greenland canada border dispute

You will soon be able to walk to Greenland from Canada across a new land border

Canada's international border with the United States is the longest in the world, and the country's only land border, but that's about to change as Canada gains a new land border between Nunavut and the semi-autonomous Danish territory of Greenland.

According to the Globe and Mail, a decades-long border dispute between Canada and Denmark has reportedly ended with the partitioning of Hans Island, a tiny uninhabited rocky plateau rising from the Nares Strait and measuring just 1.3 square kilometres.

Sources confirmed to the Globe that the contested island — known by the area's Inuit inhabitants as Tartupaluk — will be the site of Canada's second land border. The report claims a settlement will be unveiled on June 14, ending a low-intensity border dispute simmering since the early 1970s.

Those able to trek to the small island will have the rare opportunity to do a Homer Simpson-like dance between Nunavut and Greenland, though you probably won't have anything close to an easy time getting there.

The nearest populated place in Canada is Alert, 198 kilometres away, the world's northernmost continuously inhabited place and home to just a few dozen residents. If you're coming from Greenland, the closest populated place is Qaanaaq, 379 kilometres away, with a comparatively large population of over 650.

Probably not the types of places where you can expect to catch a domestic flight, not that Hans Island even has an airstrip to land at.

And you probably shouldn't expect to see any border checkpoints there either, as the island has no roads, ports, or any other means of moving tourists.

Interest in the island has primarily been the focus of research teams and expeditions looking to assert their home country's sovereignty, a sort of low-key end-stage colonial tug-of-war between a European and New World nation over land that is and always has been Inuit.

This playful non-conflict has involved the militaries of both countries leaving bottles of liquor as tokens of their land claims, Canadians leaving behind bottles of Canadian Club and the Danish planting bottles of schnapps.

It's an easy contender for the most polite military showdown in the history books.

And like any colonial conflict, it will end with an imaginary line drawn on a map through a place that doesn't rightfully belong to either party.

For what it's worth, the Globe reports that the legal representative of the Inuit of Nunavut on native treaty rights and treaty negotiation has hailed the resolution.

With Arctic ice melting due to climate change and shipping routes opening up, governments are paying more attention than ever to the north, but Hans Island isn't the only tiny island the Canadian government has engaged in a territorial dispute over.

The Canadian government lays claim to another small island in the Gulf of Maine. The only problem is that the United States also claims sovereignty over Machias Seal Island, despite its Canadian-built-and-staffed lighthouse.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau


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