France and Canada renew feud over islands

A longstanding feud over two French islands near Canada's Atlantic Coast was rekindled this week, when Ottawa contested Paris's request that the UN recognize its control of waters around Saint-Pierre-and-Miquelon

France and Canada renew feud over islands
St Pierre in the French archipelago of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, off the coast of Canada, which disputes France's claim on the island. Photo: Jean-Christophe L'Espagnol

At stake in the dispute are potential oil reserves beneath the seabed and fishing rights.

France had filed an application with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf last week, seeking a vast economic zone around the islands' coastlines.

France's claim aimed "to assert its rights, in compliance with international law," foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said last week.

But Canada had already filed an overlapping claim, and on Wednesday it vowed to fight France's efforts to extend its territory in North America.

"France has no right to any maritime zone, nor an extended continental shelf around Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, beyond what it was already awarded through arbitration in 1992," Ian Trites, a spokesman for Canada's foreign affairs department, told AFP.

He accused Paris of "fanning disagreement once again" over Saint-Pierre-and-Miquelon, adding: "We will take the necessary measures to protect Canadian rights and interests in the region."

Both claims are to be decided under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Saint-Pierre-and-Miquelon, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) off Canada's coast, are the only remnants of France's former colonial empire in North America still under French control.

Their population was last recorded at 6,000 in 2011.

Canada's Atlantic Ocean claim stretches from the shores of its easternmost Nova Scotia province northward along the Grand Banks to the northern tip of Labrador 7,700 kilometers away.

The area is more than 1.2 million square kilometers (460,000 square miles) in size, or as large as Canada's Western plains.

Canada said it expects more overlapping claims in the North Atlantic from Denmark in the Labrador Sea and from the United States south of Nova Scotia.

The UN is scheduled to consider Canada's submission in July-August 2014. A date has yet to be set for France's submission.

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Searchers find body of French snowmobiler who crashed through ice

Canadian searchers on Friday found the body of one of five French snowmobilers whose machines fell through the ice of a frozen lake, police said.

Searchers find body of French snowmobiler who crashed through ice
Canadian police searching for the bodies on snowmobiles. Photo: HO / Sûreté du Québec / AFP
A spokesman acknowledged that the chances of finding the group alive had dimmed, but police were “keeping up hope” of recovering their bodies.
The search for the snowmobilers includes divers, sonar operators and police backed by helicopters in the area about 225 kilometers (140 miles) north of Quebec City, and is expected to resume again at daybreak.
Quebec provincial police spokesman Hugues Beaulieu said the body discovered Friday “was found more than two kilometers from the initial search area in Grande Decharge River” at the mouth of Lake Saint-Jean where the accident happened.
“At the moment, we can't identify the body,” French Consul General in Quebec Laurent Barbot said during a press briefing. “The process is underway and the families have of course been informed,” he added.
The group included eight French tourists, who were snowmobiling Tuesday evening in an area that is off limits to snowmobiles because the ice is thinner there.
Three snowmobilers survived with minor injuries. They returned to France on Thursday evening, according to the consulate.
Their 42-year-old Canadian guide died on Wednesday in a hospital after trying to rescue members of the group.
Police have recovered six snowmobiles at the bottom of the lake near where the accident occurred, and provincial authorities have pledged to tighten safety measures on the use of the machines.
Investigators do not know why the group left the approved paths to venture “off-piste” at nightfall, but some experts believe they may have been trying to take a shortcut to their destination.