Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut January 16, 2004 - 1:42 pm

Canada, United States near missile defence pact

Northern premiers seek voice in developments

JANE GEORGE

Canada is closer to forging an agreement with the United States regarding a plan that would see hostile missiles bound for North America shot down before they could reach their targets.

The new Liberal government confirmed this week, just as Prime Minister Paul Martin was set to meet U.S. President George Bush for the first time, that Canada will start negotiations on joining the anti-missile shield.

The two countries are also ready to exchange official letters, so Canada will be able to receive top-secret information on the U.S. scheme.

Defense Minister David Pratt will ask his U.S. counterpart Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “which cities are going to be covered, which are not” and the “trajectory of various possible missiles” through Canadian airspace.

As any high-atmosphere missile defence clashes would take place over the North, the northern premiers have asked for a voice in any missile defence developments.

Last September in Cambridge Bay, northern territorial premiers vowed to speak in a united voice on national and international issues that affect Nunavut, Yukon or the Northwest Territories.

And, because their jurisdictions help assert Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic, the premiers said they must be involved in any security or defence negotiations leading to what’s now being called the ballistic missile defence system or BMD.

By next October, an agreement-in-principle could be submitted to cabinet for approval.

Canadian participation in the BMD would likely be through the joint U.S.-Canada aerospace defence command, NORAD.

NDP leader Jack Layton said the missile defence plan will lead to space becoming a battleground for military forces - an issue that groups such as the Inuit Circumpolar Conference have also spoken out against.

Pratt denied any “military hardware” would be on Canadian soil.

Denmark and Greenland have inched closer to agreeing to an upgrade of the Thule Air Base that would see missile hardware at the base, despite opposition to this move.

Eureka and Alert on Ellesmere Island can supply backup, as these bases are already equipped for electronic surveillance and weather observation.

A new polar satellite surveillance program - dubbed “Polar Star” - is also to be tested in 2005 or 2006 and could be operational by 2008. This $600-million satellite system will conduct surveillance on aircraft and vessels approaching North America, keep an eye on the Arctic and supply information to the U.S.

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