Hans Island, Nunavut, is a tiny (1.3 km2), unpopulated island south of the 81st parallel in the Kennedy Channel (the northern part of Nares Strait), almost equidistant between ELLESMERE ISLAND and GREENLAND. It is the only one of the very few pieces of land land claimed by Canada still in dispute (most other international disputes are over maritime boundaries). Denmark and Canada both claim ownership of Hans Island. Denmark's claim is based on an expedition that included Danish participation discovered and named Hans Island in 1853, that geologically the island is part of Greenland, and that it is slightly closer to Greenland than to Ellesmere Island. Canada maintains that its claim has lapsed because Denmark failed to enforce its sovereignty. Canadian and Danish cartographers have depicted the island as part of their respective countries. In 1973 negotiations failed to resolve the dispute. Negotiations are underway towards settling the ownership of Hans Island.

Displays of Sovereignty

During the Second World War, Canadians operated a temporary scientific station there and in the early 1980s, Dome Petroleum was active on Hans Island. When Tom Hoeyem, Denmark's minister of Greenlandic affairs, personally planted a Danish flag on the island on 28 July 1984, the Canadian government protested. Over the next 20 years, the Canadian government protested each time the Danish flag was replanted.

The Danish government took the opportunity to protest Canadian actions when Defence Minister Bill Graham visited Hans Island on 20 July 2005. A week before, Canadian soldiers had planted the Canadian flag and built an INUKSUK there. Preceding these Canadian displays of sovereignty were visits in 2000 by Canadian geologists and in 2001 by a group of Canadian and international scientists.