Photo courtesy Douglas & McIntrye.
Canadians may think they own the Arctic, but without the political will and military might to back up that claim, this country may be in for a rude wake-up call.
In her dense, well-researched book, Polar Imperative, Shelagh Grant says the Arctic is threatened by a number of factors, including climate change, commercial shipping, boundary disputes and resource extraction.
Ms. Grant – an adjunct professor and research associate at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., does not believe Canada is ready to deal with the world's ever-increasing demands on accessing the Arctic and exploiting its resources.
Challenges to Canadian sovereignty over the Northwest Passage and Hans Island are among the many territorial claims Canada will have to face and win if it wants to protect its interest in the north.
Canada became the second largest country in the world on September 1, 1880, when the British lost interest in the Arctic and transferred it over to the 13-year-old Dominion of Canada.
Since then, Canada's interest in the Arctic has vacillated.
Ms. Grant believes Canadians have a romantic view of the Arctic, often seeing it through movies and coffee table books. Most Canadians have never travelled there. Neither have many politicians for that matter, which perhaps explains why the Arctic is not a priority.
Ms. Grant argues that if Canada wants the Arctic, it is going to have to increase its presence there – and that means more people, more money and more military, to monitor and control what goes on in the north.
With Polar Imperative, Shelagh Grant has given Canadians a richly detailed book to both enjoy and reflect upon.
In her book, she also warns Canadians not to be complacent.
"Fifty million years ago, the Arctic enjoyed a subtropical climate long before humans roamed the earth. Around 5,000 years ago, the first Palaeo-Eskimos arrived on the shores of Alaska. Less than 150 years ago, the last change in sovereign authority took place with the British transfer of the Arctic Islands to Canada. The current climate change has created yet another tipping point in the history of Arctic sovereignty. Although a decade represents little more than a split second when measured against the age of the planet, a lot can happen within a split second and much adversity can be prevented."