Arctic Sovereignty and The Cold War


As a consequence of U.S.-Soviet Cold War tensions, the 1950s saw an intimate defense cooperation between Canada and the United States. Facing potential nuclear attacks via the Arctic, the United States pressed for the construction of radar stations across the Canadian Arctic. The resultant Distant Early Warning Line (DEW Line) was to monitor the Arctic airspace and deter and provide advance notice of potential attacks.

Despite similar Cold War outlooks, negotiations between Washington and Ottawa over the construction and the operation of the DEW Line increasingly produced resentments and concerns on the part of Canadians within the government as well as the public sphere. Canadian apprehensions about a substantial U.S. presence in the sparsely populated and undeveloped Canadian Arctic raised questions about Ottawa's ability to exercise sovereignty and protect Canadian jurisdiction in its northern territory.

map of arctic circle    
Canada-U.S. RelationsDefense Cooperation, 1940-1950Cultural Significance of the NorthThe DEW Line and Sovereignty