Original Published 16:30 Mar 22, 2022

By Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative

Fort St. John MP Bob Zimmer says the federal government could be doing more to protect Canada’s Arctic sovereignty in the wake of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Zimmer says he’s aware of the Canadian military’s concerns over defending NATO’s northern flanks, and Russia’s re-militarization of previously abandoned cold war bases near the Arctic.

“With Putin making a play for our territories, he’s made claims to 705,000 square kilometres of what belongs to Canada, and he’s claiming it as his own,” said Zimmer. “This was before his aggression and invasion of Ukraine, so we need to take it very seriously what he’s going to do in our north.”

Last April, the CBC reported that Russia had filed a submission to the United Nations to extend its claim to the Arctic Ocean seabed up to Canada’s exclusive economic zone, some 200 nautical miles from Canada’s coastline.

Zimmer said the current economic sanctions imposed by Canada and other world powers over the  invasion of Ukraine may not be enough, and that the country should be lessening reliance on foreign oil from countries like Russia.

“Sanctions are one part of it, but I think if we could back this conversation up five years ago, or even further, Canada, in order to be a geopolitical beacon of light in the world, is to have a reliable source of energy for our allies,” Zimmer said.

“We should have been capable of doing that, but when Trudeau blocks basically every project we had going in the last six or seven years, obviously he didn’t have any consideration to the geopolitical ramifications to what he was doing, and now we’re seeing that.”

Zimmer feels there’s been a failure to understand the importance of having an active presence in the Arctic to maintain Canadian sovereignty, despite an announcement from National Defence Minister Anita Anand to strengthen NORAD defenses with two new ice breakers, 88 fighter jets, and active military exercises in the region.

“My hope is that we’re able to get ahead of it enough, so that he won’t simply start drilling for oil and gas in our territory,” said Zimmer. “In the West, we really need to open our eyes to what Putin’s doing over there.”

Zimmer virtually attended Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to parliament last week, March 15, and expressed concern for the Ukrainian people. He later attended a flag raising ceremony with city councillors Tony Zabinsky, Lilia Hansen, and Byron Stewart at city hall.

“I was honoured that he took the time, especially when they’re literally at war. Parliamentarians were honoured to hear him speak and we just need to do what we can to help them,” said Zimmer. “We don’t want to precipitate something that’s larger of course, nobody wants World War three.”

“But we need to support Ukraine and the defense of their own people and their own territory.”

 This item is reprinted with permission from the Alaska Highway News, Fort St. John, British Columbia