Lesson Plan: Who Controls the Northwest Passage?
Write the word "sovereignty" on the board or chart paper. Discuss the meaning of the word and how it is derived from the term sovereign. Briefly explain to students that since the late 1960s, there have been a number of incidents in which Canada's authority, or sovereignty, over the waters of the Northwest Passage have been challenged, most often by the United States. Ask students to work with a partner to list reasons why Canada may feel that it rightly controls these waters. Make a list of reasons why other countries might challenge that authority. Share and discuss the lists.
Outline the Opportunity
Direct students to the topic Breaking the Ice: Canada and the Northwest Passage on the CBC Digital Archives website. With their partner, have students browse the clips 'S.S. Manhattan breaks through,' ''This is our country,'' 'The Polar Sea controversy' and 'U.S. and Canada 'must develop a plan now'' to identify the issues around the sovereignty of the Northwest Passage. As they view the clips, ask students to identify arguments that support Canada's position and those that support the idea that these are international waters.
Prepare slips of paper equal to the number of pairs in the class. On half of the slips, write "Canada" and on the other half write "international." Have each pair choose a slip and create a political cartoon supporting the position they drew: either that Canada has sovereignty over the Northwest Passage or that the waters are international.
Revisit and Reflect
Post the political cartoons and allow students to ask clarifying/probing questions about them. Ask students to write a position statement on where they stand on this issue.
Assessment Tip: Have students complete the self-evaluation on the download sheet Who Controls the Northwest Passage?
ExtensionStudents can research to determine other waters over which there are or have been sovereignty disputes. They make a map to represent the contested waters and the results to date.