Seminar: 'King's North? Security and Sovereignty in the Canadian Arctic, 1939-1948


William Lyon Mackenzie King is a Canadian prime minister not usually associated with policies and developments in relation to the Canadian Arctic. However, circumstances in the Second World War and the early years of the Cold War – both times when he led the Canadian government – increased the strategic importance of that region and consequently developments there for continental defence, concerns that inevitably also engaged the attention of American authorities. This paper deals with how questions of security and sovereignty, particularly as they related to the construction of defence-related facilities in the Canadian North, were addressed by the Canadian and American governments in wartime and after, as well as their longer-term implications.

At a time when Canada’s relationship with the Arctic is attracting more and more attention as environmental, economic and geo-political issues are brought to the fore by the effects of global warming and Canada is about to take on the role of chair of the Arctic Council, to be followed by the USA, this paper is a timely reminder of an important period in the development of the region’s strategic significance.