Who Owns the Arctic? Canada, Says Michael Byers

by Julian Ku

That’s a bit of an overstatement, but this review of Michael Byers’ latest book: Who Owns the Arctic: Understanding Sovereignty Disputes in the North, reminds me of the surprising legal positions taken by Russia, Canada, and the United States over the legal status of the Northwest Passage.

It is ironic that while Russia supports Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage, the United States opposes it. With the recent disappearance of multi-year ice, the Passage (or Passages, for there are several) gives access to shipping through the Canadian archipelago of 19,000 islands that lie scattered in a huge pyramid from Iqaluit in the east to the Beaufort Sea in the west, with its apex at the northern tip of Ellesmere Island.

It is also ironic that Canada is in the position of making aggressive claims for territorial sovereignty, while the U.S. is all of a sudden the guardian of the international community’s interest in keeping the seas free.  And it is ironic that Byers, no sovereigntist, is a sharp critic of Canada’s failure to more aggressively assert its territorial sovereignty.


3 Responses

  1. What is remotely ironic about the US position? The United States has, since its founding, been the world’s primary advocate and (with Britain) defender of freedom of the seas.

    The US is not defending “the international community’s interest”, though. It’s defending its own interest.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. […] Opinio Juris » Blog Archive » Who Owns the Arctic? Canada, Says … […]

  2. […] Opinio Juris » Blog Archive » Who Owns the Arctic? Canada, Says … […]