One of the vital components of the Canadian national identity is the Arctic region. This is not only because of its geographical location but also because a large population of the Canadians lives there including the Northwest Territory indigenous people, the Yukon, and Nunavut among others. These people call the Arctic region home, and hence this region is deeply engraved in Canadian history and culture. Moreover, the area has increasingly become of much interest considering its potential when it comes unexploited natural resources. Therefore, the Arctic region sovereignty has become a crucial part of not only of the Canadian history put its future. Canada' three northern territories compose of 40% of the nation's landmass while the Arctic coastline that touches the country spreads up to 162,000 kilometers (Dolata, 2015). In the 21st century, sovereignty over the Arctic region has become a significant priority of the Canadian government mainly because of desire to control of the transportation routes, the Northwest Passage, climate change, and continuous discovery of new natural resources including oil and gas.
Moreover, the Canadian foreign policy cornering the Arctic region is evident for the government which has laid out a vision regarding the area where it hopes for a rules-based and stable region that has well-known boundaries, strong trade ties and economic growth, productive and healthy ecosystems and vibrant Northern communities. Nevertheless, the Arctic region boundaries have never been clearly defined, and this creates numerous problems for the Canadian government as it tries to exercise sovereignty in this region. This region gathers a lot of interest from neighboring nations such as the United States and Russia which is also very close to the Arctic. This paper aims to look at how Canada can exercise sovereignty in its Arctic Region from an International Relations perspective by looking at territorial claims in the Arctic by other nations, Canada's rights to claim the region, its Arctic foreign policy, and challenges it to fill faces in its quest for sovereignty in the Arctic.
Territorial Claims in the Arctic
The Arctic which is a place covered mostly with ice is located in the northernmost part of the earth. This region consists of high seas, exclusive economic zones (EEZs), territorial seas, internal waters, and land (Kraska, 2014). The high seas, exclusive economic zones (EEZs), territorial seas, internal waters, and land are internationally recognized to be under the authority of the nations that have a coastal line with the Arctic that are the United States, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Russia, Norway, and Canada (Berry, Bowles & Jones, 2016).
The Arctic is regulated just like other regions of the earth under the international law. Under this law, the Arctic ocean and the North Pole which is under high sea should not be owned or claimed by any country (Berry et al., 2016). The area beyond the exclusive economic zones cannot be exploited by any nation, and if there is any exploitation or exploration, it should be carried out by the "United Nations International Seabed Authority" for the benefit all humanity (Kraska, 2014). Nevertheless, some portions of the Arctic sea is always under constant dispute from countries like the united states, Russia, Norway, Denmark, and Canada all which claim that some part of the sea belongs to their national or territorial waters.
According to Carnaghan and Goody (2006), a country's claim to sovereignty or quest to have dominion over a sea or land heavily depends on how complex the international law is regarding that particular region. Some of the things a country can use to claim sovereignty over land or sea include conquest and administration, the surrendering of territory from one country to another and more importantly the discovery of a new region that no other nation can claim to own.
One main reason that made European nations to claim sovereignty over what appears to be a Northern American territory what the fact that the indigenous people from North America did not have legal title to claim the land or the seas since they just live there and use the property for their day to day activities (Dolata, 2012). However, this notion has been changing over the years especially after the election of Stephen Harper as the Canadian Prime Minister.
Harper ignited the countries' claim of sovereignty over the Arctic region by claiming that the presence of Canadians indigenous people such as the Inuit gives the state the right to request this region as its historical to them (Keil, 2014).
History of Canada's Claim to the Arctic Region
Canada's claim to the Arctic region or its north dates back in 1670 when Charles II granted "Hudson's Bay Company" right to maneuver the area which in the present day is Canada (Killaby, 2005). In 1870, the Hudson's Bay Company handed Canada over the title of the land taking control of the present-day Nunavut and Northwest Territories apart from the Arctic islands (Killaby, 2005). Since then, these regions have been under the authority of the Canadian government without any question.
In the 1880s, the British government which was still active in this areas gave Canada all it possession in the Arctic among them all the islands that were neighboring any of the assigned territories meaning that these regions which were exploited by British government now belonged to Canada (Lalonde, 2016). However, most of the areas remained unexplored since there was little economic interest of this area. As years passed and technology enhanced the northern area started to gain popularity and several nations including Canada wanted more of the territory of the region.
Exercising Sovereignty in the Arctic
Canada believes that the Arctic is critical to its national identity as it is embedded in their in their soul, culture, and history. Therefore, exercising sovereignty in the Arctic become number one in priority in their Arctic foreign policy that also includes empowering people in the North region, protecting the Arctic environment, and promoting social and economic development in this region ("Canada's Arctic Foreign Policy," n.d.).
The main reasons for Canada to insist and push for sovereignty in the Arctic is because of its historic title, the presence of various indigenous people among them the Inuit who are present in large numbers. As former Prime Minister Stephen Harper said "In exercising our sovereignty...we are not only fulfilling our duty to the people who called this northern frontier home, and to the generations that will follow; we are also being faithful to all who came before us...." giving Canada more and more reasons to push for Arctic sovereignty ("Canada's Arctic Foreign Policy", n.d.).
How Canada Exercises Sovereignty in the Arctic
The victory of Stephen Harper through the Conservative Party in 2006 was the major turning point when it comes to excising sovereignty in the Arctic. After his election, Harper dedicated himself to changing how Canada controlled the Arctic and in the process, bringing in many changes and interest like never before in the country's history.
According to Harper, Canada had to regain full control of the North region as not only was it an act of sovereignty but he claimed it was about fulfilling his role as the Prime Minister by protecting the indigenous Canadian citizens living in the north (Berry et al., 2016). The sovereignty exercise by the Canadian government can be seen from the various action different branches within the government undertook.
Beginning in 2007 when Harper was the Prime Minister, Canada engaged in different initiatives with the aim of improving its capacity in the Arctic region and more importantly congeal its sovereignty. One of Canada's primary objective is to bring in more icebreakers in the Arctic to add to the present which seems not fully cover the Arctic coastline that extends to several miles. According to the Canadian government, this is the most powerful and the biggest icebreaker the country has ever made and intends to reinforce the Canadian Coast Guard ("Canada's Arctic Foreign Policy," n.d.).
Moreover, the government has added more patrol ships to complement the Canadian Coast Guard and the secure the Arctic coastline. This an act of sovereignty since there is always a constant threat to this extensive coastline and has continuously proven to be of much economic importance. These patrol ships are designed to perform better in first-year ice and ensure there is constant maritime activity. Additionally, the government has placed a new berthing and refueling station in Nanisivik to add more support to the Canadian Coast Guard (Richards, 2015).
One primary way of demonstrating sovereignty is showcase military might which tells of potential invaders that they will receive full force punishment if they cross in other nations' territory. Canada has been able to use this tactic whereby the government has expanded the size and the capability of Canadian Rangers (Dean, Lackenbauer & Lajeunesse, 2014).
The Canadian Rangers is part of the Canada Armed Forces, and it mainly consists of the indigenous people in the North. Its primary role is to offer a paramilitary presence in various remote areas in the North. The Canadian Rangers present today was formed in 1947 when Canada gained a lot of attention due to its location during the cold war when Soviet and Western unions almost entered into war (Jensen & Honneland, 2015). Since then, the Canadian Rangers have become part of the Canadian Army Reserve, and it mainly encourages locals from the North to join the force due to their familiarity with the location and the fact that they are well adapted to the environment.
Canada has dramatically invested in equipping and staffing her Rangers where there over 5,000 Rangers from different communities most of which help to preserve the Arctic region that is important and close the Canadian sole (Lajeunesse, 2016). The primary duties of the Canadian Rangers are to support the Armed Forces, offer survival training, and disaster relief, aid at sovereignty and surveillance patrols, and more importantly, report and deal with any unusual activity in Canada's Arctic coastline.
Besides the Canadian Rangers, the government also established the Training Centre for Arctic Forces that aims at improving the skills of the defensive units in the Arctic and offer more training to them on emerging threats in the marine (Charron, 2015). Moreover, the Canadian government also collaborated with the United States to improve its control and monitoring of its airspace helping it to detect threats not only in the air but also any movement in the remote areas where her forces are yet to access (Keil, 2014). The country also initiated Operation Nanook that seek to have more control over the air, sea, and land territories in the North.
One of the significant challenges to gaining sovereignty of a territory be it sea, land or air is boundary dispute. Solving boundary dispute can be the difference between retaining a region and losing it. Canada has been able to resolve her boundary dispute with her international and neighboring countries in the North demonstration her desire to maintain the sovereignty of this region. One area that had a major dispute is Hans Island that both Denmark and Canada claimed to own. Another area is in the Beaufort Sea where both the United States and Canada stake their claim (Charron, 2015). Such areas with minor issues are solved through dialogue and the confines of the international law without countries engaging in any military action.
Moreover, Canada has taken various steps to gain international recognition when it comes to its continent...
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