Sun, Oct 07, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Canada turns to science to assert claim on Arctic

AFP , OTTAWA

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Friday a series of scientific projects designed to assert Canada's claim of sovereignty over the Arctic.

"Scientific inquiry and development are absolutely essential to Canada's defense of its North, as they enhance our knowledge of, and presence in, the region," Harper said in Churchill, Manitoba.

Harper unveiled 26 more projects in line with his government's promise to earmark US$150 million for scientific research as part of International Polar Year.

Thousands of researchers from about 60 countries take part in studies undertaken as part of the year, which have evolved into the largest international scientific research program dedicated to polar regions.

Canada is contributing to 43 of these projects. The subjects of study include how polar bears, seals and whales are adapting to climate change, the level and origin of toxic chemicals in the Arctic air and the Arctic ice cap.

Harper also said that the Canadian government and the province of Manitoba would commit spend US$40 million to upgrade the rail line between The Pas and Churchill.

Canada is at odds with Russia, Denmark, Norway and the US over 1.2 million square kilometers of Arctic seabed.

Each country is claiming overlapping sections of the sea floor, believed to hold 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves. All of them, including its allies, deny Ottawa's hold on the Northwest Passage.

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