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Canada and the Changing Arctic

Sovereignty, Security, and Stewardship

By Franklyn Griffiths, Rob Huebert, and P. Whitney Lackenbauer
Subjects History, Battlefield Guides, Military History, Political Science, International Relations
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Paperback : 9781554583386, 340 pages, November 2011
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554584147, 340 pages, November 2011


Excerpt from Canada and the Changing Arctic: Sovereignty, Security, and Stewardship by Franklyn Griffiths, Rob Huebert, and P. Whitney Lackenbauer

From the Foreword by Hugh Segal

It is rare that a territory seen by so few can be emotionally, spiritually, and personally so compellingly important to so many. Yet that is a modest and understated description of the relationship between Canadians and their Arctic region and territories. It is a passionate, possessive, patriotic, and nationalistic relationship second only to our embrace of hockey. It is not yet jingoistic, which is a good thing. But it is also prone, as is often the case with visions seen from a great distance, to substantive and dangerous distortion. To suggest that the relationship is simply geo-strategic, or narrowly territorial, or militaristic, or simply about the oil and gas, is to oversimplify. Because the relationship between Canadians and the Arctic is about all of the above and a highly romantic quality, understanding the dynamics of the romance, its sustainability and attendant risks, is not only constructive but actually vital to the kind of public, defence, and foreign policies essential to maintaining the relationship at its optimum clarity and balance.

The political, environmental, and international law prospectus for the Arctic is complex, as are the instruments available for Canada and Canadians to secure our interests. Canada and the Changing Arctic is essentially a careful unpacking of the challenges that are most germane to Canada’s Arctic purposes and of the instruments available to deal with them. It is very reflective of Canada’s history and the postwar growth and aspirations, which strongly shaped who we are today through events and clarion calls in the 1950s and 1960s, that Mike Pearson’s universal health insurance is totemic for many and that John Diefenbaker’s “northern vision†of “roads to resources†is as totemic for others. And in fact, in a way that confounds sterile assumptions dividing right from left, many of the same people had their sense of Canadian identity imprinted by both.

That another Canadian prime minister from the West should, half a century later, re-engage both the symbolism and the promise of the Arctic and make substantive policy announcements and yearly visits part of three election campaigns and his regular schedule, speaks to the enduring impact of the Arctic challenge on Canadians. That vote-rich southern Ontario or the B. C. Lower Mainland remains interested in this issue and attracted to coherent policy for the North underlines the seminal roll the North plays in people’s sense of what Canada is and who we are as Canadians.

Some may view Prime Minister Harper’s championing of a northern policy as shrewd political strategy. That may or may not be true. My own sense is that it also reflects an Ontario-born reflective and intuitive political leader rooted in the political culture of the West whose own sense of Canada has always been shaped not only by a clear affection for hockey but also by the Arctic reality of our national identity. It is a reality, after all, that agitates no interregional animosity, language tension, or beggar-thy-neighbour confederal friction. Prime ministers avoid engaging this kind of challenge at their peril. Deciding for the right reasons to articulate a nation’s hopes and core elements of identity is what prime ministers at their best do well. The present focus on diverse aspects of Arctic policy, and on the instruments to achieve that policy, whether already available or to be designed, not only in this book but also in a growing cottage industry at think tanks, in the private sector, at universities and foundations, and within the First Nation Arctic family, owes much to Prime Minister Harper’s determined thematic coherence on the challenge of the North.

For Canada and Canadians this is a defining issue, for it embraces every aspect of our way ahead. Sovereignty, not as an end state but as an instrument for the national and public interest, is a vital issue. Fundamental components of this are real military capacity, procedures, training, and location. Working alliances with former Cold War enemies matter, as does how we manage them on this issue. Hydrographic competence and acuity join climate change policy impacts as defining subforces that will contribute heavily to how our northern prospects are sustained and evaluated.

This book helps us through the maze by offering realpolitik analysis as well as helpful instrumental precision around issues such as the law of the sea, defensible perimeters, and joint environmental protection priorities. And, as is often the case when a bright and intellectually honest light is shone on assumptions and fears, the paths to a rational way ahead appear less murky and less risky and the supportive policy choices necessary to clear those paths begin to emerge. Canada and the Changing Arctic sheds a measure of helpful light, not unlike a candle in the dark, on the true import of Arctic policy choices. Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Foreign Affairs, and the Department of National Defence should make this monograph compulsory reading for all of their staff who have present or potential responsibilities for Arctic policy and delivery issues. It is one of my great joys that in the initiating work I did to assist the Canadian International Council over three years ago to stand up its peer-reviewed research program, I was able, with Bill Graham, Janice Stein, John English, Jim Balsillie, Pierre Marc Johnson, Douglas Gould, Jennifer Jeffs, Tamara Zur, Jodi Whyte, Don Macnamara, Eddie Goldenberg, and others, to work with this book’s co-authors in what was one of the first new peer-reviewed and CIC-sponsored strategic research projects of the newly created council. That the academic research committee of the CIC would have chosen established and younger scholars of the compelling depth and skill of the three co-authors to work on the Arctic reflects the importance of research to policy development that is well founded and based on a competent understanding of the variables the underlining of which is a key goal of the CIC and its antecedent organizations, the Canadian Institute for International Affairs (CIIA) and the Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies (CISS).

The Arctic is Canadian identity writ large. Foreign diplomats who serve in Canada often remark that in all their travels while stationed here, they never really understood the full measure of Canada and Canadians until the Arctic tour that Foreign Affairs Canada and DND arranged for them during their time here. This book helps all of us who care about realizing the full potential of our country, internationally, domestically, economically, and in a way that is environmentally responsible, better understand some of the choices relating to the Arctic that need to be better appreciated. One need not agree with all the analyses or conclusions to admire the integrity, thinking, balance, and insight that fuel this book. Every romance needs engagement and reflection. Our romance with the Arctic requires nothing less.

Table of contents

Table of Contents for Canada and the Changing Arctic: Sovereignty, Security, and Stewardship by Franklyn Griffiths, Rob Huebert, and P. Whitney Lackenbauer

List of Maps

List of Figures

Foreword | Hugh Segal, Senator

Foreword | Bill Graham, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and of National Defence

1. Introduction

2. Canadian Arctic Sovereignty and Security in a Transforming Circumpolar World | Rob Huebert

Understanding Sovereignty and Security

Canadian Concepts of Arctic Sovereignty and Security

The Changing Arctic


3. From Polar Race to Polar Saga: An Integrated Strategy for Canada and the Circumpolar World | P. Whitney Lackenbauer






4: Towards a Canadian Arctic Strategy | Franklyn Griffiths

The Arctic as an Arena

Arctic Strategy for Canada

Domestic Sources of Stewardship


5. Sovereignty, Security, and Stewardship: An Update | P. Whitney Lackenbauer

Canada’s Northern Strategy

The Emerging Arctic Security Regime?


Appendix: Statement on Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy: Exercising Sovereignty and Promoting Canada's Northern Strategy Abroad, August 2010 | Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade




Global warming has had a dramatic impact on the Arctic environment, including the ice melt that has opened previously ice-covered waterways. State and non-state actors who look to the region and its resources with varied agendas have started to pay attention. Do new geopolitical dynamics point to a competitive and inherently conflictual “race for resources†? Or will the Arctic become a region governed by mutual benefit, international law, and the achievement of a widening array of cooperative arrangements among interested states and Indigenous peoples?

As an Arctic nation Canada is not immune to the consequences of these transformations. In Canada and the Changing Arctic: Sovereignty, Security, and Stewardship, the authors, all leading commentators on Arctic affairs, grapple with fundamental questions about how Canada should craft a responsible and effective Northern strategy. They outline diverse paths to achieving sovereignty, security, and stewardship in Canada’s Arctic and in the broader circumpolar world.

The changing Arctic region presents Canadians with daunting challenges and tremendous opportunities. This book will inspire continued debate on what Canada must do to protect its interests, project its values, and play a leadership role in the twenty-first-century Arctic.

Forewords by Senator Hugh Segal and former Minister of Foreign Affairs and of National Defence Bill Graham.


``It needs to be said that the differences of interpretation is the strength of this book. ... The articles are in dialogue with each other and through their divergences deepen the understanding of the complexity of Arctic change. ''

- Nikolas Sellheim, Journal of Polar Record, 50, Volume 253-2014

``This book does a very good job of discussing Canadian perspectives on Arctic change. All authors are specialists on the Arctic, and their white papers critically examine issues of sovereignty, security, and environmental protection, among others. They also make recommendations on what leadership role Canada should play in the Arctic. The authors do have different emphases, and on some issues they disagree. This tension adds interest. ''

- G.A. McBeath, Choice, November 2012

``Canadian explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson said, ‘The Arctic is the centre of the world and we think it is the edge. ’ Stefansson made the North his life. ... ‘The time has come for southern Canadians to internalize their responsibilities for the North, not because it is in danger of being stolen away but because it is integral to who we are as a country. A Northern Vision has the potential to unite us all. ’ Vilhjalmur Stefansson could not have said it better. ''

- Holly Doan, Blacklock's Reporter, No. 008, December 17, 2012

``What a wonderful ‘debate’ amongst three of Canada's leading Arctic specialists. The authors present a thorough and engaging examination of the history and unfolding national and international political and strategic reality of importance to Canada in the Arctic. On display is the divide between the perspective that the Arctic states (and those states with interests in the Arctic) are operating within a recognizeable political and legal framework in an orderly manner and the perspective that the evident orderliness is only one of expedience masking that the Arctic may well become a region of significant political and strategic discord in the future. ''

- Ted L. McDorman, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria, author of Salt WaterNeighbors: International Ocean Law Relations between the UnitedStates and Canada (2009)

``Canada and the Changing Arctic provides a timely, relevant, and insightful contribution to the literature on northern politics and policies. Resisting simplistic classifications, the essays break down assumed distinctions between conservative and liberal political positions, with each author drawing from approaches of many political parties and stakeholders. For non-expert readers, it offers a clear and accessible introduction to Arctic issues, supplemented by a helpful acronym guide. Yet the depth of its coverage and nuanced analysis means that specialists, too, will find much of interest. Each chapter is clearly written and free of jargon, and the organizing strategy of addressing each issue in turn makes it easy to compare points of convergence . .. and divergence . .. between the authors' positions. Colour maps interspersed throughout the book provide useful visual references for the various geopolitical issues discussed, and the appendix helps contextualize and compare the authors' recommendations with the federal government's strategy. ... With the Arctic increasing in importance in both Canadian and international politics, this book will have enduring relevance. Instructors and graduate students in Northern Studies, Political Science, and Policy Studies, as well as policy analysts and writers, will find this an essential read. ''

- Katherine Sinclair, Arctic, Volume 65, number 4, December 2012