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Dire Straits: The Necessity for Canadian Sovereignty in the Arctic Waterways

Fordham Environmental Law Review, Vol. 20, pp. 551-596, 2010

46 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2010  

Kimberly Celeste Gordy

United States District Courts

Date Written: April, 14 2010


Experts predict that a desperate global desire for the Arctic’s natural resources will be the catalyst for the next cold war unless the question of sovereignty in Northwest Passage and surrounding Arctic waterways is finally settled. As climate change takes hold in the Arctic, scholars have continued to focus on both outdated and legalistic arguments to draft unworkable solutions to a current crisis. Arctic management solutions based upon international agreements offer insufficient protection for Canada, the nation most vulnerable to international exploitation and environmental devastation.

This Article brings to light three considerations previously overlooked by scholars in past sovereignty analyses. First, it argues that effective management of the finely tuned Arctic ecosystem must be the responsibility of those developing the region. Second, it contends that a feasible Arctic solution must promote socio-economic stability for Arctic residents while also preserving the indigenous culture. Finally, it asserts that a nation must have an incentive to fund the expense of creating environmentally safe and sustainable development. Canada is the nation best suited to accomplish the three tasks the Article identifies. It also has the greatest motivation because Canadians, especially the indigenous people, will suffer direct harm if these considerations are ignored.

For the first time, the Canadian government’s assertion of Arctic sovereignty can be realized at international law. This Article offers a modern and timely interpretation of sovereignty under Historic Consolidation of Title. The analysis presents the legal merits of Canada’s claim under this doctrine and demonstrates Canada’s ability to exercise effective control over the Arctic. Most importantly, this Article establishes that Canadian sovereignty is the only equitable solution for the modern Arctic.

Keywords: Arctic, environmental law, Law of the Sea, Inuit, Natural Resources

Suggested Citation

Gordy, Kimberly Celeste, Dire Straits: The Necessity for Canadian Sovereignty in the Arctic Waterways (April, 14 2010). Fordham Environmental Law Review, Vol. 20, pp. 551-596, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Kimberly Celeste Gordy (Contact Author)

United States District Courts ( email )

United States

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