Asserting Canadian Arctic Sovereignty: Is the Best Offence a Good Defence?
AbstractThe Canadian Arctic has always occupied a space within our identity as a nation. However, propelled by a changing climate, the expanding search for natural resources, and the actions of international actors, the Arctic has recently assumed a position of political prominence as well. Canada’s Northern Strategy, introduced in 2009, outlines four areas of priority: exercising Canadian Arctic sovereignty, protecting environmental heritage, promoting social and economic development, and the devolution of Northern governance. Furthermore, 2010 saw the announcement of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS)—a $36.6 billion initiative that at once asserts Canadian Arctic sovereignty as a priority for the present government, and displays the Defence-heavy approach that will realize this goal. In light of the growing significance of the Canadian Arctic region, is such an emphasis on Defence initiatives advantageous for the assertion of Canadian Arctic sovereignty? Through the analysis of Cold-War-era Defence memoranda, a juxtaposition of the past and present political environment of the Arctic region is presented. The economic precariousness of the $3.1 billion plan to procure Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships is explored through consideration of the October 2014 budget analysis released by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Finally, the social implications of the current government’s Defence-heavy approach are framed by the narrow definition of human security that they imply. The current NSPS initiative is found to be incompatible with the existing political environment of the Arctic circumpolar region, not only for economic reasons, but because of social implications that threaten Canada’s Arctic sovereignty itself.
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