Last Monday, the head of the political section of the Russian Embassy in Ottawa appeared in front of the House of Commons Defense Committee. As expected, Dmitry Trofimov had harsh words for the Canadian government’s reaction to the February 18th Russian jet exercise conducted 200 kilometers outside the border between the Yukon and Alaska.

He chastised the government, saying, “Besides the rhetoric being useful for domestic purposes, if there are any … it can hardly be of any help for interstate relations.”

Toeing the Kremlin line, Trofimov added, “From the point of international law, nothing happened. Absolutely nothing.”

Relations have chilled between Ottawa and Moscow in the aftermath of the military exercise, which Prime Minister Stephen Harper treated more or less as a challenge to Canadian territorial sovereignty.

When it came to the issue of the submarine which a group of hunters claimed to have spotted last year in Canadian Arctic waters, however, Trofimov was less upfront. He skirted around the question of whether the submarine belonged to Russia, responding enigmatically with his own question: “What submarine, whose submarine and where exactly?”

The full article can be found here (Globe & Mail).

Trofimov’s answers apparently did not satisfy Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MaKay. The next day in Brussels, MaKay reportedly told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, “Each time you send planes, we’ll send planes too,” a remark that might only serve to escalate tensions between the two Arctic nations.

The full article can be found here (Montreal Gazette).


For some in Canada, however, worries about the Russian bear encompass more than military affairs. That same day during a session of Parliament, Dennis Bevington, a New Democrat MP representing the riding of the Western Arctic in the Northwest Territories, criticized Bill C-2. The bill includes legislation to implement the Canadian-EFTA Free Trade Act. In particular, it would end over the course of fifteen years the 25% tariff on foreign-built ships entering Canada. Bevington stated,

Shipbuilding will have a place in Canada. We are a maritime nation. We have the largest coastline of any country in the world. A lot of that coastline is in my riding in the Arctic, among the Arctic islands. There is an enhanced interest in the development of arctic resources and arctic transportation and the use of the Arctic as the ice melts. With climate change, we see the opening up of the Arctic Ocean, the arctic shipping lanes and all of that.

It is imperative that Canada stays on top of Arctic marine shipping development. Right now that is in the hands of the Russians. They are the leaders in this field. Where are we? We are nowhere in it. We will enter into the next century of development in the Arctic, where marine transportation will be of the utmost importance, and we will have a shipbuilding industry that we have not supported and that we have not ensured has the opportunity to take advantage of this new and exciting area to work in, the Arctic.

That one factor should give us all pause. It should make us ask what is good for Canada, not what is good for the world, in our new opportunities in the new economy, which will have a very large Arctic base. Is it good simply to abandon the shipbuilding industry to the vagrancies of the world market to the kind of competition that can come not only from Norway and from that direction, but from the Koreans and the Chinese? Is that what we want to accomplish?

(Entire transcript here, Canadian Parliament).

Instead, Bevington, like the rest of the left-leaning New Democratic Party, wishes to implement protectionist measures to safeguard the Canadian economy, adding, “We are going to demand protectionism for our country.”

On both sides of the political spectrum, Canada has recently seemed unusually sensitive to perceived challenges to its Arctic region. The ruling Conservative Party is taking a hard-line stance against Russia, while the New Democratic Party is trying to protect the Arctic economy, where shipping constitutes a major part of the economy.
Categories: Canada

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