On April 1, 1999, the map of Canada added a new territory, the first new political region since Newfoundland joined Confederation 50 years earlier. Covering about two million square kilometres, Nunavut makes up about one-fifth of Canada. It has a population of approximately 27,000, roughly 85 per cent of whom are Inuit. In 1999, the total population of Canada was estimated to be about 31,006,347.
Boundary disputes continue to shape our country. Hans Island, an unpopulated isle roughly the size of a football field situated in the Kennedy Channel between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, was recently the subject of dispute between Denmark and Canada. It is suspected that Canada's claim to Hans Island involves the Northwest Passage.
Canada is a claimant in six other border disputes that, if resolved, have the potential of changing the map of Canada. The most significant debate concerns the Northwest Passage, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the Arctic. While Canada claims sovereignty over the northern waters, the U.S. considers the route to be through international waters. The petroleum reserves under Beaufort Sea, located between Yukon and Alaska, have also fueled a rivalry between Canada and the States. Overlapping claims regarding the Arctic continental shelves have stirred up debates between the U.S., Russia, Denmark and Canada. Another disputed region between Canada and the U.S. is the Dixon Entrance, an 80 kilometre-long strait between British Columbia and Alaska, which is the best way to access Prince Rupert port and salmon. B.C.'s Juan de Fuca Strait is yet another body of water that the North American neighbours argue over since it affects the fisheries and shipping industries. The last disputed territory is Machias Seal Island. The U.S. and Canada disagree on where to draw the border line because there is a popular birdwatching spot involved, and the area is frequented by lobsters.