The Mulroney Government and the Problem of Sovereignty of Canada in the Arctic in 1980s

Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: Institute for the U.S. and Canadian Studies, RAS
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Journal nameNovaia i noveishaia istoriia
EditionIssue 2

The Mulroney Government's decision to draw direct baselines around the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and explicitly assert Canadian sovereignty over these waters marked a move away from a functional approach that was aimed merely to increase Canadian control over shipping in these waters. From that time onwards, the straight baseline method has been a key element in the justification for Canadian sovereignty over the waters of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. As the largest Arctic power with similar positions on some Arctic issues (the legal status of the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route) and a potential field of conflict of interest (the continental shelf), it is crucial for Russia to understand the nuances of Canada's position regarding its sovereignty over various types of space in the Arctic (land, sea space, continental shelf). The article draws on a wide range of sources: transcripts of debates in the House of Commons; news articles; ministerial documents and statements by their leaders; and the memoirs of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Significant among the sources are articles by Canadian lawyers of the time who substantiated the benefits for Canada of using the straight baseline method to justify its sovereignty in the Arctic. The author concludes that the measures taken by the Mulroney Government are important for the international recognition of Canadian sovereignty over the waters of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

KeywordsCanada, Arctic, Northwest Passage, sovereignty, foreign policy, United States, law of the sea, Brian Mulroney
Publication date30.04.2023
Number of characters39555
100 rub.
When subscribing to an article or issue, the user can download PDF, evaluate the publication or contact the author. Need to register.

Number of purchasers: 0, views: 123

Readers community rating: votes 0

1. Avramenko I.M. Mezhdunarodnoe morskoe pravo [International Maritime Law]. Moskva, 2003. (In Russ.)

2. Korennoe naselenie Severnoj Ameriki v sovremennom mire [Indigenous population of North America in the modern world] / otv. red. V.A. Tishkov. Moskva, 1990. (In Russ.)

3. Maximova D.D., Sokolov V.I. Sever i Arktika v politike i hozjajstve Kanady [The North and the Arctic in the politics and economy of Canada]. Moskva, 2015. (In Russ.)

4. Sokov I.A. Problemy vysokoj Arktiki i ikh razreshenie v kontekste politicheskoj kul'tury sovremennoi Kanady [The problems of the high Arctic and their resolution in the context of contemporary Canada’s political culture] // Russia and Canada: The Arctic Giants. Proceedings of the VII International Canadian Studies Conference] / otv. red. Yu.G. Akimov, K.V. Minkova. Sankt-Peterburg, 2019. S. 152–176. (In Russ.)

5. Volodin D.A. Kanada i problema suvereniteta v Arktike v 1950–1960-e gody: ot suvereniteta nad sushej k suverenitetu nad morskim prostranstvom [Canada and the Problem of Sovereignty in the Arctic in 1950s–1960s: From Terrestrial to Maritime Sovereignty] // SShA & Kanada: jekonomika, politika, kul'tura [USA-Canada: Economy, Policy, Culture]. 2021. № 9. S. 114–126. (In Russ.)

6. Volodin D.A. Kanada i krizis “Manhjettena” v Arktike (1968–1970 gg.) [Canada and the Manhattan Crisis in the Arctic (1968–1970)] // Rossija i Amerika v XXI veke [Russia and America in the 21st Century]. 2021. № 4. URL: (access date: 14.09.2022). (In Russ.)

7. Canada. House of Commons Debates. Official Report. 33th Parl. 1st Sess. Vol. IV. Ottawa, 1985.

8. Canada – United States Agreement on Arctic Cooperation and Exchange of Notes Concerning Transit of Northwest Passage // International Legal Materials. 1989. Vol. 28. № 1. P. 141–145.

9. Challenge and Commitment. A Defence Policy for Canada. Ottawa, 1987.

10. Documents on Canadian Maritime Sovereignty, 1950–1988 / ed. A. Lajeunesse. Calgary, 2018.

11. Kirkey Ch. Smoothing Troubled Waters: The 1988 Canada-United States Arctic Co-operation Agreement // International Journal. 1995. Vol. 50. Iss. 2. P. 401–426.

12. McDorman T. In the Wake of the “Polar Sea”: Canadian Jurisdiction and the Northwest Passage // Les Cahiers de Droit. 1986. № 3. P. 623–645.

13. McKinnon B. Arctic Baselines: A Litore ad Litus // Canadian Bar Review. 1987. № 4. P. 790–817.

14. McRae D. Arctic Waters and Canadian Sovereignty // International Journal. 1983. Vol. 38. № 3. P. 476–492.

15. Mulroney B. Memoirs, 1939–1993. Toronto, 2007.

16. Pharand D. Legal Regime of the Arctic: Some Outstanding Issues // International Journal. 1984. Vol. 39. № 4. P. 742–799.

17. Roach A., Smith R. Excessive Maritime Claims. Newport, 1994.

Система Orphus