We Stand on Guard for Thee – Canadian Version
The US Version was about Senators and Trump. The WTF Version was about the USA and the Kurds. This Canadian Version is about us and our country. Do We Stand on Guard for Thee or just sing about it?
The world agrees that the Ukraine has de jure sovereignty over Crimea, but Russia possesses de facto sovereignty over Crimea. By de jure I mean that the international community and law recognizes that you (eg Ukraine) are the ultimate authority over your territory (including Crimea). By de facto I mean that actual control over your territory (Crimea) has been lost (to Russia) because you do not have the ability to defend against armed invaders or (Russian-backed) internal rebels. For Cyprus substitute Turkey for Russia. Now substitute Canada for Ukraine and Arctic for Crimea.
The Presidential unit citation given to USS Nautilus after she cruised from west to east under the Arctic ice in 1958 says, “This voyage opens the possibility of a new commercial seaway, a Northwest Passage …” using nuclear-powered cargo submarines. The ice melted. Then came the tanker Manhattan when she made transit through the Northwest Passage in 1969. Neither the owner nor the US government asked permission. In 1985 the US Coast Guard – part of the US Armed Forces – icebreaker Polar Sea went through the Passage. The US told Canada that prior notification was not required.
That forced the Mulroney government to actually draw lines around the Arctic Archipelago to define Canada’s historic inland waters. Only two countries objected. Who objected? The USA and the UK.
Two years later, Mulroney and Regan agreed that the US would seek consent before sending ships into Canadian waters and that Canada would give consent when asked. Why? Because it was in the self-interest of the USA to have a friend and ally who has de jure sovereignty over the Northwest Passage. In other words, the Northwest Passage was seen as an internal waterway under Canadian control and friends could use it. All settled, right?
In 2010, the Harper government instituted an Arctic shipping reporting system and the US protested. Why? Because the US now takes the position that the Northwest Passage is an international waterway and therefore available for use without asking. That is still the US position.
If Canada has de jure sovereignty within the Mulroney baselines, then the question is: Does Canada have de facto sovereignty within that same territory? Well, sort of, at least until the first foreign troops arrive and stay. Like Russia in the Crimea. Like Turkey in Cyprus.
What assets and capabilities do we have to defend and repel within our Arctic Archipelago and our inland waters of our Northwest Passage without depending upon NATO or NORAD or Trump and without sending our Forces abroad to fulfill any other national or international commitments? Sources disagree but the RCAF might still be using one of the original three Arcturus sovereignty patrol aircraft and we do have 14 of our 1980’s Aurora aircraft – some of which can fly. Only 76 of our original 138 1980’s CF-188’s (popularly known as the CF-18) remain but we are getting more – used, from Australia. Add four 1980’s submarines, twelve 1990’s frigates, and twelve 1990’s coastal defence vessels none of which are purpose-built for Arctic service. As many as eight Arctic & Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) are being built. These are the first and only purpose-built Arctic patrol vessels in the RCN under a Conservative program that has been continued by the Liberal government. Permanent military installations in the Arctic are few – one (maybe two) is under construction – but none house ground forces. Except for the Canadian Rangers who live in the Arctic, the Canadian Army would be flown in – one small unit at a time.
Is there a will among adults to Stand on Guard for Thee where “Thee” means Canada?