The tectonic setting of northern Laurentia prior to the opening of the Arctic Ocean is the subject of numerous tectonic models. By better understanding the provenance of detrital zircon in the Canadian Arctic prior to rifting, both the prerift tectonic setting and timing of rifting can be better elucidated. In the Sverdrup Basin, two distinct provenance assemblages are identified from new detrital-zircon U-Pb data from Lower Triassic to Lower Jurassic strata in combination with previously published detrital-zircon data. The first assemblage comprises an age spectrum identical to that of the Devonian clastic wedge in the Canadian Arctic and is termed the recycled source. In contrast, the second assemblage is dominated by a broad spectrum of near syndepositional Permian–Triassic ages derived from north of the basin and is termed the active margin source. Triassic strata of Yukon and Arctic Alaska exhibit a similar dual provenance signature, whereas in northeastern Russia, Chukotka contains only the active margin source. Complementary hafnium isotopic data on Permian–Triassic zircon have εHf values that are consistent with the common evolved crustal signature of the Devonian clastic wedge detrital-zircon grains and Neoproterozoic–Paleozoic basement rocks in the Arctic Alaska–Chukotka microcontinent. Furthermore, newly identified volcanic ash beds throughout the Triassic section from the northern part of the Sverdrup Basin, along with abundant Permian–Triassic detrital zircon, suggest a protracted history of magmatism to the north of the basin. We interpret that these zircons were sourced from a magmatically active region to the north of the Sverdrup Basin, and in the context of a rotational model for opening of Amerasia Basin, this was probably part of a convergent margin fringing northern Laurentia from the northern Cordillera along the outboard edge of Arctic Alaska and Chukotka terranes. In Early Jurassic strata, Permian–Triassic zircons decrease substantially, implying the diminution of the active margin as a sediment source as initial rifting isolated the Permian–Triassic source from the Sverdrup Basin.