our ambassador to Denmark before Paul Martin and his past caught up with him?

  6. on 27 Apr 2004 at 5:35 pmAndrew Spearin

    Let’s see some of this happening up there:


  7. on 05 Jun 2004 at 8:30 pmA Dane

    Yeah lets see that, and our warships all around them.

  8. on 10 Jun 2004 at 4:52 pmErik the Dane

    This is hard to take seriously. I have read a bit about all the fuss about this tiny little island recently. It’s ridiculous!

    I don’t know if people in Canada have boring lives so they need things like this to make the boredom go away. Something must happen, we wan’t ACTION! Or what?

    Besides that, to pick on a small country like Denmark is not very brave for the second largest country on the planet. Why not engage the US instead?

    THAT would impress the world! And would also serve a better purpose….

    Erik the Dane

  9. on 10 Aug 2004 at 12:14 pmwacb

    I don’t think it’s about impressing the world. It’s just that I don’t think our governemnt/country is in the business of invading/claiming peices of other countries, and it’s just expected that the same courtesy be extended to Canada.

    I guess when it looks like someone has attempted to lay claim to what the Canadians believe is their territory, it’s reason to react.