Canada’s Fight for Arctic Sovereignty
The fascinating tale of adventure, endurance and the “longest patrol” in Canada’s fight for sovereignty over the outer fringes of the Arctic archipelago.
In the 1920s, Canada’s claim on the Arctic archipelago was tenuous at best. In 1880, the United Kingdom had handed over control of the area to the expanding dominion, though much of the area was still unoccupied and unexplored. The North-West Mounted Police, later to become the RCMP in 1920, were assigned the territory by the Canadian Government. For years, little was done to assert this control; over time, remote detachments were established throughout the archipelago and annual ship patrols were conducted to resupply these posts as well as to demonstrate to the world that Canada was indeed administering to its Arctic.
But the need to reinforce sovereignty—and quickly—was driven by increasing threats on the horizon. The Americans, Danish and Norwegians were particularly active in the Arctic, posing sovereign challenges from both individuals and their nations; Dr. Donald MacMillan, American, went north with an American Naval Aviation Unit in 1925 with a stated objective to search for new land. He had somehow, concerningly, avoided applying for permits to enter the Canadian Arctic. The Danish Anthropologist and polar explorer Knud Rasmussen was rumoured to be populating Ellesmere Island with Greenland Inuit (Inughuit) to the obvious threat of both the Muskox population there as well as Canadian Arctic sovereignty. Meanwhile, the Canadian Government was wrestling with the Norwegian Government, as well as Norwegian explorer Otto Sverdrup, over ownership of the Sverdrup group of islands.
Something drastic had to be done. Legendary RCMP Inspector, Alfred Herbert Joy, joined by young but robust recruit Reginald Andrew Taggart of Ireland, as well as the renowned Inughuit guide, Nuqaqpainguaq, embark on an 1,800-mile dogsled patrol to the outer fringes of the archipelago. As tensions rise and negotiations with Norway threaten to escalate, the three men face treacherous conditions and unexpected obstacles on a journey that takes on mythic proportions. In Arctic Patrol, Lieutenant Governor’s Medal winner Eric Jamieson uncovers the fascinating history of Canada’s fight to secure its Arctic territories in this thrilling tale of international politics, polar exploration, and human endurance.