Canadian Military and the Arctic

Hitched a ride with some kind Amsterdam hackers and made it home from Berlin after another wonderful visit. Before leaving I got to spend some more time with both Mitch Altman who brought you the TV-B-Gone, and Emmanuel of 2600. I recorded podcasts with both of them, and during our conversations we did come back to the topic which I raised at the conference, the Arctic Cold War.

Currently I’m looking more into Canada’s role and their plan for the part of the arctic that they claim. What is often referred to as the Northwest Passage, is the route that goes right over Canada and could make for a good connection between the Atlantic and the Pacific, because of the fast melting of the arctic ice. Canada claims that the Northwest Passage is their sovereign territory, despite the fact that part of it is in the arctic which is supposed to be international territory. They also reject claims from nations, such as the US, that say it is an international crossing or an international straight, and can therefore not be considered property of Canada.

Why does this matter so much? As I said in my talk, among the reasons, the destruction of the planet hangs in the balance. Nations like Russia, Canada, and even the US, have mobilized military resources and dedicated money for new military forces to patrol, oversee, and be positioned in the arctic to show some kind of control or claim over territory. Canada itself has carried out excercises and dedicated a military force that, according to the prime minister, will defend Canada’s sovereign territory in the arctic. Note the term – DEFEND!

As I explore Canada’s military statements and websites, there is an odd mix of friendliness and willingness to use the military is this game to gain control of the arctic. I’m gathering a few military videos and statistics on their activities and will put them out in a video entry shortly. But one thing is already clear, there is something very disturbing when nations not only try to claim what is supposed to be international territory that has such great importance to the future of the planet, but when they also use weapons and soldiers in some twisted effort to support that claim by exhibiting a willingness to use deadly force.


  1. January 3, 2008

    I’m about to move from the UK to Canada, and I’ve been following this, too.
    ‘Defence’ is an interesting concept.
    ‘Arctic Cold War’ seems fitting to me in more ways than one. You could almost look at the likely outcome in Cold War terms. The Russians are getting very busy showing off their military might again, testing the boundaries, not to mention laying direct claim to Arctic territory with their flag planting stunts. They appear so often to be so independent of international consensus and so full of pride that I can well see how Canada and America can justify their actions as ‘defence’.
    Add to that the natural resources and potential for commercial exploitation of a shipping route, and there’s a lot at stake.
    But if all sides show maximum strength, perhaps what we’ll be left with is an unhealthy but functioning stalemate, where North Americans will control one side of the commercial waterways and the Russians the other.
    But what do I know? Not much.

    • bicyclemark
      January 4, 2008

      Hi Rupert! glad to see such a familiar name in my comments (normally I see it in the twitter and other places)
      YOuve just brought up the deterrant theory than many military and political people believed in throughout the cold war.
      My issue with that is if you have a weapons build up and you leave control of those weapons in the hands of some leaders, there is always the extremely horrifying risk that one of these leaders becomes irrational or dangerous somehow (or drunk!) and launches an attack purposely or accidentally. The effects would be disastrous.. all made possible by the idea that looking tough and ALMOST going to war is a sustainable way of conducting foreign policy. So thats my issue with all this build up theyre doing. (or may do in the future)

    • bicyclemark
      January 4, 2008

      Thanks bro! Hmm Im cooking up a podcast on this issue… err.. more like working on a guest right now. Very sad to see what has happened.. but still hopeful it will pass.

  2. January 3, 2008

    Mark, look through Harper’s back issues. I think it was last summer they had a story about this subject, with the author joining some kind of Canadian military unit to the arctic.

    • bicyclemark
      January 4, 2008

      Chris.. yeah I found some video on mr harpers website… good lord the man is fake and awkward. Amazing he got into office.

      • richard
        January 4, 2008

        I believe Chris is referring to HARPER’S MAGAZINE, not Stephen Harper. The magazine has an article in it’s Sep-07 issue on it’s arctic aspirations.

      • bicyclemark
        January 6, 2008

        woops haha.

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