Arctic states are becoming a reality. This means that we could one day talk of arctic lawmaking and jurisprudence without having to explain, for example that Canada’s marriage laws own much to experiments in the Northwest Territories in the 1970s to accommodate Inuit customary marriage. This also means the territorialization of the north, respatializing a “white wilderness” as an everyday landscape of home for its inhabitants. It means historicizing the “white expanse” because local knowledge and residents’ histories will be brought into the foreground. It means thinking something different than, “its all snow” when flying over Greenland on transatlantic routes. What will the arctic capital cities of the future be like? Canada is slowly getting a new neighbour as Greenland separates from Denmark.
In a referendum November 26th, over two thirds of Greenlanders voted in favour of local control from 21 June 2009, splitting oil revenues over 75M kronor with Denmark, and leaving only foreign relations in the hands of the Danish government in Copenhagen. Besides oil, there is speculation and exploration for minerals, including uranium. View from North Britain comments:
The turnout was around 72%. I reckon that’s an impressive turnout given the dark Arctic winter days. Those in the north of the country must be coping with little or no daylight at this time. Its a clear sign that the island is heading towards independence. As I said in yesterday’s blog, the First Minister Hans Enoksen has a timescale of independence in 12 years time. Others prefer a shorter timescale. The former foreign minister Aleqa Hammond sees independence in 8 years.
The ‘greenlanding’ of arctic governance represents a change in the circumpolar neighbourhood. There has been relatively little comment, but this will bring local environmental and economic rationality to to Canada’s neighbour across the Baffin Strait. Randy MacDonald summarizes this as:
Home to the US Thule radar base, Greenland will also with its new status be consulted on foreign and defence policy, which are now decided by Copenhagen, but Nuuk would not have the final say and little is expected to change in that area.
Greenlanders, who voted to withdraw from the European Union in a 1982 referendum, will be also be recognised as a distinct people in line with international law, and Greenlandic will be recognised as the official language.
Recognition is important for 50000 natives of the 56000 total population. According to Sermitsiak’ Nyhedsbreve Nutaarsiassat:
…the Inuit Ataqatigiit party is also ready with a list of tasks for the new self-rule government. ‘The first thing we’ll do is go to the United Nations and request acknowledgement of the Greenlandic people. Denmark made a mistake in 1954 when we lost our right to be a native people. That error must be corrected as soon as possible,’ said party leader Kuupik Kleist.
The decision opens the door to better local control of exploitation of fishery resources in Baffin Strait and and more local processing of these resources. This provides a model for development in Nunavut. It provides a model for Quebec separatism, just a few hundred nautical miles southwest. The homerule proposal is also an innovative model for arctic sovereignty. There will be more local initiatives, more port facilities, more urban development in Nuuk, the capital, and fewer difficult decisions being backed away from in favour of Danish and European political exigencies.