U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is calling Canada's claim over the Northwest Passage “illegitimate” in a major speech that is being criticized for being provocative and inaccurate.
A leading international-security expert says Pompeo's branding of a longtime disagreement on Arctic policy between the Canada and the U.S. is a “stunning rebuke” of the 1988 Arctic Co-operation agreement between the two countries.
Fen Hampson of Carleton University in Ottawa says Pompeo's remark upends a gentleman's agreement between Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan that allows the U.S. to designate the Northwest Passage an international waterway while Canada claims it as sovereign territory.
Pompeo offered that characterization during a wide-ranging speech in Finland today in which he also warned against China's increased Arctic presence, saying it threatens North American security and could be harmful to the environment.
Michael Byers, an Arctic expert at the University of British Columbia, says Pompeo is not only off-base about the threat posed by China, his argument is based on a false statement that the People's Republic is trying to build infrastructure in the Canadian Far North.
Byers says the federal government should be worried that the top diplomat from one of its key Arctic allies got his facts so wrong.