A Brief History of Arctic Research in Modern Canada

The 2014 Fall Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development was released this week by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. According to the report, which was produced by Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand, Canada’s Arctic navigational aids and icebreaking services are both antiquated and inadequate. She warned specifically against the use of outdated maps and surveys, which insufficiently protect Canadian interests in a region with a seemingly constant changing geography. At a time when receding glacial ice and increased marine traffic have many people the world over eagerly following Arctic headlines, this most recent news provides further ammunition to Conservative critics in Canada who take issue with the northern territorial sovereignty focus of Stephen Harper’s government. Canada’s Conservative party has long claimed the Arctic to be a political and economic priority, and it’s easy to see their point when considering the potential for resource exploitation that may stem from rapid environmental change in the region. But Gelfand’s audit suggests the government is severely unprepared to maintain and grow its own Arctic activity, let alone protect any territorial sovereignty claims. In today’s post we take a brief look at Canada’s modern cartographic interests in the Arctic, in attempt to contextualize the concerns raised by Gelfand.

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