New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Tim Stephens and David L. VanderZwaag
Chapter 9: The IMO's PSSA mechanism and the debate over the Northwest Passage
'No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious' wrote the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. This accepted truth about life in general also certainly applies to law lectures and seminars. At the end of a three hour impassioned lecture on the legal arguments supporting Canada's position on the Northwest Passage (NWP), an undergraduate student simply asked: Would it really be so bad if the Northwest Passage was an international strait? His question echoed comments which had been made by eminent American scholars at an international meeting earlier in the term: Does Canada really need to claim the NWP to ensure its protection? Rather, and in line with its longstanding commitment to multilateralism, should not Canada have faith in existing international rules and mechanisms? The Canadian government's position in regards to the NWP is long established and well known: all of the waters within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, including the various routes which make up the NWP, are historic internal waters over which Canada exercises absolute and exclusive authority, including the right to control access.
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