In the National Interest: Canadian Foreign Policy and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, 1909-2009

By Greg Donaghy; Michael K. Carroll | Go to book overview

6
SOVEREIGNTY AND
SECURITY: CANADIAN
DIPLOMACY, THE UNITED
STATES, AND THE ARCTIC,
1943–1968

P. Whitney Lackenbauer
and Peter Kikkert

By the spring of 1946 the spectre of a Soviet threat to North America loomed large in the minds of American officials, who warily cast their eyes over polar projection maps and saw an undefended attic to the continent. Ambitious defence plans for the Arctic began to flow onto the desks of Canadian officials, evoking grave concerns in the Department of External Affairs about Canada’s sovereignty in the region. Lester B. Pearson, then ambassador to the United States, believed that these defence projects offered Canada an opportunity “to secure from the United States Government public recognition of our sovereignty of the total area of our northern coasts, based on the sector principle.”1 Canada’s longstanding but officially unstated sector claim to all of the lands (and eventually waters) between 60° and 141° west longitude up to the North Pole offered the simplest solution to consolidating its opaque Arctic claims.2 Although Pearson was confident that he could attain from his American counterparts formal recognition on this basis, he was overly optimistic.

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