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Santa Claus waves to the crowd.

PHILIP CHEUNG/The Globe and Mail

The Harper government has issued Santa a Canadian passport – a lighthearted Christmas stunt that comes weeks after it served noticed it would lay claim to the North Pole as part of an international bid for seabed riches in Arctic.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander presented one of this country's high-tech ePassports to "Santa Claus" and "Mrs. Claus" at a special ceremony in the Greater Toronto Area Friday.

The event was primarily intended to promote a new generation of ultra-secure Canadian passports rather than open a new, albeit fictional front in the battle for the Pole. Russia has also indicated it intends to claim the Pole as part of its bid for rights to mine the ocean floor riches in the High Arctic and Denmark is also expected to make a claim there as well.

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Still, the Canadian government was careful to drive home the point that it believes Santa's workshop lies within this country's territory.

"Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander today presented Santa and Mrs. Claus with the 2,999,999th and 3,000,000th ePassports at a special ceremony in Vaughan, Ontario," the government announced in a tongue-in-cheek news release.

"Santa and Mrs. Claus live in North Pole, Canada, with their many helpers. Like so many Canadian citizens who enjoy extensive travel around the world, the Claus' were thrilled to receive their ePassports – which are among the world's most accepted and secure travel documents."

Added Mr. Alexander: "Whether you are travelling by car, by boat, or with a team of flying reindeer, Canada's ePassport is the most convenient and safe way to go."

As The Globe and Mail first reported earlier in the month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a last-minute intervention in Canada's planned submission to the United Nations commission that is accepting claims for seabed rights in regions such as the Arctic.

Mr. Harper asked Canadian bureaucrats to go back to the drawing board and craft a more expansive claim for ocean-floor resources in the polar region after the proposed submission they showed him failed to include the geographic North Pole.

Ottawa will be doing more mapping and research to support this.

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The Arctic is believed to contain as much as one-quarter of the world's undiscovered energy resources, and countries are tabling scientific evidence with a United Nations commission to win rights to polar sea-floor assets. Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country can secure control of ocean floor beyond the internationally recognized 200 nautical mile limit if it can demonstrate the seabed is an extension of its continental shelf.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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