Through Arctic Eyes: Canada and Antarctica, 1945-62

  • Peter J. Beck
Keywords: Antarctic treaties, Foreign relations, Geopolitics, Government, International Geophysical Year 1957-58, Public opinion, Sovereignty, Antarctic regions, Arctic regions, Canada, Canadian Arctic


This archival study investigates the nature and development of Canadian attitudes and policy towards Antarctica between 1945 and 1962. Throughout this period, the key continuity was the tendency to view Antarctic affairs from an arctic perspective. Canada, though becoming more preoccupied with the Arctic and avoiding active involvement in Antarctica, found it difficult to ignore the more remote and distant southern polar region. Although the Arctic and Antarctic are distinct regions in geographical, political, legal and other terms, they are both polar regions subject to a range of seemingly analogous controversies. As a result, certain post-1945 developments affecting Antarctica were deemed of potential relevance to its northern counterpart, thereby encouraging the Canadian government to consider the nature of its political, legal, scientific and other interests in Antarctica. Canada's effort to remain on the sidelines were qualified by the fact that Antarctica was treated as a significant policy interest by other states - most notably, Australia, Britain and the United States - which not only kept the Canadian government well informed about developments but also asked frequently for its views. In 1959 the conclusion of the Antarctic Treaty forced the Canadian government to consider whether or not to accede to the treaty. In the event, the government, guided by a series of interdepartmental exchanges, decided against accession, which did not take place until 1988.

Key words: Antarctica, Arctic, Antarctic Treaty, United Nations, polar sovereignty, bipolar linkages, sector principle, International Geophysical Year (IGY)