Custos Borealis : the military in the Canadian North
The notion of the Canadian North is best understood as the region beyond the frontier of civilization defined by the national road and rail grid. The northern frontier has continually receded in the face of encroaching development to where today, the North could be defined roughly as encompassing the Yukon and Northwest Territories--the lands and seas "North of 60". Strategic perceptions of the North have changed several times during the twentieth century. Initially, the North was simply ignored; later--by the mid 1930s--it was perceived as a strategic barrier more formidable than either the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. During the Second World War and the Cold War, with the views of the United States in the dominance, the area was seen as an approach--initially to Europe and Asia; later to the heartland of North America. In contemporary Canada, the North is seen as having instrinsic value, and as such is deserving to be watched over, protected and, if necessary, defended. Military forces have been involved periodically in the North since the days of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898. The intensity and degree of this involvement has reflected the changing perceptions of the North. Military presence can be analyzed as relating to defence, protection of sovereignty and national development, although naturally many specific programs have overlapped. American involvement, starting with the United States' entry into the Second World War and continuing into the present has been extensive' but primarily concerned with defence. Military activity has been a significant factor in the development of northern infrastructure both as deliberate national development programs and as the by-product of defence-related construction activities. While the military has had a considerable impact on the North, the northern fact has had surprisingly little impact upon the Canadian military. The Canadian Forces are just beginning to comprehend the unique aspects of the North and to develop programs and policies appropriate to contemporary northern realities and the assigned military responsibility to be Custos Borealii--Keepers of the North.