Michael Byers

Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law

Tier 1 - 2017-11-01
Renewed: 2011-10-01
The University of British Columbia
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Coming to Canada From

Duke University Law School, USA.

Research involves

Examining the interaction of international politics and international law on such topics as the Arctic, United States-Canada relations and international organizations.

Research relevance

This research will provide evidence of Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage and lead to the development of new options for foreign policymakers.

Why Arctic Sovereignty Matters

For decades, Canada has asserted the right to control activities in the straits and channels within its Arctic archipelago, which it claims as internal waters. This claim has rarely been put to the test. However, with rapidly melting ice and growing interest in Arctic shipping, Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage will likely soon be physically challenged. Dr. Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, is analyzing the legal weight of Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage, the likely effects of changing ice conditions on navigation and the potential that other countries can be persuaded to support Canada’s claim or cooperate in regulating the Northwest Passage’s use by vessels from all countries. Byers’ work brings together the Law of the Sea, sovereignty, international law, Canadian foreign policy, diplomacy and the science of climate change and sea ice. A great deal of attention is also being paid to the possibility that the Arctic Ocean contains vast deposits of hydrocarbons. Canada is mapping the seabed along its northern coastline so that it can submit the necessary information to the United Nations’ Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The United States, Denmark and Russia are doing likewise. As part of this process, Byers is examining several outstanding maritime boundary disputes that must be resolved before Canada can submit its information and is providing detailed recommendations. Byer’s research is highlighting the importance of the Arctic to Canada and is providing key evidence that Arctic sovereignty matters more than ever.