Michael Byers, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia and prominent researcher on the Arctic, has recently come out with a book entitled Who Owns the Arctic. This short, opinionated overview of Arctic issues encompasses a range of contentious topics such as sovereignty, which the title references. Perhaps of most importance to Canadian readers, Byers discusses what should be done with the Northwest Passage, which Canada claims as internal waters while other countries, notably the U.S., believe that it constitutes international straits. He believes that Canada should convince other countries to support its position so that the country can pass laws to protect its own people and environment in the vicinity of the passage. If the straits were international waters, no such laws could be passed. One way to convince other countries like the U.S. that Canada is serious about protecting the straits is to start building three to four lightly armed icebreakers.
In addition, Byers argues that his country’s government should work more closely with the Inuit when dealing in the Arctic. They are also the country’s strongest claim to sovereignty over the High North, having lived there for thousands of years. Rising temperatures, Russian policy in the Arctic, and oil and gas are other issues analyzed in the book’s pages.
The Globe & Mail gives a glowing review of the book here. You can purchase it in Canada already, and the book will be available through US retailers like Amazon.com on March 1. Hopefully I’ll be able to read it in a couple of months, then, and offer my own review of the book.