Michael Byers: ‘Time is ripe’ to negotiate the Northwest Passage

In a guest column for the CBC, Michael Byers argues that now is the time for the Canadian government to engage the United States and other international partners on the legal status of the Northwest Passage (Byers, Michael, “Guest column: Time, Canada, to negotiate the Northwest Passage” CBC News, July 5, 2011) Byers points to the increasing pace of glacial melting. Higher rates of melting will lead to more ship traffic and therefore, greater response measures will be required. Byers also notes some of the overtures made by the United States. Paul Celucci, former US ambassador to Canada revealed that he had asked Washington to re-examine its position on the Passage. As well, the US has “now embarked on an unprecedented amount of co-operation.”

Despite the demonstrated need to negotiate, there has been little movement on the issue. With a majority government guaranteed for the next four years, now would be a good time for the government to accept much-needed realities and look to multilateralism. Doing so will only benefit the long term strategic relationship between the Canada and the United States. It could also ensure that the international community is ready to deal with any potential crises in the region.

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