Who said international relations can’t be a little playful from time to time? Earlier this week, Canada and Denmark officially ended what is known as the ‘Whisky War’, a pseudo-dispute over a tiny Arctic island that has been going on for almost 50 years.
At the centre of the Whisky War is Hans Island, which occupies some 1.2 square kilometres of land between Greenland (which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark) and Ellesmere Island, which belongs to Canada. In a fun twist of fate, the island practically split the theoretical line separating the two countries. So, in a border agreement back in 1973, both Norway and Canada could not come to terms on who got the barren island, and both sides more or less shrugged it off.
Today, Minister Joly and @JeppeKofod, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, issued the following joint statement on bilateral cooperation
— Foreign Policy CAN (@CanadaFP) June 14, 2022
Fast forward about a decade to 1984. Canadian soldiers in the area decided to have a little fun, planting a flag on the island alongside a bottle of whisky. That same year, a Danish politician visited, replacing Canada’s flag (which was properly folded) and leaving a bottle of cognac instead.
So set off the “war”, in the loosest term possible. Over the next few decades, visitors from both countries to the island would take turns swapping out flags and leaving bottles of alcohol behind. Ironically, there was a move towards finally figuring things out back in 2012, but neither country got around to setting things in stone, so to speak.
Until this week, that is. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs from both countries got together in Ottawa, to sign an agreement regarding “outstanding boundary issues” over Hans Island (which is also known as Tartupaluk). The plan? Split the island based off a natural ravine running through it, and keep access open for the Indigenous peoples of both Nunavut and Greenland to visit it.
Yeah, it’s that simple! Time to find another random rock and start beef with Finland or something.