The Northwest Passage Shipping Channel: Sovereignty First and Foremost and Sovereignty to the Side


  • Andrea Charron Royal Military College of Canada


In the 1940’s, Canada’s attention was brusquely turned to the Arctic Archipelago. The nuclear age focused attention on the Arctic: Canada’s undefended north and its proximity to the Soviet Union meant that the Canadian government had to abandon its laissez-faire attitude of the 1930’s and pursue a policy of active monitoring and intervention. Today, Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage is still not recognized by the United States. But now, because of the findings of a group of international scientists studying the effects of global warming, Canada’s attention has turned to its North once more. Results from the Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (CASES) and the Arctic Council suggest that the Northwest Passage – a sea passage along the northern coast of Alaska through the Canadian Arctic joining the Atlantic and Pacific – could soon be a busy shipping channel. Impassable most of the year, global warming could make the Passage ice-free allowing ships to travel from Europe to Asia lending evidential weight to the US claim that the Passage is really an international strait, and therefore, beyond the jurisdiction of Canada. The majority of research sounds the alarm for quick and determined action by the Canadian government as a result of this new finding to secure Canada’s sovereignty. But, this paper suggests the alarm need not be sounded and that a hurried approach may be the real threat to Canada’s sovereignty. Measured, considered and creative action in conjunction with other states (including the US) will prove the wiser course of action.

Author Biography

Andrea Charron, Royal Military College of Canada

Andrea Charron, from Waterloo Ontario, is finishing her first year in the War Studies doctorate programme at the Royal Military College of Canada. With a BScH from Queen’s University, MPA from Dalhousie University and an MA in International Relations from Webster in Leiden, The Netherlands, Andrea has an eclectic academic background. As a participant of the Canadian Federal Government’s Management Trainee Programme, Andrea has worked as a policy advisor for Canada’s Revenue Agency and the Privy Council. Andrea’s areas of academic interest include international relations and international law.