Staking a claim in Canada’s North

Reframing public perception on Arctic sovereignty and international law

For decades, Canada has asserted its claim of the Arctic Archipelago as internal waters. One SSHRC-funded researcher is helping us better understand what changing ice conditions and growing international attention might mean for that claim—while challenging the view that our claim to Arctic sovereignty faces widespread opposition abroad.

The University of British Columbia’s Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, examines how climate change is raising difficult questions of Arctic sovereignty, security and environmental protection, issues that are challenging our longstanding claim to the Northwest Passage.

Or are they?

Byers’s Donner Prize-winning book, International Law and the Arctic, argues that rather than being an unregulated zone of potential conflict, the North is seeing significant examples of international cooperation and law-making: boundary disputes are being negotiated and resolved across the Arctic, while new international institutions, such as the Arctic Council, are mediating deep-rooted tensions between nation states, international organizations and indigenous peoples.

By analyzing the legal weight of Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage, Byers is providing key evidence that Arctic sovereignty matters more than ever, and that our claim to the Northwest Passage may be stronger than some people think.