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  • Author: Adam Lajeunesse
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: In September 1985, Secretary of State for External Affairs Joe Clark announced to the House of Commons the establishment of straight baselines around the Arctic Archipelago, defining those straits and passages within as historic internal waters of Canada and under full national sovereignty.1 “The policy of this government is to maintain the natural unity of the Canadian Arctic archipelago” Clark declared, “and to preserve Canada’s sovereignty over land, sea, and ice undiminished and undivided.” (Document 68). This was the first time Canada had delineated its Arctic maritime space, clearly defining in legislation those waters over which it had sovereignty. It was an important clarification, as Canada had claimed and exercised sovereignty for decades without ever stating with precision where that sovereignty began and ended. In the assertion of sovereignty, precision is important. As the American geographer Isaiah Bowman once said, a boundary line “has to be here, not hereabouts.” While this definition was an important clarification it did not fundamentally change the Canadian approach to its Arctic waters. In making this announcement Clark was not staking a claim, rather he was making official what Canada had long assumed and practiced. In so doing, he marked the culmination of decades of political and legal discussions, negotiations, and debate. It was the logical conclusion to a lengthy political and legal evolution, by which Canadian sovereignty came to be defined and asserted in the way that it ultimately was in 1986. This volume is a documentary history, charting the evolution of Canada’s Arctic maritime sovereignty through government memoranda, notes, communiqués, and other primary source material. In so doing, it offers as unfiltered a look as possible at the political thinking, legal analysis, and international discussions that defined Canadian Arctic policy during its formative period. The material included is necessarily limited and selective – drawn from tens of thousands of pages of archival documents on the subject. These documents were included for several reasons: some are important government studies which shaped policy making, some are records of discussions or communications which illuminate important decisions, while others were selected for the context they provide at key moments in Canadian policy making. The period covered in this compendium stretches from 1950 to 1988 and is, in some respects, artificial. Canadian policy makers certainly considered the question of Arctic maritime sovereignty in the years before 1950, but it was never a pressing consideration, nor was any real policy formed. To reproduce material from this period would also be redundant, duplicating as it inevitably would the thorough collection compiled by Janice Cavell in her 2016 Documents on Canadian External Relations volume on Arctic sovereignty and P. Whitney Lackenbauer and Peter Kikkert’s excellent volume in the DCASS series. This volume has also avoided reproducing material in Whitney lackenbauer and Peter Kikkert’s 2010 book The Canadian Forces a& Arctic Sovereignty, which examines armed forces documents on this subject. This volume ends in 1988, not because the Mulroney government’s declaration of straight baselines – and the Canada-US negotiations which followed – ended discussion on the matter but because, by that point, the internal Canadian debate over the precise nature and extent of Canada’s claim had been settled. Documents 69-74 extend this volume to 1988 to provide some insight into how Canada’s new policy was received both internally and internationally. From a logistical perspective, documentary material on this subject also becomes nearly impossible to secure after this date – even through the Access to Information Act, the vehicle by which the lion’s share of this collection was secured.5 The focus of this volume is on Canadian government material; however, certain key documents from the United States National Archives and Records Administration (College Park, MD) and the Foreign Relations of the United States6 series have also been included. This American material provides context to Canada’s decision making and offers researchers a glimpse at how crucial Canadian policy initiatives were received by the country’s most important partner – and sometimes opponent – in this field. Ultimately, the purpose of the Documents on Canadian Sovereignty and Security is to facilitate new research and new interpretations which can add to, improve, and challenge the existing literature. This collection should provide academics, students, and policy makers with the research foundation to launch new inquiries into the field. Undergraduate students can use this collection as a substitute for extensive primary research, while graduate students and scholars can employ it as a ready jumping off point to undertake more thorough archival work.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Sovereignty, Maritime
  • Political Geography: Canada, North America, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean