The Polar Invasion: An Examination of Canadian Policy Perspectives Associated with Arctic Governance
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The effects of climate change on Arctic sea ice have created unprecedented international interest in accessing the Northwest Passage as a cost efficient alternative for shipping between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Concurrently, polar nations are hastening to prepare United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) claims to establish the outer limits of their continental shelves. This paper provides a contextual overview of the scientific prediction for sea ice recession, a historical summary of the varied drivers and issues causing increased Arctic activity, and a discussion of pertinent sovereignty and legal issues. This will serve as background information for the author’s analysis and conclusions. These issues are evaluated against Canada's historical policy decisions and actions to determine the policy, governance and operational investments that might best position the nation’s legal case for sovereignty and governance over the Arctic. In recent years, Canada has articulated its National Arctic Strategy at both the national and international levels. This paper describes how the government has represented Canadian sovereignty policies and evaluates whether or not its position is sufficiently comprehensive and equally enduring to ensure the Canadian publics’ sovereignty and economic interests are and will continue to be met. The strategic findings suggest policies, which appear to lack clarity of operational deliverables, insufficient coordination of interdepartmental investments and measures at the political level to ensure adequate continuity across successive governments.