Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark, together with Greenland, reach historic agreement on longstanding boundary disputes
June 14, 2022 - Ottawa, Ontario
Today, Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada and Jeppe Kofod, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, along with Múte B. Egede, Prime Minister of Greenland, signed an agreement in Ottawa resolving outstanding boundary issues over Tartupaluk/Hans Island, the maritime boundary on the continental shelf within 200 nautical miles, including Lincoln Sea, and the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in Labrador Sea.
Inuit of Nunavut and Kalaallit Nunaat/Greenland were consulted during the negotiations of this agreement. It maintains the traditional, symbolic and historic significance of Tartupaluk/Hans Island both to Inuit in Kalaallit Nunaat, in particular in Avanersuaq, and to Inuit in Nunavut, and will ensure continued access to and freedom of movement on the entirety of the island.
This agreement is a significant historic milestone in the relationship between friends and neighbours and is the culmination of years of discussions. The efforts deployed to reach this outcome demonstrate their leadership in the region and commitment to resolve disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law.
The land boundary on Tartupaluk / Hans Island reflects the strong historic and cultural relations between communities in Canada and Greenland. It paves the way for stronger cooperation and the establishment of an even closer partnership between them.
“The Arctic is a beacon for international cooperation, where the rule of law prevails. As global security is being threatened, it’s more important than ever for democracies like Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark to work together, alongside Indigenous peoples, to resolve our differences in accordance with international law.”
- Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs
“This truly is a historic day. We have discussed the sovereignty over Tartupaluk for more than 50 years. After intensified negotiations the past few years, we have now reached a solution. Our efforts demonstrate our firm common commitment to resolve international disputes peacefully. I hope that our negotiation and the spirit of this agreement may inspire others. This is much needed at a time when respect for the international rules-based order is under pressure.”
- Jeppe Kofod, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark
“The boundary on Tartupaluk will mark the very close ties between our countries, people and culture. It will signal the beginning of a closer partnership and cooperation between us in areas of shared interest and to particular benefit of Inuit and local people living in Avanersuaq, Kalaallit Nunaat and Nunavut, Canada.”
- Múte B. Egede, Prime Minister of Greenland
The new agreement between Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark, together with Greenland, resolves the longstanding dispute over sovereignty of Tartupaluk / Hans Island by creating a land boundary. It also modernizes the 1973 boundary within 200 nautical miles and establishes the maritime boundary in Lincoln Sea. It further establishes a boundary on the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in Labrador Sea. See map below.
The maritime boundary within 200 nautical miles, including Lincoln Sea
In 1973, Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark signed a treaty that established a dividing line in the area between Greenland and Canada as far as, but not including, Lincoln Sea.
In 2012, a tentative agreement on the maritime boundary in Lincoln Sea was announced, but was not finalized. The delimitation line completes the process of technical adjustments to the coordinates of the existing boundary from 1973.
The present agreement incorporates the tentative agreement from 2012 and establishes a modernized single maritime boundary within 200 nautical miles from Lincoln Sea in the north to Labrador Sea in the south – almost 3,000 km.
Tartupaluk / Hans Island
The island known as Tartupaluk in Greenlandic and Hans Island in English is situated in the Kennedy Channel of Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada. The island is approximately 1.2 km², uninhabited and without vegetation or wildlife. However, the island has a traditional, symbolic and historic significance to the local population in the area.
The land boundary on the island follows the natural ravine that runs the length of the island generally in a north to south direction.
Continued access to and freedom of movement on the entire island for Inuit and local people living in Avanersuaq, Kalaallit Nunaat and in Nunavut, Canada, including for hunting, fishing and other related cultural, traditional, historic and future activities will be maintained. A practical and workable border implementation regime will be established for all visitors.
Canada filed a submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLSC) regarding the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in Labrador Sea in 2013. The Kingdom of Denmark, together with Greenland, filed its own submission to the CLCS for the same area in 2012.
The submissions revealed an overlapping area of continental shelf, which is a normal part of the scientific process under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to delineate the outer limits of the continental shelf.
The agreement establishes a binding boundary line in the overlapping area, which represents an equitable solution, consistent with article 83 of UNCLOS.
The map below is for illustrative purposes only.
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Sissel Christine Søe
Acting Head of Press
Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Legal Service - Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Chief Counsel, Law of the Sea, Henning Dobson Fugleberg Knudsen
Direct: +45 3392 1042
Head of Communications
Government of Greenland
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Business and Trade
Deputy Minister, Mininnguaq Kleist
Direct: + 299 54 15 87
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