The Arctic is many things to many people. In Canada, this malleability has made the region an incredibly valuable vehicle for nation-building and identity construction.
As a Newfoundland-born international politics scholar and author who researches Canada’s relationship with the Arctic, I believe that very pliability of the Arctic is an important feature of Canadian society, one that’s been cultivated for decades. The Arctic has intrigued many of us for myriad reasons since Confederation.
Canada’s most famous painters, the Group of Seven, focused extensively on the Canadian North in their work and Lawren Harris , in particular, immortalized the imagery of a vast frozen landscape devoid of life into the national psyche and brand.
Folklore about the Yukon Gold Rush tap into the notion of the Arctic as resource-rich frontier with massive wealth for determined risk-takers to grab. The doomed Franklin Expedition of the 1840s has captivated Canadians for generations, with interest renewed when the sunken ships were located in recent years in the Canada’s Arctic waters.
More recently, the impact of climate change on the Arctic and political tensions with Russia have also reignited concerns over security in the region, both environmental and military. Arctic unites a regionalized country
Most Canadians, however, don’t stop to think why or how the Arctic is such a key part of the Canadian psyche.
I believe the idea of the Arctic is popular in part because Canada is so regionalized. As all Canadians know, it’s the second largest country in the world with a relatively small, spread-out population. Most of us live near the Canada-U.S. border.
And so a place like Canada needs umbrella concepts to help unite it and beyond maple syrup, hockey and the weather, the range of pan-Canadian topics is rather limited.
Proximity to the United States has always had a major impact on Canadian politics and the evolution of the country. We often feel overshadowed by the cultural behemoth to the south.
Could this be why we have such romantic and protective feelings about the Arctic? A vast Arctic frontier is something Americans don’t really have except for portions of Alaska, after all. It differentiates Canada from the United States.
Nonetheless to dismiss our relationship with the Arctic as a byproduct of anti-Americanism is an injustice to Canada’s own sense of its unique character, and the efforts by generations of its people to cultivate, expand and define our national identity. Indigenous being heard
Canada’s ties to the Arctic are very much rooted in a desire to expand and grow as a country based on its own merits and accomplishments.
But as we give more consideration to Arctic development now that the sea ice shrinks , we risk alienating Canada’s Indigenous peoples — even as we’re being warned not to.
Increasingly, the Indigenous peoples in the Canadian North are being heard. In the 1960s, they began to make headway in defining their rights within Canada’s legal frameworks.
In the Arctic, the landmark recommendations by Justice Thomas Berger in 1977 to halt the constructive of a natural gas pipeline from the Mackenzie Delta down to southern Canada signalled changing times in Canada’s political and legal landscape.
The inquiry recommended further environmental assessments and the completion of the federal government’s land claims negotiations with Indigenous peoples first.Most recently, the Supreme Court of Canada ruling about seismic testing near Clyde River underscores the increasing influence of Indigenous people over Arctic governance. Jerry Natanine, community leader and former mayor of Clyde River, smiles at a news conference after his hamlet’s win at the Supreme Court of Canada in July. The Inuit of Clyde River took the National Energy Board to court and won. They argued that […]
Romantic notions about the Arctic must include Indigenous rights
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