Cryopolitics: The New Geography of the Northwest Passage and Implications for Canadian Sovereignty Open Access
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The Canadian Arctic and specifically the region known as the "Northwest Passage" (NWP), was historically defined by its ice-bound nature. However, with the contemporary reduction in year-round Arctic ice cover, and the subsequent realization of ice-free summers, the geopolitical significance of the region is shifting. In particular, the seasonal access to the NWP as a transportation corridor, and resulting access to large volumes of untapped strategic resources (oil, gas hydrate, diamonds, manganese) is placing an increased burden on the Canadian government, and the military in particular, to enforce the country's sovereignty in the region. In addition, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the legal framework for maritime resource conflicts, is failing under the stresses of climate change, creating an ambiguous legal climate. Recent statements by Canadian PM Steven Harper, combined with Canada's expansion of northern defense infrastructure, increased allocation of financial resources earmarked for homeland defense, and geospatial inventory initiatives are indicative of the government's acknowledgment of a requirement to control the maritime resources of the region, creating a new geopolitical utility for the NWP. Therefore, this study looks to define the new political geography of the NWP from a Canadian perspective. The study draws upon the principles of sovereignty under the UN Conventions on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), and the concept of cryopolitics established in Haverluck 2007. The Canadian government's perspective is taken from government statements, personal interviews, as well as reports in the newsmedia. The primary conclusion from this study is that the Canadian government has instituted a policy of co-opting environmental concerns (climate change) for geopolitical gain. This policy is a result of the impact of the cryopolitical paradigm on the geopolitical worldview of Canada. Furthermore, I predict that the co-option of environmentalism will become the global geopolitical norm as climate change progresses through time.