The 3 Countries That Border Canada

Written by Justin Sexton
Updated: November 1, 2023
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A small flag of Canada on the background of a blurred background

The maple leaf on the Canadian flag has represented Canada’s identity since the 19th century.

©BUTENKOV ALEKSEI/Shutterstock.com

Canada is a well-known country that is known for much more than just hockey and maple syrup. It’s known for its rich history, unique music scenes, and ever-growing popularity in sports outside the Toronto Raptors and the defunct Vancouver Grizzlies who relocated to Memphis decades ago. The home of the Hollywood North is the second largest country in the world behind Russia. Its history is rooted in the French colonizing the land around the 1500s. French and English are the official languages and the capital is not Toronto, but Ottawa. There are a total of three countries that border Canada. They’re composed of one VERY well-known land-based border for Canada and two lesser-known maritime borders.

The United States shares a physical border with Canada, while France and Denmark have maritime borders.

1. United States

International Border Crossing. Sunset at the Blue Water Bridge border United States and Canada crossing. The bridge connects Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario.

Sunset at the Blue Water Bridge border United States and Canada crossing

©ehrlif/Shutterstock.com

The longest international land-based borderline is the Canada/United States land borderline. It currently spans thirteen states and over five thousand miles. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 established the first known borderline for the two countries. Thanks to the United States expansion, multiple revisions were made over the next hundred years. Originally, the deal didn’t cover the Great Lakes and land outside of Louisiana.

Alaska, which is one of two states not located in the United States mainland, was originally Russian territory before the United States purchased it in 1867. Alaska and Canada’s border was first established in 1825. However, it was a border between Russia and Canada and not with the United States.

There were several disputes about the land distribution between Canada and the United States after America purchased Alaska in 1867. An international tribunal stepped in to settle the dispute between the two countries over the boundary in the Alaskan Panhandle in 1903. They would fix the boundary officially in 1905.

The Oregon Treaty of 1846 established the Northwestern borderline between the United States and Canada. It settled a dispute between the two countries over the area of Oregon that’s between the 49th parallel and the Columbia River. They had the joint occupation of Oregon in 1818.

What If You Cross The Border By Accident?

Mexicantown Welcome Center sign in Detroit, Michigan/Wayne County/United States. Taken ‎July ‎17, ‎2020 near the US/Canada border.

Mexicantown Welcome Center sign in Detroit, Michigan/Wayne County/United States. Taken ‎July ‎17, ‎2020, near the US/Canada border.

©MichaelAnthonyPhotos/Shutterstock.com

There are numerous ways one can accidentally enter Canada. It’s a common mistake, especially in Detroit, Michigan. When someone drives on I-75 in Detroit, there’s a specific sign on exit 47-B which states “Bridge To Canada: No Re-Entry To The U.S.A.” Sometimes people miss seeing that sign and cross the bridge by accident. There are no grave fines or punishments if someone accidentally enters the country. In a statement in the Detroit Free Press, the Customs Border and Protection Public Affairs Chief Kristoffer Grogan stated:

“Once it is clear that outbound travel was not intended, and the vehicle is determined to be clear of contraband, motorists are escorted from the area and is free to resume travel to their intended destination.”

Floating Through The Great Lakes

Canada and The United States don’t have an official maritime border within the Great Lakes. It’s assumed that the land border divides the Great Lakes until one hits the shores of either country. News stories of people floating from the beaches at the Great Lakes circulate media every now and again. A 2016 CNN publication covered how over one thousand five hundred people accidentally floated into Canada! The annual Port Huron float event quickly went sideways as harsh winds and rain pushed the massive group across the St. Clair River into Sarnia, Ontario Canada. The Americans were all taken back home via buses.

The two countries have maritime borders across Maine and around the Vancouver area. A decision from the International Court of Justice in 1984 established the maritime border at The Gulf of Maine. However, there are still ongoing debates about the maritime borders in the Northwestern part of the United States above Washington and the Vancouver, Canada area as well as the Great Lakes. Today, the Gulf of Maine is the only established border between the two countries. The other maritime borders are debated to this day.

2. France

Saint Pierre Lighthouse. Saint Pierre, Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

Saint Pierre Lighthouse at Saint Pierre and Miquelon owned by France

©Henryk Sadura/Shutterstock.com

Canada shares a maritime border with the country of France. The maritime border is between the Saint Pierre and Miquelon islands of France and Canada’s province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The islands are fifteen miles away from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The first part established the twelve-mile military sea boundary in 1972. Yet, it didn’t resolve all the matters. There were several disputes over the maritime rights of fishing between the two countries. Eventually, Canada established a several hundred-mile exclusive fishing zone and France soon followed suit.

Unfortunately, these matters affected the fishing market for the two countries. It soon began many disputes. Years later, an arbitration court composed of the United States, Italy, France, Canada, and Uruguay formed the tribunal court. Once an arbitral award was given twenty years to the countries, it provided an access corridor for Saint Pierre and Miquelon. It grew the border further south from the islands.

3. Denmark’s Maritime Border

Panoramic view of colorful Kulusuk village in East Greenland - Kulusuk, Greenland - Melting of a iceberg and pouring water into the sea

Panoramic view of the colorful Kulusuk village in East Greenland. Denmark claims Greenland as a territory.

©muratart/Shutterstock.com

Canada shares a three-thousand-mile maritime border with Denmark as it separates Greenland from the Canadian mainland. Denmark claims Greenland as their territory. It originates in the North Atlantic Ocean, follows a course across the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay, and stretches to the Arctic Ocean. Fortunately, an agreement was reached between the two countries to establish a borderline in 1973.

Canada and Denmark’s Historic Land Border

However, the two countries established the world’s newest land-based border in 2022! On June 14th, Canada, Denmark, and the Danish territory of Greenland reached a historic agreement. The two countries clashed heads for decades about the ownership of Hans Island for decades. The half-mile rock island is between Greenland and Canada’s most northern island, Ellesmere Island. The decades-long debate began after the maritime border was first drawn on a computer. Hans Island is located in the middle of the Kennedy Channel. The immediate value of the island is a hunting ground for the natives.

The long debate between the two countries began the “Liquor War”. The oddly named war came from how the countries acted towards the matter. In 1984, Canadians left a Canadian Flag and a bottle of Canada Club Whiskey on the island. Denmark would do the same with their flag, a bottle of Gammel Dansk Schnapps, and a message that stated: “Welcome to Denmark.” Both countries would make this a tradition for many years.

The countries had to make a decision due to climate change warming up the Arctic region. To close out their historic “Liquor War”, the two parties had an endless whiskey bar to celebrate the historic occasion. The border splits the small Hans Island in half and is 3/4 miles long. Not only did this put their “Liquor War” to rest, but this agreement also settled small issues relating to their maritime border. Their maritime border is the longest one in the world at 2,412 miles.

Summary

Overall, Canada shares borders with three countries. Casual people would only know about the mainland border between the United States and Canada, but there are technically three countries that border Canada. The United States shares a land-based border and a maritime border with Canada. However, there are still disputes over other maritime borders in the Northwestern parts of the United States at Washington.

France and Canada share a simple maritime border dividing the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and two small French islands. France and Canada’s differences were the least complicated.

Denmark and Canada are now in a small club that has both maritime and land borders alongside the United States. Canada and Denmark established their maritime border in the 20th century. Yet, it began their famed “Liquor War” over Hans Island. Fortunately, the friendly war ended in 2022 as it divided the small island in half.

Summary of the 3 Countries That Border Canada

CountryType of Border
1United StatesPhysical
2FranceMaritime
3DenmarkMaritime

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/husayno


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About the Author

Justin is an A-Z Animals Writer that loves to cover places, unique natural disasters, and travel. He has eight years of experience as a writer in the medical and media fields. He wrote for the likes of VCU Health, theMSQshop, PayDay LA, and Comic Book Resources under the penname Jay Guevara. Although he's a full time writer, Justin graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019 with a Bachelors in Health, Physical Education, and Exercise Science with a background in Community Engagement. After spending over two decades in Richmond, Virginia, Justin now resides in the suburbs of Rancho Cucamonga, California. He's a dedicated gymrat. He's also a two-time poetry author who's influenced by rappers Joe Budden and IDK along with Dante Alighieri.

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