US & Canada

Canadians 'support more troops to defend Arctic claims'

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Canadians feel so strongly about defending their claims to the Arctic that they support increasing troops numbers there, a major poll suggests.

Some 9,000 people in eight Arctic countries gave views on their nations' relationship with the Arctic.

The Canadian-led research suggests Canadians feel most strongly when it comes to sovereignty issues.

"The Arctic is seen as a crucial ingredient to our sense of national identity," said the study.

National Identity

The research was published by the Munk School of Global Affairs and the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation.

Fifty-eight percent of Canadians said they supported a strengthened military presence in the north to protect against international threats, the study's authors' said.

"While Canadians say they are open to working with other countries, at the same time a clear majority of Canadians...want to increase Canada's military presence in the Arctic," its authors said.

Certain parts of the Arctic have been under dispute for many years, including the Arctic sea region and parts of the Arctic seas.

Around three-quarters of the Canadian respondents believe the contested Northwest Passage is in Canadian waters, and half of them believe the Beaufort Sea should belong to Canada.

Forty-three percent of Canadians said their government should pursue a firm line in defending Canadian sections of the Arctic.

This hard line was echoed by 36% of respondents in Iceland, 34% in Russia and 10% or less in the United States, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.

In response to the survey, Canada's defence minister Peter MacKay said the Arctic was "a very high priority for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and our government".

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