Multilateralism and Arctic Sovereignty: Canada’s Policy Options

  • Andrew Gibson
Keywords: Arctic, Canada, Arctic Sovereignty, UNCLOS, United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, Arctic Council


This paper will examine Canada’s policy options regarding Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic Ocean, and will recommend a policy of multilateral engagement. Canada claims full sovereignty over the Arctic Archipelago and its surrounding waters, as well as a more limited form of sovereignty in parts of the Arctic Ocean. There is significant strategic, environmental, and economic value to uncontested Canadian control of these waters. However, these claims are not recognized by other states and contravene accepted international rules laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). As Canada lacks the infrastructure and military power to effectively assert control of the region, as well as the diplomatic power to make other states recognize Canada’s claim, Canada should abandon its unilateral stance and pursue its claim through existing multilateral options: the UNCLOS and the Arctic Council.