Sat, Jul 30, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Canada, Denmark bring diplomatic row to the Internet


Canada and Denmark have taken their diplomatic tussle over a scrappy lump of Arctic rocks to the Internet, with competing Google ads claiming sovereignty over Hans Island.

The flap has provoked some Canadians to call for a boycott of Danish pastry, in the same vein as Americans pooh-poohing french fries when Paris declined to join the coalition forces in Iraq.

The diplomatic debate began on Monday when Denmark said it would send a letter of protest over a visit to the 1.3km2 Hans Island last week by Canadian Defense Minister Bill Graham.

Graham stated that Canada has always owned the uninhabited chunk of land, roughly 1,100km south of the North Pole.

Denmark responded: "Hans Island is our island."

One patriotic Canuck, Toronto resident Rick Broadhead, googled the matter and found an ad that touted Hans Island as strictly Danish. "Does Hans sound Canadian? Danish name, Danish island," it said.

When Internet users clicked on the rotating ad, it directed them to the Danish Foreign Ministry's Web site.

That really ticked him off, so he paid for his own Google ad on Wednesday and quickly created a Web site to promote Ottawa's sovereignty over the island. His rotating Google ad -- US$0.08 per hit -- leads users to a fluttering Maple Leaf flag and plays the Canadian national anthem.

"I felt very strongly that the Canadian government was missing an opportunity by not using the Internet to articulate its views," said Broadhead, 35, a literary agent. "The first thing that occurred to me is that they're winning the online war: Denmark one, Canada zero. I wanted to equal the score."

Poul Erik Dam Kristensen, Denmark's ambassador to Ottawa, said yesterday that both countries must reopen talks on the island. He insisted that whoever placed the Google ad in favor of Danish sovereignty was acting alone.

"This is just a small irritant," that must be put aside, he said.

But folks like Broadhead and the Canadian government don't see it that way. Canada intends to beef up its military presence in the Arctic and global warming is opening up the frigid region to shipping and mining.

"It's not what you see on the island; it's what you don't see," Broadhead said. "There could be oil beneath that piece of rock; there could be other resources or minerals beneath that rock."

Broadhead's Web site outlines Canada's traditional argument that Hans Island belonged to the British and became Canada's in 1867. The Danes say it is closer to Greenland than Canada.

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