‘Canada’s Northwest Passage and the Potential for Co-Management’

Nicole Covey

Trent University



Journal of Australian, Canadian, and Aotearoa New Zealand Studies 2 (September 2022): 40-72, https://doi.org/10.52230/ZQCQ4120


The legal status of the Northwest Passage remains contested and as the rate of polar maritime traffic continues to increase, the status quo of ‘agreeing to disagree’ becomes more tenuous. Canada asserts that the passage is historic internal waters while the United States understands the passage to be an international strait. This article follows the ‘sovereignty to the side’ thesis and argues that a way Canada can assert its sovereignty and control over the disputed Passage through the creation of a co-management council that would highlight Indigenous knowledge and participation, drawing inspiration from Aotearoa New Zealand’s Whanganui River Council. The proposed Canadian Northwest Passage Maritime Council would have three different bodies (Observatory Body, Advisory Core, and Decision-Making Committee) working together with various levels of authority to help make decisions regarding the management of the Northwest Passage. The proposed Council would not only help to legitimize the Canadian position in the international arena but also demonstrate its commitment to highlighting northern Indigenous voices in Arctic governance and make the Canadian position more favourable.


Northwest Passage, co-management, Arctic, Canada, Te Awa Tupua