(Gemma Karstens-Smith/Postmedia News via Ottawa Citizen, 12 April 2012) -- Hans Island may look like nothing more than a big, vacant rock in Arctic waters, but for decades, it has been a political thorn in the side of both the Canadian and Danish governments. That thorn soon could be removed. Ownership of the barren, 1.3-square-kilometre piece of land — located in Nares Strait, between Canada's Ellesmere Island and Greenland, which falls under the Danish Crown — has been hotly contested since the current maritime borders were drawn up in 1973. Boundaries of the surrounding waters and seabeds are clear, but each country continues to claim the land mass as their own. The disagreement has led to some famous displays of sovereignty. Danish warships and naval personnel visited the island several times from the mid-1980s to early 2000s to maintain a flag. In 2005, Canadian soldiers ventured to the island to erect a Canadian flag and to build an inukshuk in an operation code-named "Exercise Frozen Beaver." Then-defence minister Bill Graham visited the island shortly after. The argument may be permanently resolved soon, however. Sources say Canada and Denmark are close to an agreement, which would see Hans Island split between the two nations, according to a report in the National Post. The reported agreement would create a border across the island — creating Canada's second international land border — by connecting the existing maritime boundaries, which stop on the low-water mark on the south side of the land mass and begin again at the low-water mark on the north side. "This dispute is really easy; you just have to connect the dots," said Michael Byers, an expert in Arctic sovereignty at the University of British Columbia. A spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Department could not comment on the reported agreement specifically. "Canada and Denmark are cooperating in developing a mutually agreeable way forward with respect to Hans Island," Ian Trites said.
Posted 14 April 2012; 10:03:11 PM. Permalink