A deal has been reached to settle a dispute with Denmark over a 1.3 square kilometer island in the Arctic and is expected to be signed today, according to a government minister.
Dan Vandal, Minister for Northern Affairs, confirmed on Monday that there will be an “official signing” of the Hans Island deal on Tuesday.
The barren rock has been the subject of decades of diplomatic disputes between the two nations, as it lies within the territorial waters of both.
The deal is expected to divide the uninhabited island between Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, and Greenland, a self-governing Danish territory.
Vandal, speaking to reporters on Monday, said he was “looking forward” to the signing of the agreement and would attend the ceremony.
He said “discussions have been going on for a long time” and that “the important thing is that the agreement is concluded and that we will have the signature tomorrow”.
“I think it’s very positive given our global situation today,” he said.
The deal will likely mean that Canada, for the first time, shares a land border with Denmark.
The dispute over the tiny island has led to good-natured jostling since the 1980s between Canada and Denmark over which country is its rightful owner.
In 1984, Canada planted a flag on the island and left behind a bottle of Canadian whiskey.
Later that year, the Danish Minister for Greenland Affairs visited by helicopter, planting a Danish flag. He also left a bottle of aquavit, a Danish spirit, at the base of the mast and is said to have left a note saying “welcome to the Danish island”.
In 1988, a Danish Arctic Ocean patrol boat arrived and built a cairn with a mast and a Danish flag on the island.
Then, in 2001, Canadian geologists mapping northern Ellesmere Island flew there by helicopter.
In 2005, Canada’s Minister of Defense Bill Graham visited Hans Island in a symbolic gesture. A week before he set foot there, the Canadian Forces placed a Canadian flag and plaque on the island, prompting a protest from Denmark, which called the Canadian ambassador.
In 2005, the two countries agreed to reopen negotiations on the island with former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, saying it was “time to stop the flag war”.
The two countries agreed, if they could not reach an agreement, to refer it to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for resolution.
The island is called Tartupaluk in Inuktitut and Greenlandic and has been a hunting ground for the Inuit for centuries.
Denmark and Canada are NATO allies and both sit on the Arctic Council. Recently, the two nations have cooperated closely on the war in Ukraine, including on programs to help women and girls fleeing the conflict.
A spokesman for Foreign Minister Joly declined to comment.
But Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard Minister Joyce Murray said the negotiations were “an indication of the strong partnership and friendship we have with Denmark”.
Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said the deal was “a demonstration of how countries that are sound members of our international system can work together to settle disputes around borders. international”.
“Few things are more sacrosanct in maintaining international order than making sure we respect each other’s international borders,” Chong said.
NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Heather McPherson told reporters Monday that the agreement is a sign of greater international cooperation in Arctic affairs.
“Arctic border countries have an obligation to work together and this is just one of the indications that we are doing it,” she said.
She joked that the deal could mean Canada could now qualify to enter the Eurovision Song Contest.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 14, 2022.