Canada is in the midst of a massive transformation of the Arctic. Never before in recorded history have so many elements come together to literally redraw the face of the Arctic. The impact of climate change on the Arctic is perhaps the best known. Increasing global temperatures are causing the ice cover to melt. The resulting accessibility of the previously inaccessible Arctic Ocean has captured the world's attention. The Arctic is believed to contain vast amounts of untapped natural resources; in particular, some estimates suggest that the Arctic may have 30 percent of the world's undiscovered gas resources and 13 percent of its oil. Canada has already become the world's third-largest diamond producer on the basis of three mines in the Northwest Territories. A third major factor is a rapidly changing geopolitical environment. As the ice melts, and as expectations rise regarding the new mineral potential, both the circumpolar states and other members of the international community are increasingly looking to the Arctic as a new zone of opportunity. Whereas the previously inhospitable Arctic prevented operations in the region, this will soon be changing.
The most important question is what the new international Arctic regime will look like. What will be the impact of the new geopolitical realities on the Arctic and on Canada? Will the Arctic become a region of cooperation, or will it become a region of increasing competition and conflict? Furthermore, what policies and actions will the circumpolar states implement to protect and promote their interests? For countries such as Canada, which has historically posited itself as an Arctic state, the entry of new states and other bodies into the Arctic region with interests that do not align with Canadian interests will be unsettling. Until now Canada has been able to protect its interests simply given the inaccessible nature of the region. Now that this is changing, what is Canada prepared to do to secure its Arctic?