Disputed Areas Between Canada and the US

The lighthouse at Machias Seal Island, a disputed area between Canada and the United States.

The US and Canada are very peaceful neighbors. However, when it comes to border delineations, the two countries don't share all of the same opinions. The disputed border areas are outlined below.

5. Machias Seal Island

Machias Seal Island is situated in the Gulf of Maine, about 10 miles southeast from Cutler, Maine. It is considered part of a series of rocks and islets of Grand Manan Island. However, its relationship with the Grand Manan Island is disputed by several geologists. Machias Seal Island is barren and has no trees and is bound by fogs for many days because of its position between Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine.The sovereignty of the Machias Seal Island has been disputed by the US and Canada for several years. Both countries have continued to show interest on the island. Canada has continued to occupy the lighthouse, with Canadian Coast Guards taking charge. Canada has also included the island as a federal and provincial electoral district. However, the US has continued to ignore the lighthouse. Although it lays claim of the island, the US has never maintained its presence there.

4. Strait of Juan de Fuca

Strait of Juan de Fuca is a water body that is approximately 96 miles long and acts as the outlet for the Salish Sea to the Pacific Ocean. It is defined as a channel by the USGS. The channel extends eastwards from the Pacific Ocean between Vancouver Island, Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and British Columbia to Haro Strait. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is crossed by international vessels from Port Angels in Washington to Victoria in British Columbia. The strait remains a subject of a border dispute between the US and Canada. However, the dispute is on the 320-kilometer seaward boundary that extends west from the strait. Each of the two governments proposed a boundary on the basis of the concept of equidistance but they selected different basepoints, leading to a difference in the lines. Although the resolution of the dispute is very simple, it is feared that if resolved it might influence other pending maritime boundary disputes.

3. Beaufort Sea

The Beaufort Sea is part of the Arctic Ocean situated in the Northwest Territory, Alaska, and Yukon. Mackenzie River empties into the sea. The Beaufort Sea is frozen most part of the year and experiences severe climate. The sea is rich in petroleum and natural gases, with exploration ongoing. Seal hunting and fishing are also practiced in large. The US government has adopted cautionary commercial fishing to prevent overfishing. The US and Canada have engaged in a protracted dispute over the wedge-shaped slice of the Beaufort Sea on the international boundary. The section is located in US state of Alaska and Canadian territory of Yukon. Canada supports the extension of the area to the sea of the land boundary between the two countries. The US on the other claims the extension of the boundary line towards Canadian portion of the Beaufort Sea, creating a disputed area of 8,100 square miles.

2. Northwest Passage

The Northwest Passage is a sea route to the Pacific Ocean via the Arctic Ocean on the coast of North America via the Arctic Archipelago. The archipelago has several islands separated from each other and the mainland Canada by several Arctic waterways collectively referred to as the Northwest Passages. The Northwest Passage was explored as a possible navigation route for centuries before a successful passage was made in 1903-1906 by Roald Amundsen. The sovereignty of the passage has been contested for decades now between the US and Canada. The Canadian government has laid claim over a portion the waters of the passage, especially those on the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Thus, Canada has had the right to bar transit through the waters. However, Maritime Nations such as the European Union and the US classify the waters as international strait with foreign vessels having the right to transit the passage without any restrictions. The dispute between Canada and the US resulted from the 1969 passage of the US tanker through the waters. In 1985, the US government was infuriated by the action of the Canadian Coast Guards to inspect its vessel before passing through the Arctic Archipelago. In 1986, the government of Canada issued a declaration that reaffirmed its right to the waters.

1. Dixon Entrance

The Dixon Entrance is a strait in the Pacific Ocean that is approximately 50 miles long. It is located at the US-Canada border, between Alaska in the US and British Columbia in Canada. The area was surveyed in 1787 by George Dixon who the strait is named after. Dixon Entrance is a portion of the Inside Passage shipping route and forms the maritime boundary between Canada and the US. The location of the boundary line has been the subject of dispute between the S and Canada. A line referred to as “A-B” was defined in 1903 Alaska Boundary Treaty, marking its northern boundary. The meaning of the line is disputed by the two countries. Canada insists that the line is the international maritime boundary while the US is of the opinion that the line was meant to define the land masses belonging to each country. Thus, the line is not recognized by the US as the official boundary. The US defined a maritime boundary line between the two countries in 1977. The two lines intersect to form four areas, two in the north and the other two in the south. The two areas in the north are claimed by the two countries and are 2,789 and 51.5 square kilometers. The two areas in the south are unclaimed.


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