Arctic Front

By Ken D. Coates, P Whitney Lackenbauer, William R.Morrison and Greg Poelzer*
Thomas Allen Publisher
261 pages $29.95

arctic-front(Canscene) Four of Canada’s leading Northern specialists have won this year’s Donner Prize of $50,000 for 2008’s best book on public policy with a work addressing a matter of high importance to all Canadians; our presence in our much neglected Far North. The authors’ well-integrated presentation speaks well for their common resolve and also perhaps, for their editor’s ability to recognize the importance of their book.

Global warming, these Canadian scientists say, has hastened the melting of the polar ice cap and in the foreseeable future the Northwest Passage will be open to shipping most of the year. This, apart from environmental issues, could present threats to Canadian sovereignty.

The authors advise immediate action. The increasing presence of U.S. oil tankers, cruise ships and the recent planting of the Russian flag at the North Pole are all signs that Canadians must speak up for Canada.

The authors see the urgent need for some tangible form of government action but apart from commissioning studies governments have lacked the will to speak out. For instance, too few northerners are currently engaged in decision making yet they are Canadians and know the territory as their home.

The authors have no need to rant and rave. The clarity of their arguments is enough to wake us from a state of apathy and get off our butts and tell our leaders we want action.

In the last paragraph of the book they state: “Canada has long ignored the North… While the weight of history makes it difficult to imagine real change, the opportunity for a dramatically new approach stands before us. Canada needs to rediscover its North with the territories and aboriginal peoples as full partners. It must defend its northern flank from challenges even more significant and real than those of the past. The next decade promises to be the most important ten years in the evolution of Canada’s Arctic… With the right will and with the realization of he costs of long neglect and apathy Canada can re-define the North’s place in Confederation and in the process vault this country into a position of leadership in a circumpolar world.”

*The authors: Ken S. Coates is Professor of History and Dean of Arts at Waterloo University; P. Whitney Lackenbauer is an Assistant Professor of History at St. Jerome’s University, University of Waterloo; William T.Morrison is Professor of History at University of Northern British Columbia and Greg Poelzer is the founding Dean of Undergraduate Studies for the University of the Arctic and an Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Saskatchewan.

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