Arctic Sovereignty and its Legal Significance for Canada

20 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2014

Date Written: November 26, 2013


Throughout much of the Twentieth Century there was an ongoing debate within Canada as to the status of its territorial claims in the Arctic. Following the voyage of the SS Manhattan in 1969 that debate was joined to also encompass consideration of Canadian Arctic maritime sovereignty. With the exception of the disputed Hans Island, over which Canada and Denmark have agreed to disagree, there is no direct challenge to Canadian Arctic sovereignty in 2013. Nevertheless, it has been a persistent theme in Canadian academic and political discourse for much of the past decade that Canada’s Arctic sovereignty is threatened. Canada, along with all of the Arctic states, is also beginning to face the reality that the Arctic is facing rapid globalization partly as a result of climate change and the melting of the Arctic ice but also because of the growing interest of non-Arctic states in accessing the Arctic. This paper seeks to challenge some of the perceptions that have developed with respect to Canadian Arctic sovereignty from the perspective of international law. Consideration will be given to the status of Canada’s territorial and maritime claims in the Arctic, and the rights and obligations that Canada has in the Arctic as a party to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC). Particular attention will be given to Canada’s claims to an Arctic outer continental shelf, the regulation and management of the Northwest Passage, and the freedoms of navigation enjoyed by non-Arctic states within Canada’s exclusive economic zone.

Suggested Citation

Rothwell, Donald R., Arctic Sovereignty and its Legal Significance for Canada (November 26, 2013). ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 13-19, Available at SSRN: or

Donald R. Rothwell (Contact Author)

ANU College of Law ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics