Hands off the Slushy


In a muscular new campaign, Canada lays claim to its icy nether regions


A new regime with expansionist ambitions has begun to terrorize the world's seaways. The name of these brigands is the High Arctic Sovereignty Patrol and from Meighen to the Amund Ringnes Islands, they're on the march. Or on the Ski-Doo, at least.


To put the threat plainly: The Canadians are coming.


According to an article by Mr. Nathan Vanderklippe in the National Post:


More than two-dozen men arrived at Ellef Ringnes Island on Monday for a patrol that will see military snowmobiles pan out across the Canadian Arctic archipelago in an assertion of sovereignty.


The United States has repeatedly antagonized its churlish neighbor by entering Arctic waters without seeking permission from Toronto. (Wait a second...where is the Canadian capital again? It starts with "Q." No, no, with an : "O." It's Ottawa. That's it, Ottawa.) In 1969, the U.S. supertanker Manhattan chugged through the Northwest Passage without seeking permission from Stan Rogers. In 1985, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter committed a similar faux pas. And in 1987, three U.S. nuclear submarines surfaced through the artic ice, menacing area walruses.


In more recent years, the RCMP intercepted a Chinese research team that had landed on the shores near a Canadian outpost called Tuktoyaktuk. The existence of Tuktoyaktuk has not been confirmed by independent sources. Meanwhile, last year regional bully Denmark dispatched a ship of viking Berserkers to plant a flag on the contested Hans Island, stirring the fury of Canadian ultranationalists.


Canada's last wave of territorial bravado took place in the 1920s, when the legendary Muskox Patrol roamed thousands of kilometers of ice cubes. (The Muskox were deployed in response to the incursions of Norwegian explorer, Otto Sverdrup, who claimed most of the High Arctic for his King in 1900. The Canadians ultimately paid him $67,000 to get lost. Sverdrup died while the check was in the mail.)


The High Arctic nationalist movement has taken on a new urgency, though, with the slushifying of the arctic regions. Because of global warming, a year-round shipping channel is developing through the Northwest Passage. The United States asserts that these are international waters, and that Mordecai Richler is a thin substitute for Philip Roth.


"Taking Care of Business," it seems, now involves establishing Canada's ownership of this seaway. Ottawa's formal treaty with the Inuit people of Nunavut has helped to establish the nation's assertion of "unchallenged and unbroken proprietorship" of the arctic.


Not wanting to offend--this is still Canada we're talking about here--the government has been framing this month's ice-grab as a matter of emergency planning. The armed forces website maintains, "the air crash exercise, to be conducted on Friday, April 8, will focus on the wreck of a U.S. Air Force DC-3 transport aircraft that crashed at Isachsen during the 1950s."


It remains doubtful that any survivors of the Isachsen wreck will be found during this week's exercises. (Warmer U.S.-Canadian relations, according to cultural ambassador Gordon Lightfoot, have long been stymied by disasters, such as the deadly wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.)


Ranger Richard Vanderkley reported to the National Post that his team was "'2,282 kilometres to Whitehorse. We ain't in Kansas anymore, Toto.'"


Canada's territorial interest in Kansas remains a subject of widespread speculation in Dodge City.


Saul Bellow and Peter Jennings were unavailable for comment.

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