Somewhere between Alaska, Canada and Russia

To get from London to Tokyo, a ship must travel 23,000 kilometres via the Panama Canal, or 21,700 kilometres via the Suez Canal. But if it takes the Northwest Passage, between Alaska, Canada and Russia, the distance is reduced to 15,700. This passage, navigated for the first time in 1903 - 1906 by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, was, until recently, navigable only during the very short arctic summer. However, climate change in this part of the globe has reduced the pack ice, making this route accessible over a large part of the year. 

L'Équipe de recherche sur les changements géopolitiques dans l'Arctique canadien (Geopolitical Changes in the Canadian Arctic Research Team), directed by Frédéric Lasserre from Université Laval, is studying the impact of the development of commercial navigation in this region. Opening the Northwest Passage could allow the commercial exploitation of the region's hydrocarbon, metal and diamond deposits, in addition to the establishment of a strategic commercial route connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and the development of cruise shipping in the area. The team's researchers are striving to help Canada to develop security policy aimed at protecting northern communities and to respond to these geopolitical changes that could call into question Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic.

Thus far, their results seem to indicate that the "cold war" rhetoric in the Arctic does not present a real threat, arising more from the internal policy of the Arctic states. Furthermore, for the moment, the commercial maritime transport industry does not appear to be considering the Northwest Passage as a viable alternative. On the other hand, the development of services in local communities and the exploitation of natural resources will increase maritime traffic in the region. The preliminary results of the research indicate that the consequences of increased integration of the Arctic into the global economy will prove to be a challenge from an economic governance standpoint.


Équipe de recherche sur les changements géopolitiques dans l'Arctique canadien


Frédéric Lasserre, Université Laval

Regular members

  • Kristin Bartenstein, Université Laval
  • Claude Comtois, Université de Montréal
  • Caroline Desbiens, Université Laval
  • Emmanuel Guy, Université du Québec à Rimouski
  • Louise Lamarre, Université Concordia 
  • Stéphane Roussel, Université du Québec à Montréal