The Arctic


The Pacific Coast
The Cordillera
The Prairies
The Canadian Shield
The Great Lakes
The Appalachian Region
The Arctic
Geography and identity



Today the Canadian Arctic is no longer an inaccessible frontier. Inuvik, in the Mackenzie Delta, can be reached by road, and every community is served by air. Most have electricity, stores and health services.



3 criteria may be used to define the geographical limits of the Arctic :

- The Arctic Circle (latitude 66° 33’ N)

- The 10° isotherm (the area where the warmest month is below 10°C)

- The tree limit

If you use the isotherm criterion, 40% of Canada is located within the Arctic area




Another criterion is vegetation. North of the tree-line you find a tundra, an area of delicate but tenacious vegetation that grows in summer. For a few weeks, when daylight is nearly continuous and a profusion of flowers blooms on the tundra, the temperature can reach 30°C. Yet the winters are long, bitterly cold and dark. Temperatures rise above freezing only a few weeks a year and just a metre below the tundra, the ground remains permanently frozen.

Click here for Yukon Climate graph / Nunavut Climate graph / Northwest Territories climate graph



North of the mainland is a maze of islands separated by convoluted straits and sounds, the most famous of which link together to form the fabled Northwest Passage, the route to the Orient sought by so many early explorers. As global warming melts the sea ice, the Northwest Passage is expected to be open for navigation for longer and longer periods. This has triggered a fierce debate to determine whether Canada's sovereignty in the Northwest Passage and the Arctic will be best defended through security or stewardship.


To read more on Canadian Arctic Sovereignty: Security or Stewardship: click here


Read more on Canada's "Northern Strategy" : "Canada’s North is a fundamental part of Canada – it is part of our heritage, our future and our identity as a country. The Government has a vision for a new North and is taking action to ensure that vision comes to life – for the benefit of all Canadians."


See also Laurence Cros, « Le Passage du Nord-Ouest à l’épreuve du réchauffement climatique : une remise en cause de la coopération américano-canadienne dans l’Arctique ? », Les Relations interaméricaines en perspective : entre crises et alliances, Isabelle Vagnoux et Daniel van Eeuwen dirs., Éditions de l’Institut des Amériques, Paris, 2009, p. 75-87. Click here