The Geography of the Canadian North: Issues and Challenges


284 pages
Contains Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-19-540772-5
DDC 917.19




Reviewed by Joseph Leydon

Joseph Leydon teaches geography at the University of Toronto.


The discussion in this classical regional-geography text progresses
logically from consideration of the physical landscape to human
occupation, the resource base, and issues of development.

The conflicting perceptions of Native “homeland” and non-Native
“frontier” are pivotal to the author’s discussion. From the
frontier perspective, development and resource extraction are
inseparable. Massive government spending, investment by transnational
companies (both Canadian and foreign), and megaprojects epitomize this
approach. Bone maintains that this investment has produced mixed
results. Development has been uneven, the profits have accrued to the
heartland rather than the North, and the environment has been subject to
severe environmental deprivation.

Further, the author argues that this development has ignored the Native
population, that Native participation has been low, that little of the
wealth generated has seeped into the Native economy, and finally, that
resource companies have shown a disregard for Native lifestyles. The
Native view of the North as “homeland”—manifest in a lifestyle
dependent on trapping, hunting, and fishing—has come under
considerable stress as resource extraction has endangered the land base.
Exclusion from development and the threat to their lifestyle has
reinforced Native identity and contributed to their campaign for
land-claim settlements and self-government. For the Native community,
the resolution of both these issues offers protection for their way of
life and heralds a new approach to development.

Bone recounts a litany of problems associated with the polar
North—harsh climate, isolation, the profit drain to the heartland, the
continual boom–bust cycle, environmental deprivation, and poor
educational qualifications among Natives—but he offers few solutions.
Also requiring more detailed examination are the substantive issues of
land claims, Native self-government, and environmental deprivation. The
text, essentially a synthesis of the existing literature, lacks fresh
interpretations and insights. Although the seasoned scholar will find
little new in this book, it is an important contribution to the
geographical literature and a valuable teaching resource.


Bone, Robert M., “The Geography of the Canadian North: Issues and Challenges,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,