This article examines the evolution of Canadian Arctic policy during Sir Wilfrid Laurier's years as prime minister (1896-1911). Explorer Joseph Elzéar Bernier, who commanded three government expeditions in this period, vigorously promoted the idea that he himself had roused the sluggish government to action. He also alleged that Laurier had promised to sponsor a Canadian voyage to the North Pole, a promise that was later broken. However, archival documents show that neither of these claims is true. Instead, Laurier and other members of his government first showed their determination to assert Canada's northern sovereignty in 1897, a year before Bernier came on the scene. Although Bernier hoped that his first northern voyage might be turned towards the pole, there was no promise from Laurier. Subsequent policy developments were often haphazard due to interdepartmental conflicts and personality clashes, but by the end of the Laurier years a reasonably effective Arctic programme had been created. Though Bernier played an important part in carrying out the government's agenda, many of his actions (most notably his famous July 1909 sector claim) were aimed more at enhancing his own fame than at securing Canada's title to the Arctic. The article places Bernier's Arctic career in its proper context, and at the same time highlights the contributions of other men who lacked his flair for publicity. It thus provides a more accurate factual basis for future work on the period. Copyright

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0032247410000537
Journal Polar Record
Citation
Cavell, J. (2011). 'A little more latitude': Explorers, politicians, and Canadian Arctic policy during the Laurier era. Polar Record, 47(4), 289–309. doi:10.1017/S0032247410000537