What is Canada’s Only International Border?
Single-time visitors to the Twelve Mile Circle seem acutely interested in Canada’s international borders. My web logs register variations of this Search Engine query probably daily. Sometimes it’s offered — I think — as a trick question on trivia quizzes or contests. Maybe it’s part of a school geography class homework assignment. It’s difficult to tell. Highly specific phrasings do tend to arrive in clusters though if that’s any indication.
The answer hinges upon how someone chooses to define an international border: does it apply exclusively to land borders or can water borders be considered too?
Canadian Land Borders
This is the easy one. Canada shares an international land border with only one other country, the United States. It is the longest border in the world at 8,891 kilometres / 5,525 miles (5,061 km. / 3,145 mi. is on land and is marked with boundary monuments; 3,830 km. 2,380 mi. is on water and is identified by unmarked turning points or a parallel of latitude).
It is broken into two segments with the "smaller" segment forming a border between Canada and the U.S. exclave of Alaska for 2,475 km (1,538 mi). Canada is the largest nation that shares a land border with only one other nation, hands down, no contest. An International Boundary Commission keeps it all neat and tidy.
Canadian Sea Borders
Canada shares sea borders with two nations other than the United States.
I’ve written about the French Territorial Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon (Collectivité territoriale de Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon) previously. To briefly review, these islands just off the coast of Newfoundland are the sole remnant of the vast North American colony of New France under French control today.
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They are situated as close as 10 km. / 6.2 mi. from dry Canadian land (Green Island). Its territorial waters most definitely abut Canadian waters.
Canada also shares a water boundary with Denmark along the Kennedy Channel between Ellesmere Island and Greenland. This answer may change in the future. Greenland is an autonomous constituent country within the Kingdom of Denmark but it has been progressing steadily towards full independence.
Denmark and Canada agree on on all boundary distinctions except for one small residual issue, the ownership of Hans Island. It’s just a speck but its claimed by both nations. As with most of these types of disputes it has little to do with the land and much to do with the natural resources that may be hiding in surrounding waters.
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As far as border disputes go, this one’s pretty lame. No green line separating antagonists, no Demilitarized Zones and no patriots dashing past guard posts to plant flags in a desperate attempt to reclaim land seized by invading armies. Yet, every once in a while, someone will stop by a frozen hunk of rock about 1,100 kilometres south of the North Pole between Greenland and Ellesmere Island and leave either a Canadian or Danish flag and bury either a bottle of rye or a bottle of brandy – and claim the 1.3-square-kilometre Hans Island for either Canada or Denmark.
For a geo-oddities aficionado such as myself, there can be only one solution: split the island between Canada and Denmark (which seems to be supported by a recent Canadian measurement), thus creating a true land border. This 1.5 km boundary would become an instant classic for geographic trivia contests everywhere. I could even imagine travel and tourism opportunities that would help bolster the economies of small Inuit communities in these remote lands.