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OTTAWA — This is a prelude to The North, a Globe investigation launching this weekend that investigates the unprecedented change to the climate, culture and politics of Canada’s last frontier. Join the conversation at #GlobeNorth.
Stephen Harper says the Arctic should be the domain of countries with territory there and he would oppose efforts to grant influence to outsiders in a region attracting growing global attention amid climate change and the hunt for resource riches.
Canada is the current chair of the Arctic Council, an international forum for co-operation in the region that has taken on a fresh importance as countries jockey for position and economic opportunities in the North on everything from offshore petroleum deposits to faster shipping routes.
Mr. Harper said he has had misgivings about the rush of countries and other players to join the club as observers.
“It was just becoming literally everybody in the world wanted to be in the Arctic Council,” the Prime Minister said in an interview in his Langevin Block office in Ottawa.
Mr. Harper, who has made Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic a central feature of his eight-year tenure, sat down to talk to The Globe and Mail about the issue. A transcript of the conversation will be published on Saturday.
Full membership, including voting rights, in the Arctic Council is restricted to eight countries with territory in the region, but this group is now outnumbered by 12 other states that have won observer status and can attend meetings. Just last year, China, an ascendant global power, was among those granted observer status – as were India, Japan, South Korea, Italy and Singapore.
Mr. Harper said he was not comfortable with the expansion of the council to include observers, which began before he took power in 2006.
“To be blunt about it, I think, frankly, this had already gone too far before we became government, but given that’s the precedent that’s been established, you know, we’re prepared to have a significant number of observers as long as their presence doesn’t override or impede upon the deliberations of the permanent members,” he said.
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