Canada, the Arctic, and Post-National Identity in the Circumpolar World

  • Lisa Williams


Issues affecting the Arctic today-including climate change, natural resource development, and contending claims about countries' boundaries and borders-raise the opportunity to think about Canada's Arctic identity. What ideas and values form Canada's Arctic identity and how does this identity connect with policy? Canada's identity or sense of "self" at home and abroad affects how its citizens and policy-makers think about the Arctic, thinking which can shape Arctic policy. In turn, policy can reaffirm or challenge identity. This article explores the complex interplay between Canada's Arctic identities and Arctic policy. It begins by explaining how Canada's Arctic resource and sovereignty claims are part of the historic importance of the Arctic in producing Canadian national identity. In contrast, Canada's role in developing the Arctic Council, its relationships with circumpolar organizations, and its participation in the International Polar Year relate to a more recent emphasis on developing a circumpolar, post-national identity, which is based on values, ideas, and interests Canada shares with other Arctic countries and actors. These two identities, and the policy options and directions that emerge from them, are in tension. The article suggests how they may converge into a uniquely Canadian circumpolar identity by pursuing a multi-level identity framework, in which post-national values and institutions compensate for the limitations of the national (and vice-versa). In doing so, it is argued that Canada would be able to take on a greater leadership role in addressing both pressing challenges and new opportunities in the Arctic today

Author Biography

Lisa Williams

Lisa Williams recently completed a PhD in political science from York University.

How to Cite
WILLIAMS, Lisa. Canada, the Arctic, and Post-National Identity in the Circumpolar World. Northern Review, [S.l.], n. 33, apr. 2011. ISSN 1929-6657. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 30 nov. 2021.
Special Collection Articles