Policy
May 7, 2012

Refroidir les ardeurs arctiques

L’Arctique, qui naguère laissait l’opinion publique de glace, est devenu récemment un dossier brûlant en géopolitique. L’intérêt international augmente parce que, pour le dire simplement, la température monte dans l’Arctique. La fonte de la glace de mer facilite l’accès à l’océan Arctique et à son littoral. Si ce phénomène intéresse directement les États côtiers de l’Arctique (le Canada, les États-Unis, la Russie, la Norvège et le Groenland (Danemark)) pour lesquels les retombées sont évidentes, l’intérêt soudain que manifestent de nombreuses autres nations et organisations a de quoi surprendre. Dans les derniers mois, ce dossier a suscité une intense activité politique, surtout en Europe, différents acteurs envisageant les possibilités d’accroissement du trafic maritime et de mise en valeur des ressources naturelles, ainsi que le besoin d’améliorer la protection de l’environnement.

Après avoir longtemps dédaigné l’Arctique, les nations non arctiques ont soudainement attrapé le virus d’une nouvelle « ruée vers l’or ». La U.S. Geological Survey a estimé que plus de 25 % des hydrocarbures restants sur la planète se trouvent dans l’Arctique. Nombreuses sont les nations qui aimeraient avoir accès à ces ressources, même si dans leurs discours elles invoquent souvent de nobles objectifs comme la « nécessité de sauver l’ours polaire ». Or, si les gens manifestent beaucoup d’intérêt pour l’Arctique actuellement, ils sont peut-être plus ignorants encore à ce sujet.

Ils ont une tendance à confondre les problèmes de l’Arctique avec ceux de l’Antarctique, en grande partie parce que beaucoup de pays maintiennent une présence scientifique importante en Antarctique afin de préserver leur « droit » à un morceau du continent. L’Antarctique est un continent inhabité, couvert de glace et entouré d’océans. L’Arctique est un océan couvert de glace, entourée par des masses terrestres habitées qui font partie d’États souverains.

Ce sont là des différences etrêmement importantes. Je me suis récemment adressé à des parlementaires et des décideurs clés dans plusieurs capitales européennes pour souligner le fait que l’Arctique, surtout au Canada, n’est pas une terra incognita, et a été habité pendant des millénaires par les Inuits et le peuple Athapascan de l’Arctique. L’Arctique canadien fait partie du Canada et est assujetti à toutes les lois et à tous les règlements du pays – en d’autres termes, il est gouverné.

Le manque de compréhension de ces faits est peut-être la raison pour laquelle tant de gens veulent saisir l’occasion de participer à la prise des décisions concernant l’Arctique.

Le Canada réaffirme ses priorités
Ces dernières années, le gouvernement du Canada a accordé la plus haute priorité à l’Arctique canadien, surtout sous le thème de la « souveraineté ». La Stratégie pour le Nord a été énoncée dans plusieurs discours du trône, surtout celui du 16 octobre 2007, ainsi que dans des discours importants prononcés par le premier ministre, le ministre des Affaires indiennes et du Nord et, dernièrement, par le ministre des Affaires étrangères le 11 mars 2009 à Whitehorse.

Le Canada est favorable au dialogue avec les autres nations arctiques et au renforcement du Conseil de l’Arctique, dont le Canada a été le premier pays à exercer la présidence (le Conseil est composé des huit États arctiques : le Canada, les États-Unis, la Russie, la Finlande, la Suède, la Norvège, le Groenland (Danemark) et l’Islande ainsi que des représentants permanents des peuples indigènes de l’Arctique; d’autres instances réclament maintenant un statut d’observateur ou celui de membre). Dans le cadre de la stratégie, des investissements considérables sont en cours dans le Nord pour y accroître les capacités militaires sous la forme d’une augmentation du nombre de Rangers canadiens, d’un centre d’entraînement militaire à Resolute, de nouveaux patrouilleurs capables d’affronter les glaces et d’un port en eau profonde à Nanisivik.

L’infrastructure est en voie d’être renforcée grâce à un plan pour construire un nouveau brise-glace résistant pour la garde côtière, un investissement de 156 millions de dollars en sciences pour l’Année polaire internationale et à l’engagement de construire une Station de recherche de l’Extrême Arctique de calibre mondial au Nunavut, de façon à consolider les investissements actuels comme l’Arcticnet et le NGGC Amundsen, le brise-glace de recherche canadien. Des ressources considérables ont aussi été fournies pour compléter la géocartographie des zones minéralisées potentielles et pour délimiter le plateau continental canadien. Le récent budget de relance a prévu d’importants investissements dans les établissements de santé et les logements dans le Nord, ainsi que dans la rénovation des installations scientifiques existantes (85 millions de dollars sur deux ans). La Loi sur la prévention de la pollution des eaux arctiques, entrée en vigueur en 1970 en réponse à la traversée du Manhattan par le passage du Nord-Ouest l’année précédente, sera mise à jour et son champ d’application passera de 100 à 200 milles marins pour coïncider avec notre zone économique exclusive comme définissent la Loi sur les océans ainsi que l’UNCLOS (Convention des Nations Unies sur le droit de la mer). Les navires devront désormais se déclarer à la Garde côtière canadienne avant d’entrer dans les eaux arctiques canadiennes.

Pour ceux d’entre nous qui se sont intéressés aux dossiers du Nord et de l’Arctique pendant les dernières décennies ainsi que pour les résidents des trois Territoires et des régions subarctiques des provinces, cette réaffirmation du Canada comme nation arctique de premier plan est certainement une bonne nouvelle.

Les autres acteurs
Cela dit, que font les autres nations? Le président Bush a énoncé une directive présidentielle en matière de sécurité dans l’Arctique qui reprend avec insistance les positions traditionnelles des États-Unis: le passage du Nord-Ouest est une voie d’eau internationale; le litige avec le Canada au sujet de la frontière dans la mer de Beaufort devrait être traité en priorité; le Conseil de l’Arctique devrait être renforcé; les États-Unis devraient approuver l’UNCLOS; et aucun nouveau traité n’est nécessaire pour l’Arctique.

Quant à la Commission européenne, elle a préparé un avant-projet du document d’orientation à l’intention du Parlement européen. La France a décidé de créer un « observatoire » pour l’Arctique sous l’égide du Conseil national de la recherche scientifique et a récemment désigné l’ancien premier ministre Michel Rocard ambassadeur chargé des négociations relatives aux pôles Arctique et Antarctique. Plus récemment, la Russie a publié sa propre politique pour l’Arctique qui a pour objectif de faire de ses territoires arctiques, riches en ressources naturelles, le moteur de l’économie russe d’ici une décennie. Cette politique prévoit également une présence militaire importante dans l’Arctique. Étant donné qu’un drapeau russe en titane a été planté au fond de l’océan au pôle Nord et que la Russie a fait récemment des incursions dans d’autres territoires, l’accent a été mis sur ses intentions militaires dans l’Arctique et non sur son engagement d’appliquer le droit international en vigueur, tout particulièrement l’UNCLOS.

Les préoccupations suscitées par les pressions de l’extérieur ont amené les ministres des Affaires étrangères des cinq États côtiers de l’Arctique (le Canada, les États-Unis, la Russie, la Norvège et le Groenland (Danemark)) à publier une déclaration conjointe importante (la Déclaration d’Ilulissat, le 28 mai 2008), dans laquelle ils ont indiqué l

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