New documents suggest that Canada’s last-minute decision to stretch its claim to the Arctic seabed all the way to the North Pole took federal bureaucrats just as off-guard as it did the rest of the world.
Hundreds of pages of records released under Access to Information legislation seem to show bureaucrats were as surprised as Canada’s allies when the Harper government announced it would delay its full submission under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to give it a chance to try and claim exclusive rights to the sea floor under the Pole.
Days before the Dec. 6, 2013, submission was due, records show Foreign Affairs lawyers were still sorting out the difference between the geographic, magnetic and geomagnetic poles.
“There are apparently three North Poles,” reads a Nov. 21 email.
By that time, Canadian scientists had been working for years to prepare their country’s bid for rights to the Arctic sea floor. They had sailed on icebreakers, camped on sea ice and spent about $117 million painstakingly mapping which parts of that area could be shown to be connected to Canada’s continental shelf.
Actual mapping was said to be complete in 2011. The submission had been widely expected to stop just short of the North Pole.