Why Canada is going halfsies on its most contested outcrop.
Canada may soon have a strange bedfellow in the Far North. According to experts, Ottawa and Copenhagen are on the verge of making nice over Hans Island, the most contested turf in the Arctic. The likely solution? Split it down the middle, giving Canada an international land border with Denmark.
Though just a desolate rock between Nunavut’s Ellesmere Island and Greenland, Hans Island has been at the centre of a longstanding sovereignty feud. Tensions boiled over in 2004 when Canada learned Danish troops had planted a flag there. In a tit-for-tat move, Canada did the same.
Now, says Whitney Lackenbauer, an Arctic specialist at the University of Waterloo, there are rumours diplomats have struck a deal. Both sides are officially mum on the subject, but, Lackenbauer says, “I think they’re just waiting to release this information at a time when the public finds it palatable.”
Other Arctic specialists – like Michael Byers of the University of British Columbia – confirm Hans Island will be divided. He says other possible solutions – shared custody over the whole island, or operating it as a “condominium” with rotating ownership – just aren’t as practical.
Whenever it’s finally made official, the Hans Island International Boundary won’t be much to look at. It’ll stretch just 1.2 kilometres – one of the shortest borders on Earth. It will be Nunavut’s first foreign border, Canada’s second, and the shortest border in the country. The previous record, also held by Nunavut, was the territory’s 5.5-kilometre boundary with Labrador on Killiniq Island.