« The Canadian claim for sovereignty on the Northwest Passage. The double-sided choice of an uncompromising rhetoric

Abstract

The Northwest Passage is the maritime way which goes through the straits of the Canadian Archipelago, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Since decades, it is also the subject of a dispute between Canada and the United States, concerning the legal status of the waters surrounding the Archipelago. Whereas Canada considers them as internal waters, the United States perceives them as forming an international strait. The observed melting of the ice in the polar region is raising new interest in this recurring issue. Although it is still unclear to what extent the ice melting might affect the navigability of the passage, many believe that Canada will soon be faced with increased activity in the region. This could potentially harm Ottawa’s position, if the Canadians are unable to assert effective monitoring, control and administration over the passage. The choice of a strategy which favors form over substance, and the use of uncompromising rhetoric by successive governments in Canada have already proved their limits. It is probably time to change the way the issue is framed: it would be advisable to factor in the Inuit people.

AFRI 2008 Summary