Bill C-3 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.
This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 1st Session.
John Baird Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment amends the definition “arctic waters” in the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to extend the geographic application of the Act to the outer limit of the exclusive economic zone of Canada north of the 60th parallel of north latitude.
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention
May 4th, 2009 / 12:30 p.m.
Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC
moved that Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, Canada is an Arctic nation, an Arctic power. The Arctic and Canada's north make up more than 40% of our land mass. We occupy a large part of the Arctic. The Arctic and the north are integral to our national identity.
Over 100,000 Canadians live in our three northern territories: Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, our newest territory.
The north also includes portions of Canadian provinces characterized by northern conditions. Many of those living in the north are Inuit and first nations whose ancestors have inhabited the region for thousands of years.
The history of Canada's presence in Arctic lands and waters establishes and supports our sovereignty over the region.
Bill C-3 is a powerful demonstration of Canada's commitment to and leadership in the Arctic. This government's commitment to demonstrating Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic is unprecedented, particularly the government's northern strategies fourth pillar, which is to protect our environmental heritage. Because Canada is sovereign over its lands and waters up to the Arctic point, we should apply the environmental safeguards needed to protect this unique piece of our identity.
Our government is doing that by ensuring the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act applies to the full extent of Canadian Arctic waters. It will do so by extending the application of the legislation from the current 100 nautical miles from shore to the full 200 nautical miles permitted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
As many international law experts have stated, the bill is an action that should have taken place a long time ago. Once again, this government is showing leadership and a comprehensive strategy with respect to the Canadian Arctic. I commend my colleague, the Minister of Transport, on this important amendment.
It is important that members of the House understand the origins of the legislation as a significant demonstration of sovereignty over Canadian Arctic waters.
Members of the House should note that the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act was originally enacted in 1970, in response to the voyage of the U.S. oil tanker SS Manhattan through the Northwest Passage in 1969. The Manhattan was the first commercial attempt to navigate the Northwest Passage and signalled the arrival of technological advances that permitted the construction of ice-reinforced oil supertankers.
Even though the voyage of the Manhattan took place with the consent of Canada and with the assistance of Canadian icebreakers, it was nevertheless viewed as a trial run by commercial interests to test the feasibility of year-round transport of oil by sea from fields in Alaska to facilitate on the northeastern U.S. coast through the Northwest Passage. However, the difficult ice conditions experienced at the time confirmed that even at their annual minimum extent in September, there remained significant challenges to vessels navigating these Canadian waters.
Nevertheless, the Manhattan demonstrated the potential for growth of commercial transportation through the Northwest Passage, due to technological developments, and focused attention on the growing risk of potential consequences of a major oil spill occurring in ice covered waters.
It was in this context that the Parliament of Canada passed the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to underscore Canada's commitment to protect the Arctic environment and its resolve to exercise sovereignty over Canadian Arctic waters.
Canada's ratification of the UNCLOS in 2003 provides an additional international legal basis for the proposed amendments in Bill C-3. Prior to the conclusion of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, in 1982, international law did not recognize the concept of a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone as it does now.
Today there is no question that the exclusive economic zone provides coastal states, such as Canada, the legal authority to exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction over living and non-living resources up to 200 nautical miles from the shore, including important rights with respect to the prevention of marine pollution.
Canada also benefited from UNCLOS through the inclusion of an additional provision, further recognizing the legality of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act under international law. Canadian negotiators were successful in including article 234 within UNCLOS, permitting additional rights for Arctic coastal states, such as Canada, within ice covered water. Article 234 is commonly referred to as the Arctic exception and is the product of negotiations between Canada, the United States and the then Soviet Union.
It is beneficial to consider some additional international legal considerations of the proposed amendment. Some states have differing interpretations with respect to the international legal status of the various waterways known as the Northwest Passage.
For example, in 1988 Canada and the United States concluded a bilateral international co-operation treaty concerning the transit of U.S. government icebreakers through the Northwest Passage. This agreement, resulting from an initiative of former President Reagan and former Prime Minister Mulroney, allows Canada and the United States to continue to maintain differences in the interpretation over the international legal status of the Northwest Passage by literally agreeing to disagree, while on a practical basis allowing movement of icebreakers through the Northwest Passage on a basis within the best interests of both states.
The legislation under consideration would not affect provisions of this agreement. As a matter of policy, Canada is nevertheless willing to permit international navigation in and through the Northwest Passage, so long as the conditions established by Canada to protect security, environmental and Inuit interests are met. These measures include, for example, pollution monitoring and control under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, which we are now considering.
As marine traffic to the north increases, our government will adapt the regulations and systems already in place to protect Canadian interests. Our government has also pledged an enhanced surveillance and military presence in the Canadian Arctic waters. We are also implementing an ecosystem-based approach to ocean management in the Beaufort Sea and elsewhere.
As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I am committed to strengthening our bilateral cooperation with other Arctic nations. That is why I will be touring circumpolar capitals to promote the Arctic and Canada's interests in the region.
We have some interests in common with our Arctic neighbours—Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland—and we have a lot to learn from their experiences.
We are looking at how trade, innovation and investment can contribute to sustainable development in the north.
Partnership with Arctic countries must rest on a solid legal foundation, and Bill C-3 is an integral part of that foundation.
I would like to emphasize that Bill C-3 is yet another means of exercising Canadian sovereignty over its Arctic waters. By extending the application of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act from 100 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles from shore, Canada will give full effect to the sovereign rights permitted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. These rights were secured in large part by Canadian negotiators. Their inclusion in UNCLOS constitutes international recognition of Canadian domestic legislative action over its Arctic waters through this act.
By passing Bill C-3, the Parliament of Canada, the government and Canada will take an important step to ensure that the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act applies to all Canadian Arctic waters and to ensure proper stewardship of this important Canadian region for future generations.
I look forward to the support from all parties on this important amendment.
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention
May 4th, 2009 / 12:50 p.m.
Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON
Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to this bill on a personal basis, as well as a representative of the Liberal Party, Her Majesty's official opposition. As an individual Canadian, and I am sure like all parliamentarians in this House, I welcome the fact that the Government of Canada, any Government of Canada, takes a proactive measure that says what we are going to do is advance the cause of Canada; we are going to advance the interests of Canadians; we are going to promote all those things that make us richer, not just in financial terms but in cultural, social and political terms as well, and more productive for all to see—in other words, that we want to take our rightful place in the world. We see that. We do that with great pride.
The minister, as I said in my intervention a moment or two ago, addressed the issue of this being a powerful demonstration of our commitment to the north, to our claims in the Arctic, and our willingness to take a rightful position in the north, and in fact, in the entire world. Then he said, as well, it is without precedent.
So we want a powerful demonstration of defence of Canadian interests.
Do members know how much we want that, those of us from the official opposition, those of us who work here but want to carry on the tradition of Liberal governments that looked out for the interests of Canadians throughout the ages in all aspects of Canadian interests?
In 1970, so much for unprecedented, the Canadian government of the day, that of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, passed the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. It is the basis for Bill C-3, because that act gave the legislative powers to the Government of Canada to not only outlaw waste disposal in the north, but regulate a wide range of fields, including the construction standards of ships using the Arctic. It contained enforcement powers and a regime of civil liability for 100 miles and left the opportunity to extend that an additional 100 miles to be included in Canada's exclusive economic zone.
One might add, why did we not do that then? Did we not recognize Canadian interests should expand and extend that much further?
I will go back to the issue of unprecedented action. Governments of the day would appear to have had a rather mature approach to making claims, ones that the minister opposite just recognized, but we cannot do it unless we are in a diplomatic environment where other people recognize those interests, realize that they are legitimate, and are prepared to support them. Otherwise we have to engage in some military tactics in order to get our point across.
The government of the day continued its diplomatic efforts, and I noted that, reluctantly, the minister opposite conceded that, yes, there was some further activity in 1982 when, pursuant to that Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, we signed on to an internationally accepted and mandated authority to extend those rights in what is, of course, the UN Law of the Sea, in article 234.
So we have had this authority for quite some time. One might say, why did we not extend it further? Why did we not do that before? One could pose that today in a petty partisan fashion, because after all, the government has been in office for three years and did not think this was important until now. But we are not going to do that, because we recognize that things change and as they change they demand different approaches by governments of the day.
One of those changes, of course, has been global warming and its impact on the navigability of Arctic waters. Because of the navigability of those Arctic waters being improved, there have been a series of interests by various governments and by various private sector organizations that decided they needed to look at the potential of the Arctic.
Keep in mind, it is the potential that is there. For example, scientists coming from the United States Geological Survey went and examined the potential of the subwater beds for conventional energy sources. Ever since the first oil crisis, people have been talking about the shortage of conventional energy resources, basically those that are petroleum-based, natural gas.
What did this centre discover? Well, it discovered that the Arctic holds some 13% of undiscovered conventional petroleum sources are resident in the Arctic. This is an estimated number and we are willing to allow that they may be wrong, that it may actually be underestimated. A further 30% of natural gas deposits may be resident in the Arctic. That is 30% of all potential in the world and a further 13% of natural gas liquids resident in the Arctic of all potential in the world.
We can imagine that there are people who are interested. What did they do? They have to look for indicators. For example, Shell recently paid $2.1 billion for the lease rights in Alaska, in the Arctic Circle. BP did something similar to the tune of $1.2 billion. These companies put money where their interests lay. Exxon contributed something like $585 million, according to a recent newspaper article, for similar rights.
These companies, private sector corporations, interested in exploiting the potential that is held in secret by Arctic waters and ice are now looking at the potential to go and make exploration and economic development. They are doing it.
Countries, on their part, are beginning to do the exploration necessary to see to what extent they can lay their appropriate claim to that territory. We saw the Russians do it recently.
Government members opposite say, “Baa haa haa, that was a gimmick”. Maybe not so much more of a gimmick than that of the Minister of National Defence who decries the fact that the Russians are going in overflights on Canadian territory without telling us, and then we find out not only is that not an accurate reflection of the truth but it is also a distortion of the reality.
Then we find that the Minister of Foreign Affairs says, “We are going to do this. We will not tolerate anybody incurring into our territory”.
Why did he have to do that? According to the minister's speech a moment ago, he was to establish a diplomatic environment where we could advance our cause. Why, for example, would he not then go to the Chinese, who are already taking a look at the possibility of moving a lot of their transport through that Northwest Passage, using the warming that appears to be taking place in the Arctic waters in order to take a look at the economic competitive advantage they want to establish through different transportation modes down the road, building ice breakers and ships that can navigate in waters where icebergs are the norm, and where ice floes are a natural part of the environment and where thick ice may have to be blown over to one side in order to allow this navigation.
They think this navigation will give them a competitive advantage in the transportation field. Rather than use other means, they are going to go through the Northwest Passage to deliver their goods to Europe, not to Canada and North America but to Europe.
So we can see that the interest is there. The Chinese, by the way, contrary to what the Minister of Foreign Affairs would have suggested a few moments ago, are already very busy indicating to the entire world that they are going to consider that passage as international waters.
The minister can claim, all he wants in this House, that there is a powerful demonstration of the Canadian government's willingness to do something, but I think that the facts tell us a different story.
The Americans have already said, “You can say what you like, but this is what we're going to do and, by the way, if you want to do it with us, we'll give you a face-saving way to get out”. However, please do not tell us that this is an unprecedented act to advance Canadian interests. Let us say that this is a necessary item that brings full circle the initiatives that were begun in 1970 and then we will deal with things in a mature fashion because that mature fashion then takes a look at how to protect those interests.
We want to protect the environment. We are well aware of what the four pillars of a northern strategy are. We put them forward from this side of the House many years ago. We do not need to be reminded that they now have a different name and that we are going to try to spin it differently. The fact of the matter is we want to protect the environment. We want to protect the interests of the indigenous population, we want to develop the economic potential that is resident in the north, and we want to expand our position internationally because it is our position.
Not only are we custodians of the environment of the people in the north, but we are the proud heirs of the work done by others. Let us not turn our backs on the work that has been done by others, even if it was done by those with a different partisan stripe.
We took a look at this in committee and members will probably know that the committee said it wanted to support this. A mature approach would say, yes, but we must be prompted by care and due diligence. We need to take a look at what the other part of the government's claim is and that is that this is, again, a very powerful issue and that we are going to do everything we can in order to protect Canada's interests.
For those who are following this debate, they need to understand that the implementation of Bill C-3 is one that says we are going to expand the Canadian territory by an additional 500,000 square kilometres. That is the equivalent of a province the size of Saskatchewan. There are very few countries in the world that are the size of Saskatchewan. That calls to mind immediately the need to engage in diplomatic negotiations with other countries in order to recognize that claim.
More importantly, it then imposes a responsibility on the Government of Canada to ensure that it can do what it says it must do under the four pillars of a northern strategy, an Arctic strategy, that safeguards the environment, promotes the interests of the people who are indigenous to the area, allows Canadian economic interests to be advanced, and allows for us to advance our political leadership in that area.
One would ask, “What are the measures the government is putting in place to substantiate that?” The committee began to ask that question. For example, Mr. William Adams, the chair of the Defence Science Advisory Board, referred to the fact that we will have great difficulties in the case of environmental cleanups because there is a growing probability of a major oil spill.
Émilien Pelletier is a professor at the Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski at the Université du Québec à Rimouski.
He says that, “In cold water, after just 48 to 56 hours, oil turns into a sort of pudding that is difficult to pick up. It then becomes impossible to recover”.
What do we have as a measure to prevent that from occurring? Environment Canada officials, who appeared before the committee, said that Environment Canada does not have a mandate to enforce the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. That is problem number one. If we do not have the authority to enforce it, why do we claim that we have powerful instruments at play?
Transport Canada officials said that surveillance and enforcement are limited to, are members ready for this, a single Dash 7 airplane and access to satellites. A single Dash 7 airplane to cover the territory equivalent to the province of Saskatchewan. Mr. Speaker, that is your home province. Can you imagine one single plane, a Dash 7, patrolling all of Saskatchewan? Except that this territory is spread out over a longer distance and is limited by the amount of fuel that it can carry, given the climatic situations governing flights like those of the Dash 7. Just imagine.
The general public in listening to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, applauds the fact that the government has powerful instruments to enforce our interests. A Dash 7 to survey incursions into our territory. We know they are coming. The Russians have said they are going to do it. The Chinese said they are going to do it and the Americans said, “to heck with you if you want to stop us”, especially with a Dash 7.
Now they are not the only ones. Did not the Minister of National Defence, in a moment of bravado, suggest that if the Russians want to continue their incursions into Canadian territory, whether it be by air or by sea, that they would find us ready? Well, it appears that his own officials said no, the Department of National Defence does not have a mandate to enforce the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. I do not know whether bluster is allowed to replace fact but the government is trying very hard to establish that principle.
Now hold on a moment, I think I said initially that this was a transportation bill because it was presented by the Minister of Transport. He appeared before the committee and said that in order to have a truly effective legislation, we must have a government that presents legislative items and measures in order to enforce it. We must be proactive, we cannot be reactive and we need to back that up with real action.
I wonder whether he talked to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of National Defence, Minister of the Environment, and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Why? Because the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for the Coast Guard. Oh, Coast Guard officials before the committee said that they do not have any plans to increase northern capacities in order to assist the enforcement of Bill C-3.
We wonder whether the measures to back up a piece of legislation that we know is the logical conclusion of legislative initiatives by Liberal governments starting in 1970 going to 1982, are ones that we find ourselves having to support. We saw the critic for the Bloc Québécois stand and say the Bloc will support this bill. The government has enormous goodwill from everyone, I dare say even the critic for the NDP will stand and say the NDP supports the bill. Heck, I am critic for transport on this side of the House and we find that we want to close the circle.
However, we cannot accept the government putting a claim down for a bill that skims over its competence to deal with the issue of enforcement and the issues that deal with international cooperation. The minister talked about the issues of consultation and that officials from his department said that most Arctic neighbours who were consulted, although we do not know who they are, did not express concern about Bill C-3. That is imaginable because it is consistent with the normal flow of the first initiatives in 1970 and 1982.
The United States has asked us for more information and the Russians have expressed some concerns but nowhere did they say that they would be as observant about Bill C-3 as we would like them to be.
We will support Bill C-3 because we must support Canadian sovereignty but we have the reflections of concern about the government's competence to handle our interests in an international affair.
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention
May 4th, 2009 / 1:20 p.m.
Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC
Mr. Speaker, this is the second time I have spoken about Bill C-3. Many people here are wondering why the debate on this issue is escalating.
The bill focuses on preventing pollution in Arctic waters. If we look at what has happened in the past few years, we can see that this is a growing issue that is garnering a lot of attention not only here in Canada, but also in circumpolar countries and international forums.
This issue has grown recently in part because of climate change, which is speeding up. Like it or not, the Northwest Passage is opening up, with all that that implies.
It is not just the circumpolar countries that are concerned about the extent of their respective sovereignty. With the Northwest Passage allowing shipowners to shorten shipping routes and with the extensive deposits in the Arctic, as shown in American geological studies, it is no wonder the debate is heating up.
I have been attending the NATO forum regularly for the past few years. I recall very clearly making a comment at NATO four or five years ago. As we all know, NATO is a large political and military organization. I had asked if the Northwest Passage, which was going to be opening up over the next few years, would change the geopolitical situation of the entire planet, whether militarily, environmentally, economically or culturally. My speech fell flat because no one seemed to realize the importance of the situation.
This issue now comes up on a regular basis in Brussels, which illustrates how important it is. I would like to give some examples, because I think there are some international shipowners who will be very happy about the opening of the Northwest Passage. I have here the distances travelled by a ship from London, England to Yokohama, Japan, for instance. The ship would travel 23,300 km if it goes through the Panama Canal, 21,200 km if it goes through the Suez Canal and 32,289 km if it goes around Cape Horn. The Northwest Passage shortens the journey to 15,930 km.
As we can see, there is a big difference. The distance between New York and Yokohama or Hamburg and Vancouver would also be shorter. The journeys nearly everywhere are shortened. Distances are shortened by using the Northwest Passage.
Knowing how private enterprise works and how shipowners operate, and with everything that has happened around the world recently, everyone is chasing the buck. People are not even maintaining their ships. People do not care if there is another Exxon Valdez in Canada's far north. People do not care if a ship goes through, runs aground and causes an enormous environmental disaster. Clearly, shipowners and business want the cheapest, fastest passage possible, with the least amount of regulations.
That is why it is important to have this debate, and this goes beyond increasing the limit from 100 miles to 200 miles. It is only normal that it should go further. As I said, it will have major economic, cultural and environmental repercussions.
So what should we do about it? I understand why Canada wants to prove that these waters have always been part of its territory. Canada believes that these waters belong to it. I also understand why others disagree. The region holds tremendous resources, so it is not surprising that other nations, particularly circumpolar nations, have taken a keen interest in this matter and dispute Canada's claim. The United States is a typical example. The Americans do not believe that these waters necessarily belong to Canada. They consider them to be an international waterway. There is no need to wonder why.
There are a lot of resources and fossil fuel deposits in the region. I think that the Americans are trying to position themselves for access to those resources. That is to be expected, and we understand their position, but we also have to understand what Canada's goals are in this regard.
I want to take a few minutes to talk about something that few people ever mention: the importance of Inuit and first nations people in the far north. These people have been ignored for so long. The far north was such a difficult and challenging environment that few people ever went there. Now, even with global warming, those who do go must be very well equipped because a minor incident can quickly turn into a major tragedy. For many years, centuries even, the government ignored the people who have been living in the region since time immemorial: the Inuit.
An excellent article by the leader of the Bloc Québécois, on why we must promote and work with the Inuit of the far north, appeared in the paper today. It is very important because it is their land. Those who challenge this fact should reread their history books. They were here well before white people arrived in America. There is still no consensus about their origin and where they came from. And yet, they live there. When something happens in the far north, we generally forget that they were there before anyone else. Therefore, it is important that they be consulted knowing that this human presence in the far north, which goes back to time immemorial—as they like to say—is probably the most significant factor in defining Canadian sovereignty.
I had the honour and the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for seven years. It is only by travelling to the far north that we can appreciate the significance of their presence and admire how they have been able to survive in such an inhospitable climate with such rudimentary means. For centuries before the arrival of snowmobiles they used dogsleds. I remember the first time I arrived in Davis Inlet. The Inuit leader came to collect me with a sled harnessed to a snowmobile. It was about -25° and I was not dressed warmly enough. My experience of the conditions they have to contend with kindled my great admiration for them. That is the reality in the far north.
Yet the Canadian government rarely consults the Inuit about policies that have to do with the far north. In our opinion, Arctic development hinges on the Inuit, who are recognized as Canadians. The government must see these people as vitally important. At the time, there were four areas for the Inuit: Labrador, northern Quebec, Nunavut and the Inuvialuit in the far west. Gradually, they made demands and set up governments. They do not enjoy full autonomy or complete self-determination, but the governments that came before the Conservative government always conceded that they were entitled to some autonomy and gave them self-government with the right to certain territory. Today, those territories have parliaments. It is important to continue to do that. The government must recognize that the Inuit presence is an important element in Canada's policy on Arctic sovereignty.
The bill before us has many implications. I could go on at length about the environment, but everyone knows that this bill serves to assert Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic. Starting on the archipelago and all the islands, if we extend the exclusive economic zone from 100 miles to 200 miles, we are laying claim to more land.
That is not enough because, as I said earlier, some nations covet the major deposits and the shipping lanes in the Arctic. Canada will have to assert its sovereignty in the far north in various ways.
The Standing Committee on National Defence is currently conducting a study on this issue, and when various departments appeared before that committee, I was very pleased to see that the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs was responsible for coordination. Naturally, other very important departments are involved, such as Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. Another department that also plays an important role is National Defence.
I would just like to caution, though, that we will never deal with this issue by militarizing the far north. It is absolutely impossible. I often ask how long the Canadian navy could stand up to the U.S. navy if we did not get along and we decided to take on the Americans and bar the way to an American frigate. Canada's fleet would soon be on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. We would not last very long. The same thing would happen if we were to take on the Russian navy, which has a whole slew of nuclear submarines.
That is not going to solve the problem. That is why I agree somewhat with the member who spoke before me, and with others. The government should not attempt to exercise its military might in the Arctic. That would be counter-productive. The government cannot walk the talk because Canada simply does not have that kind of military capacity. That is not the right way to do it.
However, the Department of National Defence does have a role to play, as it always has. Think of the DEW line, the distant early warning line, a radar network built in the 1950s to keep an eye on what the Russians were sending our way back when the Russians and the Americans were global superpowers. The government watched what the Russians were up to by building a radar network that covered nearly 5,000 kilometres. That was important at the time.
As an aside, that network is proof that we have not done enough on the environmental regulation front, which is so important. We have an awful environmental mess in the far north because of that network. Whole barrels of toxic materials have been left behind in the far north, where the ecosystem is very sensitive. Now we have to try to fix that because the entire food chain is falling apart as a result. Canada has to do something about the environment, and extending its jurisdiction from 100 to 200 miles is part of that.
The armed forces have a role to play. They should conduct land-based exercises. We have the right to do so because we occupy that territory. We should also conduct exercises in the air. My colleague mentioned a single Dash 8, but we have more than Dash 8s up there. Auroras are patrolling the area too. There has also been talk of using drones, which cost a lot less. A similar strategy has been proposed for Afghanistan. It is a lot cheaper to conduct surveillance of a coast or the far north with drones than with planes that weigh who knows how many tonnes, have motors that pollute and have to be maintained. Military drones are important right now.
The navy, meanwhile, can send frigates, but it cannot do so with aggressive intentions. Indeed, as I was saying earlier, we are not in a position to stand up to the Americans or Russians if we decided to go the military route.
Another very important aspect is being developed at this time, and that is monitoring those who use the passage. Did they tell anyone they were coming? How did they enter the passage? Where are they going? From a military perspective, satellite observation will be very important. I had the privilege of visiting MDA Corporation in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, which manufactures RADARSAT-1 and RADARSAT-2. It also made the Canadarm. It will be extremely important in our far north. Satellite observation will be very important. Furthermore, National Defence can be asked to contribute, in terms of military force.
Incidentally, I was pleased that the Canadian government stopped the transaction with the Americans.
We all understand that if MDA—which is sending its RADARSAT-1 and RADARSAT-2 satellites into orbit for observation—were to be controlled by the Americans, they could decide to enter into our marine space. For instance, an American submarine could surface in the far north. We all know that if the Canadian government asked the American government for satellite imagery from a particular date and time in order to see if an American submarine had been in Canadian waters, they would probably tell us that they did not have that imagery. We would have no way to confirm that.
Thus, it was very important that we maintain control regarding the issue of satellites and this will become even more important. We have invited MDA and COM DEV, two companies that work on satellites, to come and give a presentation on the far north to the Standing Committee on National Defence. It will be interesting to follow this.
The bill also addresses the environment and the importance of establishing—I will not say regulating—environmental standards. As I was saying earlier, it must be the most cost-effective route for shipowners or those who travel the passage. Consequently, there must be as few regulations as possible. We must be vigilant and ensure that the environment of the far north is protected always.
The Department of Foreign Affairs also has a role to play. The last time Foreign Affairs representatives appeared, they were accompanied by an official who I personally found to be very arrogant. They did not seem to think that there was a need for an international treaty. I do not see how we can function without one. The treaty could begin by setting out that government to government diplomacy, and not military authority, would be used to settle disputes in the far north. In my opinion, we could consider this.
Those watching may not be aware that there is a United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which currently has a very important role to play. I was surprised to note that it just extended Norway's continental shelf by 230,000 km2 in the direction of the North Pole. Some people are now starting to say that that could result in the overlapping of areas claimed by Norway and Russia. This dispute will have to be settled by independent and autonomous nations, that is sovereign nations.
Therefore, it is important to know that this commission has a role to play. Yet, the fact that it recognizes such boundaries does not give them the force of law. What often becomes law is an international treaty and then international courts must untangle the Gordian knot. As far as we are concerned, Canada is continuing with its study of the continental shelf because it is important.
How can we address the issue of sovereignty? I talked a bit about this earlier. I spoke about occupying the land, and I want to come back to that if I have time, but there is also the scientific issue. Denmark and Canada are looking at this together. That is what I have been told. They are looking at the shelf that extends under the ocean, from the edge of the continent. How far that shelf extends is critical.
It is clear that circumpolar countries such as Russia are saying that their shelf goes further. Canada is saying the same thing. That will have to be settled eventually, and we will see what the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has to say. But we will have to sit down with our friends and colleagues in the far north to reach a peaceful, diplomatic, non-military agreement.
I call on the government to stop acting tough on this issue. When we are faced with someone who is stronger than we are, we can try to say we are stronger, but we know we are not. Acting tough will get us nothing but a punch in the nose.
We should take a diplomatic approach. We should go through the international courts. We should use scientific studies on land occupation from time immemorial. Then we will have the right arguments to defend Canadian sovereignty.
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention
May 4th, 2009 / 1:45 p.m.
Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-3. We in the NDP came out in support of the bill at second reading. After a fairly rigorous examination of the simple bill in committee, we felt we could continue to support it. It really does not have any negative aspects other than the fact that it is unable to provide the level of protection through the actions of the government, which a bill like this would tend to make people think would come.
Bill C-3 extends coverage of our environmental laws to 200 miles offshore, but in evidence given in committee, it was quite clear that this new limit really only applied in one part of the Arctic, and that is the area adjacent to the Beaufort Sea, now covered with ice. As the witnesses demonstrated in committee, there was no traffic at all into the region the bill was designed to expand our control over. It is covered with ice and no ships are entering other than perhaps research vessels or the Canadian icebreaker.
The area is not under dispute between different countries. This is a rather innocuous change but it is an important subject. That is why all of us are standing up one after the other to talk about it. That is why we took time in committee to look at all aspects of Arctic development and had witnesses appear from a variety of government departments and a variety of other concerns. The Arctic is important and what happens there is extremely important. What happens to the Arctic in terms of climate change will change the ice coverage in the area we are extending our jurisdiction over.
There will be more traffic. There will be other uses coming forward, whether it is shipping, tourism or other things. It is important that we join the rest of the world in understanding how we can deal with the Arctic. One of the key aspects we have to approach is our relationship according to how the other countries of the world, which have a stake in Arctic waters, approach the issue.
I had the opportunity to attend, on behalf of my party, the Ilulissat, Greenland meeting. As well, last summer I had an opportunity to visit with the Arctic parliamentarians when they met in Fairbanks, Alaska. I had a chance to learn about the attitudes of people across the world toward Arctic waters and to hear questions about the change in the nature of the Arctic ice cover to the importance of Arctic resources.
Quite clearly, the government needs to continue to expand its international presence on Arctic issues. When the government took office three and a half years ago, it had the attitude that it would use the Arctic sovereignty issue as a political football to enhance its image as standing up for Canadians. In some ways, that is exactly the wrong approach to take.
It is not a question of Canada's status in the Arctic. We have great status in there. Our status has come through our work, along with other countries, to ensure the Arctic is developed and used in a responsible fashion.
I am pleased to say, at the meeting in Tromso, which unfortunately I was unable to attend but which I have followed very closely, the 2009 Arctic marine shipping assessment report was delivered. That report has been in the making for a number of years. It speaks to many of the issues in the Arctic and it speaks to them on the basis of all the Arctic countries, which I think is a very useful approach.
When it comes to sea ice, what does the marine shipping assessment say? There is a possibility of an ice-free Arctic Ocean for a short period of summer, perhaps as early as 2015. This would mean the disappearance of multi-year ice, as no sea ice would survive the summer melt season. To people who live and work in the north, this is a truly frightening occurrence. We are completely changing the nature of the Arctic.
What does the retreat of Arctic sea ice over these recent decades mean? It has improved marine access to some degree, although when we talk about particular shipping lanes, we talk about the fact that when we take off, we will see a lot more movement of ice through the areas as well, as the ice cover comes off. There will be more pack ice moving through. There will be more intermittent access than perhaps steady, free access to that area.
We will see changes in coastal ecology and biological production. We see that in the types of fish that are coming around the coast of Alaska from the Pacific Ocean and that are starting to show up in the nets of fishermen on the Arctic coast.
On the other side, we see that the change in the melt ice has created a situation. This was talked about today on the radio, the decreased level of salt in the waters off the coast of Labrador and those areas. Those things are happening right now.
There are adverse effects on many ice-dependent marine mammals. We have the issue of the status of the polar bear, which came up strongly last year. We also have increased coastal wave action. That plays out very much in my riding on the Beaufort Sea, where the lack of sea ice cover has increased the type and severity of the weather there. Once again, we see these problems.
From the marine shipping assessment report, what is one of the main items that are considered? The most significant threat from ships to the Arctic marine environment is the release of oil through accidental or illegal discharge. In committee this was raised by the parties, through their witnesses, and the answers were much less than satisfactory. The answers that Environment Canada had for its enforcement or its ability to get out there and find out what was going on were very limited. The technology development in which we were all interested, in terms of how to ensure that these—
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
May 4th, 2009 / 3:25 p.m.
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to Bill C-3.
Of course the Liberals will be supporting this bill, because this is additional modernization support for the bill of the Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau of 1970. This bill will basically make a small administrative change to that bill. As international law extended the sea boundaries that countries could have, we needed a local administrative change to extend the boundary that Canada could have.
We are delighted that the Prime Minister is so strongly supportive of Pierre Elliott Trudeau's bill, the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, the AWPPA, of 1970. At that time it brought in very sweeping changes to the protection of the Arctic, leading the world to show that Canada was serious about the Arctic waters.
It gives rules related to the deposit of waste in the Arctic. It gives rules related to someone who may be doing work that would lead to the deposit of waste in the Arctic. They have to get a permit, which could be rejected or modified. It gives rules about control over shipping zones in the Arctic. It gives enforcement provisions. It also gives instructions on the types of ships that can go in that area. They are in dangerous, ice-filled waters, and they need to have special ships that can handle that dangerous area.
When the bill was first enacted, Canada's boundaries and other countries' boundaries were 100 miles, but when Canada joined the law of the sea, in 2003, an international law was changed, giving us a limit of 200 nautical miles. The bill, of course, then has to be adjusted to keep up with international law. So this is a 10-line bill that makes that administrative adjustment.
One might think that lengthy debates here and in committee are much to do about nothing, but the minister and officials from various departments have brought up a number of issues and ramifications related to this bill and what needs to be done to deal with those. I am going to be following up, primarily on the comments made by those people in committees, and the other considerations that may need to be taken into effect when we are increasing Canada's control over something in an area that is bigger than one of the prairie provinces.
Of course it becomes increasingly important to have this type of pollution control and monitoring in the Arctic waters because of the melting of the ice cap. For small periods in 2007 and 2008, for the first time in history, the Northwest Passage, which I like to call the Canadian passage, was actually navigable. The ice cap in the Arctic was 39% smaller in 2007 than its average in 1979 to 2000.
This leads to more commerce. According to the marine shipping report that just came out, as a previous member mentioned, there were 6,000 shipping activities in Arctic waters over the time period of a year. If the Northwest Passage were to be an international strait, there could be overflights by other countries, which of course we do not want. There are thousands of overflights over the Arctic now. I will be talking about some of the aspects that are very important to prevent that.
One of the major concerns that all parties have raised about this is their lack of faith in the government's will and ability to monitor this. If we take authority over a much greater area, we have to make some steps to protect it.
Toronto is a very large city, with thousands of police officers. What if we said we would take over policing of another equally large city but we were not going to provide any more police officers? Would that not be absurd? We would have authority that would go unmonitored and unenforced. Not only would it be a laughing stock but it would be a very dangerous situation, because how could they then enforce in the areas they can take care of?
All the parties have brought up their lack of faith in the government to enforce. The government reinforced this in committee. When asked this question by all the parties a number of times, it basically confirmed that it has no plan and no additional resources for enforcement. There was nothing in the budget to increase enforcement. So how can it deal with that?
I think it was last summer that there was an explosion in the Arctic. The government was nowhere nearby. A couple of weeks later, a submarine surfaced. Once again, that was confirmed by our arctic peoples. The government did an investigation. As Canadians, we were not told what it found out about that whole situation. Not only is government not there and not telling Canadians, but now it is adding this huge area that is the size of Saskatchewan with no ability to monitor it.
The minister himself said the government has to exercise, and be seen to exercise, effective control over merchant shipping in the Canadian Arctic. Well, it is not there now, and it is not providing any more resources. Believe me, the government was asked about this numerous times in committee, and no department would say how it would deal with this massive increase in monitoring and change. This is an area that is larger than my riding, the Yukon. It is roughly half a million square kilometres.
The minister suggested that the environment department had some of the monitoring. He was a former minister of the environment. But then he was asked how many ships or planes the department had to monitor it and he had no idea.
In the very dynamic Liberal convention we just had on the weekend with 3,000 delegates, the delegates came up with a resolution, one of the 32 resolutions, to increase aerial surveillance and naval patrol of the Arctic, because it would seem it is not being accomplished by the present government.
We can also remember when we created a satellite, which is part of what is needed. It certainly cannot do the job alone. You need a kaleidoscope of forms of surveillance depending on the situation. A Canadian company built a satellite, and it was about to sell it to the United States. We fought and fought, and finally they did not allow that sale, thank goodness. We would have lost some of the limited surveillance we already have.
Two of the previous speakers suggested that in committee someone had said there was a single airplane to surveil this whole huge area: a de Havilland propellor plane. I do not remember that, actually. I had thought someone had said there were three planes: one for the Pacific Ocean, one for the Atlantic Ocean and one for the Arctic.
I, and a professor who deals with the Arctic, had a good laugh over that. I think a one propellor plane for the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean, or indeed the Arctic Ocean with the world's largest coastline, is a little insignificant.
People have this impression that the government is taking care of arctic sovereignty. In fact, I think if people in the provinces were asked, they would say, “Oh, yes, they are doing things. They are announcing things. They are talking about things”. I would invite anyone in the provinces to tell me one of those things the government has actually done. Which one is finished? Which one is there? Which one is accomplished?
The Prime Minister, when he first came in, and this was quite a while ago, announced that three icebreakers would be built. The government broke that promise in the first throne speech and budget. We pushed and pushed, and finally a couple of years later the government announced that in the distant future it would build one of those three, breaking the promise on the other two.
There was an announcement about ice-strengthened supply ships. Then that order was cancelled. There were to be planes for Yellowknife, and that order was cancelled.
I think it is great to have this bill. We support it to extend our authority, but we really need to do something about monitoring that authority.
I want to also talk about, in that area, a pet project I have been working on for a number of years now, which is search and rescue.
There is not a single search and rescue plane in our major fixed-wing fleet north of 60 and yet, the government goes to international conferences. I was at the one in Ilulissat where the five nations of the north made agreements on how we would work together related to extending boundaries in the Arctic under UNCLOS. We talked about Canada being part of a new search and rescue demand in the north. We have had thousands of overhead flights and incursion of boats. Well, of course we need more search and rescue. But we do not even have search and rescue for our own Arctic people north of 60. This is a failing. Once again, it is great to talk about the north, but we really have to come forward, and produce and take care of northerners.
Another reason I support this bill strongly is because it builds on the four pillars of Paul Martin's northern strategy. People who were not here at the time might not remember. This was probably the most major announcement and largest press conference I have seen in my nine years in Parliament. I do not think in history there has been a press conference with so many ministers there, all announcing the Arctic strategy for the north. It was over in Hull. It showed a dedication not just of one department, INAC. All federal departments had to follow the prime minister. One of those pillars of Paul Martin's strategy was sovereignty, and this of course builds on that. Others were the environment, economic development and governance, and I am going to talk about those shortly.
However, I want to read one of the rationale's for sovereignty in this bill that the government used in debate that allows us to make this extension, allows us sovereignty over this 200-mile limit.
I have given a copy of this document to the translators. For new members of Parliament, I know the translators in the translation booths in the corner appreciate it if they can have documents in advance that members are going to read from or in fact their speeches if members have written them.
This is article 234 that Canada created and worked hard to get into the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This deals with ice-covered areas. It is very important for this and other bills that Canadians know about this particular clause in the Law of the Sea. It states:
Coastal states have the right to adopt and enforce non-discriminatory laws and regulations for the prevention, reduction and control of marine pollution from vessels in ice-covered areas within the limits of the exclusive economic zone, where particularly severe climatic conditions and the presence of ice covering such areas for most of the year create obstructions or exceptional hazards to navigation, and pollution of the marine environment could cause major harm to or irreversible disturbance of the ecological balance. Such laws and regulations have due regard to navigation and protection and preservation of the marine environment based on the best available scientific evidence.
So, this clause is a great support for us to move forward with this bill regarding ice-covered areas. It would give us the authority to have these major enforcements that Pierre Elliott Trudeau put in the bill in the first place.
However, my question, which the minister has heretofore been unable to answer, is this. If this is the basis for the bill, this clause in the Law of the Sea that gives us authority to do these things in ice-covered areas, then what happens when this area is no longer covered in ice?
As I said earlier, in 2007-08 the area was free of ice. For the first time in history, the waters were navigable for some time. So, where is the authority to continue our implementation of these strong measures in that area and what are we doing to move forward on that?
The minister also mentioned IPY. He had come back from the Arctic council and he was actually very proud, apparently, and I did not quite catch the drift of his remarks, but I think he was saying there were 57 Canadian projects there. And of course, those were funded under the $150 million that Anne McLellan, when she was deputy prime minister, set aside. So Canada has been a leader. I think we all owe a great deal of thanks to Anne McLellan and the finance minister of the time, who is now our House leader.
Now, that time is virtually over, however, we need to continue to commit those moneys to the north. I hope the government will take seriously the requests from scientists and people working in the Arctic council to provide money for permanent monitoring, so that we have ongoing statistical records of the Arctic. We cannot let it all die now that International Polar Year is over.
The other pillar of Paul Martin's northern strategy, and I congratulate the government for continuing that strategy going forward, is governance. The INAC minister I believe spoke about Arctic sovereignty at the defence committee. He said:
Our deputy minister chairs a committee of deputies that meets on a regular basis to ensure that initiatives already announced as funded are being implemented--
Later he stated:
--but we haven't finished the business of land claims.
That is true. The biggest issue for aboriginal people in the north is the lack of appropriate implementation of land claims. I hope that the government follows the statements from its own officials. I hope the deputies follow that up as a priority in the meetings they are having. There is a conference in a couple of weeks. I hope the government has strong force, learns about the problems that have been brought up year after year, and deals with them first and foremost.
It was interesting that the minister today actually talked about leadership at Arctic meetings. I am delighted he was at the Arctic council because over the years the present government has been a bit of an embarrassment at Arctic meetings by sending lower level officials. Previously, the foreign affairs minister always attended and we have been very negligent in recent years.
Can members believe that the position of polar ambassador was cancelled? Can members imagine a government that wants people to think it is serious about the Arctic and yet cancels the position of Arctic ambassador? We have missed many opportunities to have a high-profile ambassador at many Arctic meetings over the years and there is no sign that the position is going to be reinstated, but we are going to keep fighting for it.
What came out in the hearings on this particular bill was the fact that oil spills could occur in the Arctic and could not be dealt with. When the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities was introducing the bill in committee, he talked about great resources of oil and gas, that 33% of the world's remaining gas and 25% of the world's remaining oil should be developed in the Arctic and that it would bring great resources to Canada. Basically, the Conservative government has just cut that off.
How has it made it impossible for the natural resources to be developed? It made it impossible by not doing the research, which I have asked for a number of times, on oil spills in the Arctic. Witnesses such as Mr. William Adams from the Beaufort project has done great research in this area and Professor Émilien Pelletier explained that after 56 hours there really is no chance of cleaning up an oil spill in the Arctic. It is not technically possible yet from what we know.
We need to do the research, so let us get it underway and stop cancelling our scientists in the north, like the Manitoba centre that is closing, the environmental centre that the government is going to close in Eureka, the cancelling of the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, and the hundreds of researchers that would otherwise have been in the north.
The INAC official stated, “I'd also like to draw your attention to the science and technology element--”, and that is of the northern strategy, “--which is really foundational and cuts across all pillars, because it really is the basis of knowledge to inform good decisions on all the pillars”
The senior official of the government must be horrified at all the cuts to scientists that I have just mentioned. In fact, even the minister said weather stations, climate change, research and scientific work are all important. He must be horrified at his own government cutting all the scientists in the north.
Economic development was mentioned and I want to go on record and say that I hope there will be a major office for that in Whitehorse. I also wanted to reinforce what the member for Western Arctic said. We must begin discussions on the hundreds of square miles of disputed land in the Beaufort Sea, so we can get our fair share of those resources.
I will just close by saying that it is important to protect the sea in the north. In the conservation caucus that Parliament had a couple of weeks ago, a book was brought forward, Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis, showing that life on earth could end by the deterioration of the seas, mostly by pH but by other pollutants, even before climate change causes these disastrous effects, and this is very important.
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
May 4th, 2009 / 3:50 p.m.
Linda Duncan Edmonton Strathcona, AB
Madam Speaker, I rise also in support of Bill C-3. The expansions of the ambit of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act are welcome and long overdue, but I would also like to speak to what we need in tandem with this measure, what is missing and where we need the current government to commit.
We need concerted action in a number of frameworks. It is not simply me who is standing up and saying this. We are hearing this from the other Arctic nations. We are hearing this from scientists who have just gone through two years of intensified polar research and are identifying a lot of critical actions that need to be taken by the government in tandem with other Arctic nations and to get the support of other nations around the world for those who border on the Arctic and are at risk.
We need concerted action to expand exponentially Canadian investment in polar research. At a time when the scientists have told us that they are just beginning their research and are making absolutely groundbreaking discoveries about the value of the Arctic to the world, the funding has ended.
This is a time when we should be stepping up to the plate. Canada should be taking the leadership. We have lands that border right across the Arctic. We are laying claim to the interests in being able to benefit from the resources that the Arctic can provide us. It is incumbent upon us to stand up in the international arena and say that we need all the nations, not only those bordering the Arctic but worldwide, to put resources in, to match any funding that we put in, to research further what the impacts might be once the Arctic melts, sadly, and as activities begin to step forward in oil and gas extraction, mineral extraction, and simply, shipping across the Arctic.
We hear from even the Canadian polar researchers that the Arctic ecosystem is at severe risk. It is extremely sensitive. It is already suffering the effects of climate change. There are already unbelievable changes occurring to the Arctic, not just the Arctic ice shelf breaking off but new areas that we were previously unaware of.
For example, the Arctic scientists are discovering freshwater lakes that are created when the ice melts and moves towards the land. It has created lakes we did not know about before, and there is a rich diversity of biota in those lakes that we have only begun to study. Similar to the tropical rainforests to which we turn for solutions in terms of major cancer research, and so forth, it may well be that the biota of the Arctic is even more important, which is all the more reason for us to intensify our research and send more researchers up to the north to document this knowledge.
We also need to seek the advice of the polar scientists in developing our policies on northern development and negotiation strategies at international tables. It is absolutely incumbent upon us in this country that we base any determinations on the future of the Arctic on science, and that has been sadly lacking. We need to be intensifying that money. It is not enough to simply do the research; we need to turn to those very scientists to advise us on what kinds of measures need to be taken. These include deliberations on climate change, resource extraction, water resources and wildlife.
Dr. Warwick Vincent, a renowned polar researcher from Canada, gave a presentation on the Hill about a month ago, and much to everybody's surprise, revealed information that nobody knew previously about the Arctic, such as the freshwater lakes that we previously did not even know existed. We did not know how they were created. He is crying for support from parliamentarians to continue the research, to continue to give the support so that Canada can benefit from that information and he can continue to work in tandem with researchers from around the world.
This is not a time to be pulling out the Canadian researchers, to be shutting down those research programs or stations. This is a time to be working in tandem with scientists around the world so that we can show leadership.
This is also the time to stand up for the Arctic environment and northern communities. We need to put those interests at the forefront, not just petroleum corporations' right to develop, not just the right of Canadian interests in oil and gas development and mineral extraction in the Arctic, but to make sure that any development that occurs in the future is actually for the benefit of Canada, particularly for the northern communities.
We need to provide leadership at the international level at the UN climate change tables. Climate change is one of the critical reasons we need to step up to the plate and speed up our research and our negotiations with countries around the world on protecting the Arctic and making sure that there is a regime in place to protect the Arctic and prevent any kind of unfortunate impacts. The last two successive governments, the current government, has simply dragged its heels on this issue.
For heaven's sake, let us not embrace the fact that the Arctic is melting and say that is great news because we can expand oil and gas extraction. Let us do our best to slow that down until we can make sure that kind of development is done in a safe way that benefits Canada and does not simply leave us with a huge liability to try to clean up the mess left behind not just by other countries' mineral extraction and oil and gas activity, but unfortunately, possibly our own mess, if we are not ready to address those impacts.
We need to take a stronger stand in the Arctic Council. It was formed in 1996. Eight Arctic nations signed the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy. Where is Canada in taking the forefront and the leadership? It is our Arctic on which there is an impact. It is our Arctic that we wish to claim.
We need to pay more attention and put more resources into our position at those tables. We need to be sending ministers to those tables. We need to be sending the Prime Minister of Canada to those tables and declaring that we care about the Arctic; the Arctic is ours.
We need the other countries around the world to step up to the plate and take joint action with us. We want to proceed in a co-operative way.
Given our limited capacity now in the Arctic, there is no way that Canada is going to be able to address the kinds of activities that are speeding along as the Arctic melts. We are going to have to work co-operatively with other nations. We are going to have to share from their resources, their icebreakers, and share in their research knowledge. This is a time to show co-operation, not competitiveness.
I know full well about the Arctic Council, and I know about the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy. When I was the assistant deputy of resources for the Yukon government, I had the privilege to participate in that strategy on behalf of the Yukon government at the science table, not just in terms of scientific discoveries but to make sure that those discoveries moved into law and policy so that we would have a binding, clear framework for the northern governments and for the federal government and to make sure that all those levels of governments were included in any strategies at those international tables. It is incumbent upon us to take a stronger stand at that table.
Surely we should be raising the issue of the Arctic at the U.S.-Canada energy security and climate change table. Perhaps we are, but we do not know for sure because it is a secret table. We have had no report from the government about whether there are joint co-operative ventures on protecting the Arctic and making sure that North American interests are protected against other nations as we move forward and as we benefit from those resources.
We also do not know whether at those tables with respect to security in energy development there are joint discussions about co-operation between the United States of America and Canada to make sure that we gear up to have the proper equipment and staffing, and so forth, to actually protect and have surveillance in the Arctic. It would be worthwhile to have the ministers come back to the House and tell us whether the Arctic issue is at the table in those bilateral discussions.
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation was created quite some years back. This commission created a council of environment ministers, which includes the United States of America, Canada and Mexico. Why not use this commission and the council of ministers to further the dialogue about ensuring the environmental security of our Arctic? Surely we could initiate some projects through joint funding.
Why are we not showing leadership in advocating for an Arctic treaty? Canada is fully participating in the Antarctic treaty. It seems absurd that we are not championing the cause for a similar treaty for our own Arctic. So I would encourage the government to step up to the plate and be at the front of the line, pushing for an Arctic treaty. It can do nothing but benefit Canada's interests.
It is all the more critical for the Arctic because of the sensitivity of the Arctic environment, but also because, unlike the Antarctic, the Arctic is populated—with Canadians. So it is all the more important that we make sure that we have a treaty of nations around the Arctic and that we ensure that the provisions of that treaty put at the forefront the interests of Canadians and Canada's northern environment.
Are we raising these issues in our law of the sea and our MARPOL discussions? Are we making sure that the tankers that are going to be coming through the Arctic have improved standards, that the hulls can withstand the Arctic ice and that there is capacity for spill cleanup, that the spill response recovery funds are large enough to respond to the disasters that could occur in the Arctic and how complicated it will be to actually address spills?
What is most important in the Arctic is that we prevent spills, so we need to be taking action now to make sure that any development that occurs in the Arctic prevents impacts. After the fact will be too late.
We need to have expanded measures to protect the interests of the Arctic communities. We need to make sure that in terms of any kind of development that occurs in the Arctic, whether it is simply shipping traffic or whether it is oil and gas or mineral extraction, we think first and foremost of the impact on the harvest rights of the northern communities and to ensure that those communities are secure and that they are given a benefit and direct interest in any development.
We need to push for stronger standards and enforcement for tanker traffic and other vessels. As I mentioned, we need to make sure that we have spill prevention. After the fact will be too late. We need to learn from the Exxon Valdez spill, but for heaven's sake, we need to learn from the Wabamun Lake spill of bunker C oil. We cannot address the impacts once these kinds of spills occur; there is just no way of knowing.
I experienced that first-hand with the bunker C's oil spill in Wabamun Lake, and to this day, scientists have no idea what the fate of that oil spill is and the long-term impact on that freshwater lake. All the more so for the Arctic, an extremely fragile environment, what are we putting in place to make sure that we can respond to those spills? We do not even have the naval complement or the coast guard complement right now to address those spills, and neither does the U.S., so we need to be stepping up to the plate really quickly.
We are told by the scientists weekly that the ice is melting far faster than previously forecast. Are we putting the appropriate resources into making sure that we are ready for that? Do we have the readiness for security of the Arctic? Do we have the ships? Do we have the crews trained? Do we have all the impacts assessed and the appropriate responses? As the member for Yukon mentioned, do we have the search and rescue capacity? Certainly not at this point in time. We have very small populations up there and very little ship and crew capacity.
We are extremely vulnerable in the Arctic, and who is more vulnerable than the very communities that live in the Arctic. They have small, dispersed populations. They have minimal capacity for emergency response, even less capacity than we had in the Exxon Valdez and the Wabamun Lake spills. They have a very limited capacity for evacuation in the event of a major disaster.
I am told the naval capacity is extremely limited. There has been no Canadian navy icebreaker in the Arctic since the 1950s. There is no current capacity to enter the Arctic waters' significant ice cover. The majority of the Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers are near their end of life. We cannot rely on U.S. support, because it is in the same state as we are in terms of shortage of equipment.
Naval analysts are raising serious security issues for this development in the Arctic. They are saying there is very little ability worldwide across the Arctic for spill response and that we face serious problems with shipping security. We have no way to deal with an incident where we have nuclear devices or some other kind of explosive device coming across the Arctic, landing in our lands in the Arctic and then heading down across Canada by rail or air. Right now, there is no strategy that we are aware of.
I want to close my remarks by mentioning prescient comments by renowned author and journalist Alanna Mitchell, who gave a presentation to the parliamentary international conservation caucus just a week ago. She has issued a new book, called Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis. What she has presented to those who were fortunate enough to hear her is a real wake-up call, that while we are trying to get our government to actually address climate change, we have a far greater crisis occurring in our oceans. Apparently, if we lose the land base, the life in the oceans can continue; but if we lose the life in the oceans, the land base will cease to exist. So it is time for us to be putting a lot more resources into paying attention to the fate of the oceans, particularly the Arctic Ocean, which is extremely sensitive.
I will close my comments today with a comment from the internationally renowned author and journalist, Ed Struzik, who is published widely on the Arctic and has recently published a book on the fate of the Arctic under climate change. He states:
In the not-too-distant future, the forces of climate change are going to transform this icy world into a new economic frontier. The end of the Arctic will be the beginning of a new chapter in history. The Age of the New Arctic remains to be written.
I would say to the government, to its credit, introduce these new provisions, extend the ambit of the scope of the Government of Canada to protect the Arctic environment from impacts, but, for heaven's sake, please table with us the government's compliance strategy and how it will actually enforce this expanded law with what is coming to us in the Arctic.
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
May 4th, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.
Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON
Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to lend support to Bill C-3, a bill to protect Canada's Arctic environment and sovereignty.
The Arctic grail, or Northwest Passage, was the water route through Canada's northern islands that explorers sought for three centuries.
In 1903, Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, waited months for the ice to sufficiently melt so that his vessel could be the first to successfully navigate the passage. In 1940, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police schooner began charting the grail's icy waters to demonstrate Canada's sovereignty over the north.
In the future, climate change and not navigational skill may turn the explorers' elusive dreams into a major maritime highway, with the nautical journey from China to New York reduced by 7,000 kilometres.
With climate warming, new passages will develop and Canada will be increasingly open to international traffic. Concerns will increase regarding control and regulation of shipping activities, environmental degradation and protection of northern habitats, and who controls the Arctic and its resources. About 25% of the world's remaining oil and gas reserves lie beneath the Arctic Ocean floor.
While the opening of the Northwest Passage and Arctic may be attractive, this could prove the ultimate test of our claim to Arctic sea sovereignty.
The Arctic coast represents almost 70% of Canada's coastline and stretches 165,000 kilometres from James Bay and Baffin Island to Yukon.
However, the Arctic, a region celebrated in our country's anthem, is under siege. In 1985, the U.S. sent its icebreaker, Polar Sea, through the Northwest Passage without asking permission of or informing Canada. In 2007, Russian explorers used a submarine to plant their country's flag on the seabed at the North Pole, 4,200 metres below sea level. Politicians bordering the Arctic saw the exercise as a plan to extend Russia's territory almost to the Pole itself and to lay claim to the vast energy and mineral resources below.
In the future, our Arctic may be vulnerable to airspace, surface, both maritime and terrestrial, and subsurface incursions. Canada must be able to monitor and recognize such invasions and enforce sovereign claims over its territory.
The North Pole is an international site administered by the International Seabed Authority. Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a coastal country has the right to control access to the 12 nautical mile shoreline belt along its coasts. A country can also control the resources under its coastal waters up to 200 nautical miles from its shores. More important, a country may expand its territory much further if it can prove that the rock formations underneath the water are connected to its continental shelf.
Therefore, some questions beg to be asked. What scientific data have been collected? What have we learned about our continental shelf? Will we be ready to submit this data to the UN commission by 2013? What new funding is necessary to support required research beyond the 43 projects that were under way in 2007 for the International Polar Year.
It is generally agreed that islands north of Canada's mainland belong to Canada, but what about the waterways? Will Bill C-3 determine who has jurisdiction over the waters separating, for example, Devon Island and Somerset, or Banks Island from Melville Island, as the channels dividing some of the islands in Canada's north are less than 50 nautical miles wide?
Will Bill C-3 support Canada's assertion that the Northwest Passage represents internal territorial waters? The United States, along with other countries, has argued that this water constitutes an international strait that any ship should be free to transit. However, there were only 11 foreign transits between 1904 and 1984, suggesting that the Passage was not used as an international shipping route.
If Bill C-3 does not protect sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, what action is being taken to do so? It is not enough to have an Alert military base some 800 kilometres from the North Pole when Russia staffs a year-round research base 60 kilometres from the Pole. It also is not sufficient to argue that the waters separating most of the islands in Canada's Arctic are frozen most of the year and in fact turning them into an extension of the land.
A stronger argument, however, may be that Canada's northern aboriginal and Inuit peoples use and occupy the land.
While most of the Arctic sovereignty disputes are between Canada and the United States, Denmark also has been involved. Perhaps the government could, therefore, give us a status update on Hans Island located between Ellesmere Island and Greenland.
Canada has not been doing enough to declare and enforce its Arctic sea sovereignty.
How might Canada strengthen its northern interests? First, the government must define sovereignty with elements of authority, control and perception, and with rights, such as jurisdictional control, territorial integrity and non-interference by outside states.
Second, the government must define how to exercise sovereignty. A former national defence minister stated that “Sovereignty is...exercising, actively, your responsibilities in an area”.
Third, the government must plan how to enforce both our sovereignty over Arctic waters, as well as the environment to the limits of our exclusive economic zone.
In addition, the government must also consider appointing a senior minister to lead an Arctic agenda and work with Environment Canada, Indian Affairs and Northern Development, National Defence, Natural Resources Canada, Transport Canada and territorial leaders, and purchasing more than one icebreaker as Canada's fleet will not be adequate once shipping increases.
According to the Senate committee report, “Russia's icebreaking capability is what empowers it to make a claim for a large part of the Arctic Ocean”.
Because the Prime Minister has stated that scientific inquiry and development are absolutely essential to Canada's defence of its north, the government must also consider the following: creating a national network of permafrost monitoring stations that northern communities and oil and gas companies could use to plan for future buildings, pipelines and roads; endowing a separate Arctic research foundation to support atmospheric, economic development, oceanographic and wildlife research; fulfilling a promise to create northern research chairs at Canadian universities; and reinvesting in the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences.
One hundred years ago, on April 6, 1909, Robert Peary and his team reached the top of the Earth. Five months later, when the group landed on the northern shores of Labrador, Peary sent a cable that made headlines around the world: “Stars and stripes nailed to the North Pole“.
We need to ensure that Canada remains sovereign over ours, the Northwest Passage, and the waterways between our Arctic islands. We need to ensure that we identify the true expanse of our territory. We need to keep our north, the “splendid frozen jewel...for which centuries, men of every nation...struggled...suffered and died”, Canadian.
I forgot to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Newton—North Delta.
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
May 4th, 2009 / 4:15 p.m.
Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Etobicoke North for sharing her time with me and for her thoughtful words on Arctic sovereignty and the environment.
There is an old saying that the road to hell is paved with the best intentions. In looking at Bill C-3, an act to amend the Arctic waters pollution prevention act, that is what comes first to my mind.
This proposed legislation is relatively simple in terms of its purpose. Bill C-3 amends the definition of “arctic waters” in the act to extend the boundary north of the 60th parallel of north latitude from 100 to 200 nautical miles offshore. This is most definitely a direction in which we must head.
The age of the north as an intense area of international interest is upon us. We are in a new reality. Steadily melting Arctic ice is not just exposing vast unexplored fishing stocks and mineral wealth; it has also made the Northwest Passage navigable in the summer. In September 2008 the MV Camilla Desgagnés as part of Nunavut Sealink and Supply Inc., NSSI, transported cargo from Montreal to the hamlets of Cambridge Bay. A member of the crew is reported to have claimed that there was no ice whatsoever.
An open Northwest Passage would cut 5,000 nautical miles from shipping routes between Europe and Asia.
Just about everyone agrees that the many islands that populate the Arctic to the north of Canada's mainland belong to Canada, but what about the water between them? Who, if anyone, has jurisdiction over the waters separating Somerset Island from Devon island, or Melville Island from Banks Island?
As stated by Donald McRae in a paper published by the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, “It must be demonstrated that the waters are the internal waters of Canada and that the waters of the Northwest Passage do not constitute an international strait”. Yet the Russians have planted their flag on the ocean bed at the North Pole 4,200 metres below sea level. Since 1994 the Russians have also staffed a research base, called Ice Station Borneo, only 60 kilometres from the Pole. Over the years Denmark has sent ice reinforced frigates and laid many claims to ownership over Hans Island. Just days before U.S. President George Bush left office, his administration asserted U.S. military sea power in a rebuttal to Canada's claims. The U.S. maintained the Northwest Passage is a strait used for international navigation.
Updating the act with new language to update our country's claims to the area is a natural progression of our sovereignty claims. It is something we on this side of the House support. However, at the end of the day there are too many questions that have yet to be resolved when it comes to enforcement and tangible actions associated with such an update.
Canada's call to action must include northern penetration by land, sea and air. We need to be prepared to defend our rights to our land in the world courts by building a strong case to what is rightfully ours. According to the United Nations Law of the Sea, we have until 2013 to stake our claim.
By sea, Canada needs super icebreakers that can make it to the outer reaches of our territory. We also need more medium-sized icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard that could be stationed as far north as possible. How many ships will be needed to get the job done by 2013? Do we build, lease or borrow the ships required? Do we have the people to fill the required positions? These questions have not been properly answered by the Prime Minister.
By land, Canada must look at establishing permanent settlements in the north that would offer air access infrastructure and safe harbours for the vessels that would venture north to do seismic testing and mapping and yet, there is no plan on how and when this will occur.
By air, Canada needs to monitor movements of others in the dispute and to track changes in the ice. We need a fleet of planes that can offer supply, research, and search and rescue capabilities.
Should Canada not be able to have a military plane in the air within six hours of any potential need, do we have additional airports planned for the north so we can properly reach all of our territory?
Once again, the government has deflected these kinds of questions by offering no specifics.
This bill will extend Canada's sovereignty over additional waters that would represent an area the size of Saskatchewan. This is significant. If Canada wants to step forward and make claims in the international arena, then dedicated resources are needed, a diverse and balanced plan must be drawn up and executed and, most important, we need to stop talking without any sort of bite behind our bark. The eyes of the world are not only on the north but also on the actions, or inactions, of the government.
Right now, Canada with regard to northern sovereignty and our ability to protect what we consider ours, is being laughed at, as is our environmental stewardship.
On a final note, recently I had a chance to speak to the CEO of the Churchill Port Authority, a man who was once an esteemed parliamentarian in his own right, Mr. Lloyd Axworthy. He spoke of the great promise of the north and how fragile the ecosystem is there.
We have a short window of time to do this right. This legislation, in its current form, is not there yet.
To conclude, I and my colleagues support the simplicity and necessity behind this bill. However, we are also looking for more than rhetoric and political posturing in working toward building strength and stability in protecting Canada's north. I hope the Prime Minister and the government will realize the intentions. I would love to support this bill, and once it goes to committee, we will see how we can deal with this. This is about our country's future.
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
February 23rd, 2009 / 3:15 p.m.
John Baird Minister of Transport
moved that Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand and speak to this very important legislation. I want to thank the House leader for recognizing just how important this bill is for the environment in the precious north.
The Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act is a small but important symbolic piece of legislation. Our vast Arctic region remains a Canadian icon known the world over. This government has taken unprecedented and historic steps toward keeping Canada's north safe. Bill C-3 is another example of this action.
Protecting Canada's Arctic waters from pollution is one of our government's key priorities. Our proposed amendment would double the geographic application of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act from 100 to 200 nautical miles midway between Greenland and the islands in the Canadian Arctic.
Presently, the discharge of waste is permitted at internationally agreed levels in the area between 100 and 200 nautical miles. Our proposed changes would disallow this practice and further strengthen the pollution protection regime in our Arctic region.
This was an important commitment that the Prime Minister made when he travelled, not just to Inuvik but also to Tuktoyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea to show his commitment to the Arctic and to environmental protection. This increased range would allow Canadian environmental laws and shipping regulations to be enforced to the fullest extent and give us greater control over the movement of ships through the Northwest Passage.
With this amendment, we are sending a message that Canada is tremendously serious about protecting our Arctic sovereignty and keeping northern waters clean. This complements other Arctic initiatives that this government has already put in place under the health of our oceans components of our national water strategy and initiatives, such as outfitting Arctic surveillance aircraft in order to help us track polluters.
In August 2008, the Prime Minister had the opportunity to travel to the Northwest Territories where he announced our intention to move in this important regard and today, once again, like the Prime Minister always does, he followed through with specific action.
Our Prime Minister reinforced that we believe in the “use it or lose it” policy when it comes to our Arctic regions. We made it clear that in Canada's Arctic we will play by Canada's rules.
The baselines around Canada's Arctic Archipelago were formalized in 1986 and are consistent with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and with the 1996 Oceans Act, which established an exclusive economic zone of up to 200 nautical miles off Canada's coasts, including around the Arctic Archipelago. Canada has jurisdiction regarding the protection and preservation of the marine environment, which is an incredible sensitive ecosystem, including the ice covered waters within the exclusive economic zone.
In 2003, Canada became a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Article 234 of the convention enables a coastal state to put in place special requirements for pollution protection in ice covered areas within its exclusive economic zone.
Extending the pollution protection from 100 to 200 nautical miles would enable Canada to exercise enhanced jurisdiction with regard to pollution control north of the 60th parallel. This extension will be consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea's article 234.
In addition, this government will act to ensure that new regulations under the Canada Shipping Act are in place for the 2010 season. These regulations will require the mandatory registration of vessels entering this expanded zone. There is nothing more fundamental than the protection of our nation's sovereignty and security and our government will continue to rigorously defend Canada's place in the world and our rightful territories, and the Arctic is no exception.
Canadians see in our North an expression of our deepest aspirations: our sense of exploration, the beauty and the bounty of our land, and our limitless potential. For too long, the federal government ignored the North. Its potential is still untapped.
One of our greatest prime ministers, John George Diefenbaker, made a tremendous priority of Canada's north. He, in fact, was one of the inspirations for the founding of Inuvik where the Prime Minister and I and a good number of members of the cabinet travelled this past August. The Arctic was also close to Prime Minister Chrétien, but the most leadership we have seen in this last century has been from this Prime Minister with respect to ensuring Canada's sovereignty is protected in the north.
To this end, our government has established a northern strategy that rests on four key pillars: northern economic development, protecting our fragile northern environment, asserting Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic and providing northerners with more control over their own destiny.
The expansion of coverage of the Arctic shipping legislation is directly linked to this strategy which commits our government to ensuring a sustainable and comprehensive approach to Arctic shipping.
The first pillar, northern economic development, is designed to encourage responsible development of the North's bountiful economic resources, ensure the health and good governance of Northern communities and provide jobs and opportunities to those living in these communities.
Strong worldwide demand for our natural resources increases the viability of resource exploration and extraction in Canada's Arctic. It is estimated that Canada's north possesses 33% of our remaining conventionally recoverable sources of natural gas and 25% of the remaining recoverable light crude oil. The discovered resource of the Arctic basin approaches 31 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.6 billion barrels of oil. The potential for resource extraction in the area is thought to be approximately 14.7 billion barrels of oil and approximately 433 trillion cubic feet of gas.
The second pillar, environmental protection, aims to protect the unique and fragile Arctic ecosystem for future generations. We must remain vigilant, especially in our north. Our northern environment is fragile, something people living there have always known. Potentially longer operating seasons and the increase in northern resource development may mean maritime activity in Canada's Arctic will soon increase and the passage of this important legislation will have a part in that.
In 1970, we acknowledged the fragility and special circumstances of waters north of 60 and established stringent measures of 100 nautical miles from shore, further than any country at the time. The original application of the act has not kept pace with the international convention and, as a result, Canada has not been able to exercise the full authority under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. The extension of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act would eliminate that gap.
The third pillar, sovereignty, asserts and defends Canada's sovereignty and security in the Arctic. Our government recognizes the challenges Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic could face in the future. In the coming years, sovereignty and security challenges will become more pressing as the impact of climate change leads to increased activity throughout this ecologically sensitive region. The defence of Canada's sovereignty and the protection of territorial integrity in the Arctic remains a top priority for our government.
To support Canada's position whereby waters surrounding the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, including the various traffic lanes known as the Northwest Passage, are internal waters, Canada has to exercise, and be seen to exercise, effective control over foreign merchant shipping in the Canadian Arctic.
Such control means having the ability to deny passage or facilitate shipping in Arctic waters and, at the most elementary level, to enforce Canadian law in the Arctic Archipelago and within the territorial sea of Canada and the surrounding exclusive economic zone.
The waters of the Arctic Archipelago are internal waters of Canada by virtue of historic title. This means that Canada has sovereignty over these waters. Canada must therefore move quickly to affirm and protect its sovereignty over this archipelago, including the navigable waters in it. We are working to strengthen our Arctic maritime security in the future. After all, maritime activity is critical to our Arctic communities. Getting fuel, food, medical and other supplies all depends on reliable and effective maritime shipping.
Arctic security is also key to Canada's security as a whole. All of these will assist in detecting and preventing criminal and terrorist activities that may pose a serious threat to national and international security. It also allows us to find those who pollute our waters and harm our northern environment. To that extent, our government has introduced new Arctic patrol ships and expanded aerial surveillance that will guard Canada's far north and the Northwest Passage.
Funding has also been committed for a new polar class icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. Most important, Mr. Speaker, and I know you will be very pleased to be reminded of this, it will be named after former Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and for the Arctic seabed mapping. Amendments to the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act would expand for an additional 100 nautical miles control over pollution and shipping compliance.
The last pillar looks at providing northerners with more control over their own destiny.
The 19,000 Inuit residing in the 15 communities along the coast of Ungava Bay and the eastern shore of Hudson Bay inhabit a territory with an enormous potential. With its wealth of resources and abundant fish and wildlife, Nunavut offers a world of possibilities to its inhabitants in terms of mining, outfitting, tourism, fishing and much more.
Our government is determined to ensure that those who live, work and raise children there can fully benefit from these significant opportunities.
With this amendment our government will help address concerns from Inuit communities regarding pollution in waters surrounding their homes and workplaces. Expanding the application of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to 200 miles improves Canada's ability to prevent ship source pollution from happening, helping to keep the Arctic waters clean.
Northern communities support clean and sustainable economic development in the north, as do all Canadians who want to protect the integrity of Canada's Arctic waters.
When I talk to constituents in my constituency of Ottawa West—Nepean, far away from the Arctic, there is a real sense of the value, that this is an important part of our great country, a precious part of our world. They believe we have a collective responsibility to ensure this important part of our country is kept clean and is kept free from the mistakes that we have made far too often over the last 200 years in southern Canada.
The north is relevant and important to all Canadians. Obviously, it is particularly relevant and important to northerners. The Minister of Health has brought this view to the cabinet table. I have had good discussions as well with the member for Western Arctic and the member for Yukon.
We have important responsibilities in this place to ensure we do everything we can to promote sound environmental practices and to ensure that we assert our sovereignty. That is more than just in a military sense, it is more than just in a natural resource sense, it is more than just in a fisheries sense, it is also very much in an environmental sense. That is why this piece of legislation was presented in the first session of this Parliament and has been reintroduced in the second session.
I want to thank members from all parties. There have been good briefings and discussions. I think Canadians would be very pleased if they looked at the work done by the transport committee in the last session of this Parliament and the constructive work that it has already begun to undertake in this Parliament.
I look forward to hearing from all members of the House and to advancing this important piece of legislation so that we can put this important law on the statute books.
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
February 23rd, 2009 / 3:25 p.m.
Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, the speech on Bill C-3 by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities sounded like an economic development speech. That may be the weakness in this bill. The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities was also the environment minister for a few years. Something here is very troubling. It is true there may be major reserves of oil and gas in the ocean’s depths. On the other hand, though, we are talking about the last reserves in the world.
I did not get the sense in his speech that we need ultimately to be continuing the fight against greenhouse gases, both for the people living in the Arctic and for the rest of the world’s population, so that there will be more ice in the Arctic—not less—and we do not make it disappear in order to have a shipping channel.
I certainly want this to happen, but the reality is that we are in one of the most sensitive areas in the world, and there was no sense in the minister’s speech that the Conservative government wants to attack greenhouse gases and try to restore a balanced climate to the Arctic. I would appreciate it if he could expand on what he thinks about this.
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
February 23rd, 2009 / 3:35 p.m.
Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON
Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my questioning just a moment ago, and I now want to reiterate, on balance this does not look like legislation that we would have any difficulty in at least studying further at committee and perhaps supporting.
Why would I say that? I do not think there is a Canadian in the country who would not agree that we should extend our sovereignty over waters that we have traditionally considered to be our own. As the minister says, these are part of waters that we have thought to be our internal waters. They are part of the Arctic Archipelago and therefore they are Canadian territory.
As for the part that goes beyond that, and think about this for a moment, we are, with a stroke of the pen, reasserting what we have already agreed with all our partners in the United Nations, and that is this is our territory, it is our right to extend our jurisdiction to the full 200 kilometres. That is great. We want to do that. It is good for us. We expect that as part of Canadian sovereignty we would give notice to the entire world that these waters are now our waters.
Just so you know, Mr. Speaker, because I know you come from that province, this is equal to the entire land mass of Saskatchewan that we are, with this bill, advertising to the world is now territory water, aquatic territory, over which the Canadian government, the state of Canada, will now exercise its jurisdiction.
I know members have read the bill in great detail. It is about 10 lines long, yet it generated from the minister a speech of about 15 minutes. My compliments to him. I listened through it all, hoping to hear something more than “looking at”. I think the minister, perhaps to his credit but certainly to the advantage of his party, indicated that the government was looking at a whole stream of things that would be made possible with the passage of the legislation.
We would be delighted to help him along. In the process, however, we would want to ask a few questions. He talked about four pillars upon which the legislation would be based. I was looking, for example, at the mechanisms, the processes, the moneys, the resources that he and the government would be putting in place in order to, first, effectively exercise the jurisdiction which we are claiming as is our right under the Conventions of the UN over this entire territory.
For example, how many more ships are we prepared to buy, to lease, to engage in protecting the territory that, as I said a moment ago, is the size of the province of Saskatchewan, which is bigger than almost every other country in the world, save maybe the top 10?
If we are not to have more ships in aquatic territory, how does the minister expect Canadians to feel assured that they will exercise greater sovereignty over this great expanse of further territory? It is not that Canadians do not want to, because we do. We have already established that we feel it is our right, it is part of our territory, and we do want to protect it. We want to exercise sovereignty over it.
We want to, as well, as the minister suggested, ensure that there is greater security. For that, aside from the satellite beams that we will be engaging to help us track where ships might be, because I think we are talking about ships in aquatic territory, we are not really talking about tanks, we are not talking about land rovers, we are not talking about boots on the ground, as he mentioned, we are also talking about ocean-going vessels, whether they are below surface or above surface. However, there is no indication that resources will be put at the disposal of the Canadian government and its enforcement agencies to ensure they can do the job that the bill would have them do. Otherwise it is meaningless.
To say that we are now extending our sovereignty over additional waters, the equivalent size of Saskatchewan, without being able to put resources to effect that sovereignty is empty rhetoric. It is a looking at rather than doing.
In my question for the minister, who is courteous enough to listen to debate in the House, I mentioned a second thing I was looking for, and perhaps he might want to address this.
We must remember that we are extending sovereignty over an aquatic territory. If this is going to be an economic development exercise in economic development, we are not only going to claim our sovereignty over this vast expanse of water, but we are going to take claim an authority over whatever is underneath the ocean bed.
The minister has suggested that an additional 33% of all the natural gas deposits in the northern part of the western hemisphere are resident in this area. I guess some of the science has speculated that is where it would be. The minister has made a similar observation about light crude and its availability for the energy requirements of tomorrow. I want to accept this.
That is all the more reason why I ask this. Where are the resources in the bill to ensure that Canadian businesses and Canadian residents in the three Arctic territories and beyond have the right of first development of those natural resources? Where is the plan? Can we look at, speculate and plan? Yes, we can do all of these three things, but where is the plan? Where is the how to that tells us that we would, through the bill, be engaging in the development of the future interests of Canadians not only in the north, but everywhere? I do not see that. I do not see the resources.
It is a bit disconcerting because here we are in the midst of a debate about the budget implementation bill. I know Bill C-3 is not a part of that, but we are still seized in the House with ensuring that the budget implementation bill and all of the tens of billions of dollars that this Parliament would authorize the government to expend for the purpose of stimulating the Canadian economy and for developing the future assets of Canada's potential resources are spent. There is not a penny, not a dollar, not an indication of a specific agenda item.
There is though, if I might digress, some value in rhetoric, but there is a lot of rhetoric. I am not sure rhetoric is going to buy the credibility that Canadians so desperately want when it comes to engaging in particular actions.
A third pillar the minister says is an environmental one. The environment that he has talked about up until this point has to do with ocean-going vessels polluting the waters they traverse. By that pollution, I am not sure if he is talking about greenhouse gas-type emissions. I suspect he is talking in greater detail about hard pollution that goes from the ship into the water and affects the marine life and anybody who is dependent on that marine life. The minister has talked about that at great length and he has talked about how we will protect that.
Canadians, or at least the ones who had the good fortune to exercise their vote for me, did not see from the government in the last Parliament any substantive action on pollution abatement, on pollution restriction, or on going after polluters in our backyard.
Will we now believe the Conservatives when they say that they will get those people who pollute waters, which are about the size of the entire province of Saskatchewan, but that they will not spend a dime to do it? They will stand in the House of Commons on Bill C-3 when everybody is watching them. Because they say that they will do that and because they say that the environment is one of the concerns they will try to address with Bill C-3, everybody will believe them and will back off. I find that difficult to believe.
One reason why I find it difficult to believe is that even the casual reader will know that over the course of the last summer and fall, various other countries have taken a special interest in the Arctic waters, waters which we claim as our own. In fact, we have always said they have been our own. However, they extend to countries like Norway, Russia, Denmark, Greenland and the United States. They all have competing claims, competing interests and overlapping concerns about the environment and about pollution. The environment and pollution appear to be the umbrella under which everybody operates when they want to talk about interests and development.
I have not seen anything anywhere in the bill that says that we have engaged any of those countries in any bilateral discussions about how we will enforce our sovereignty, especially with respect to environmental and pollution type issues in the Arctic and in these waters in particular. I do not see that anywhere and there has not been any indication that the government has actually engaged in those kinds of discussions. Not only that, there is no indication that the government has raised these in the United Nations forum.
I understand the Prime Minister is at the United Nations today. During question period, one of my colleagues asked the government side a question about an agenda. In response none of those items were on that agenda, but it was asked during question period, not during answer period. Perhaps the minister would care to elaborate on specifically which items related to the bill and, more specific, to the environment and pollution will be raised by the Prime Minister with counterparts in the United Nations so we can get the compliance of the countries that have a more immediate interest in the geography in question under the legislation.
If we do not have a forum in which to raise these issues with a receptive series of countries, and it is important that they be receptive, then we go back to one of my very first items of concern, which is: where are the resources to ensure that we have the military capacity to protect the sovereignty that we claim with the bill?
Are we spending more money in defence? Are we buying more vessels? I heard only one for Coast Guard increased capacity. One Coast Guard vessel, or turning it to a land example for our purposes, would be about three 18 wheelers, maybe four. If we dropped four 18 wheelers, one after the other, in the middle of Saskatchewan, who would notice? Not very many. It would take a while for those four 18 wheelers, one right behind the other, to patrol a territory the size of Saskatchewan.
We do not even have an indication that is what we will do. In a time when we are asking jurisdictions to spend tens of billions of dollars, along comes legislation that says the government will take care of this. It will be its territory. It will take care of the environment, catch all polluters and develop the economy in the area.
We could probably build infrastructures for three months of the year, so it would take a substantial amount of time to do infrastructure that might, in other places, take three or four years. However, there is no indication of resources. How seriously can we take the government on this?
We hear the usual story about trying to help people locally. Yes, we want to help people locally and we want to give them greater authority over all of this but we need to remember that this is a bill about aquatic territory. The minister explained how this would do great things for people in the north, especially in those areas where they are resident about 1,000 kilometres from the shore. We, too, have great interest in ensuring that the economies and the sovereignty of people indigenous to the area are protected and enhanced.
However, we do not want to blow smoke in their eyes when we are talking about something else. We would like to have a bit of direct honesty about what it is we are going to do with them specifically that will enhance their sovereignty, give them greater autonomy and make them full partners in the development of that economic exercise that he says is one of the four pillars of this particular bill.
He says that Bill C-3 would give us control over those commercial shipping lanes, not that they are already available. They do not go through 12 months of the year. The depth of the ice is still such that it prevents that from happening. However, has the government given us an indication of how many ships use these shipping lanes? How will we monitor them?
For example, members may recall just recently the great activity by pirates just off the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is in the papers every day. The first thing that all countries, which have merchant marines operating in the area, tell us is that the ocean is so vast that it is impossible for anybody to monitor or keep track of all these pirates. In Canada we would say polluters because that is what the minister focused his attention on.
Where are the resources to ensure that an aquatic territory that is vastly larger than the seas off Somalia and Saudi Arabia will be any safer for all of us? He said that we need to protect the security of Canadians from terrorists and from criminal organizations. Does he have an indication of which ones? Has he given us an indication of how much of that activity is currently going on and what means we need to engage in order to put an end to it?
I am shocked. If the minister could indicate to us that all of this is actually taking place, why have we not done anything so far? Is a piece of legislation that is some eight lines long, which gives us the authority to exercise jurisdiction that is already ours by UN convention, going to solve that problem? I would think not.
I would think that the minister would probably say that we need to do this, that we need to expend this amount of money, these hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, to ensure that Canadian sovereignty is firmly established, that security for all Canadians is protected in this area, and he would show us how. He would show us the vessels that we would engage, the satellites in which we would invest and the additional marines, RCMP or soldiers that we would engage in the area. He would show us the plan that is already in place to develop the economy with the hope that it will produce X number of jobs and X number of activities that will generate the economy in the area.
After all, the object of the day, in passing the action plan in this House, is to ensure that the tens of billions of dollars that Canadians are willing to invest go for the benefit of Canadians, not just today but down the road, and that they do it in an environment that gives them security and addresses the concerns for the environment and pollution, which are also very much on everyone's minds, and finally, that they provide the indigenous populations that are resident in the territories adjacent to this vast aquatic area with the future that we want them to take for granted.
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
February 23rd, 2009 / 4 p.m.
Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will try to answer that with a straight face. I thank him for his observations, especially in my own personal regard. Let it not be said that we are excessively humble.
The minister has taken great pains to recite a series of very general initiatives that are resident in the area by the governments in each of the three territories.
I might have said the same thing. In fact, the reason that I could is, as he pointed out in his speech, that the government, which proceeded his, actually began all of this activity, a lot of it in mining and in petroleum extraction, but a lot of it also in construction. We have some of the finest airports and airport runways in the north capable of handling some very heavy duty haulage.
All of that is activity that preceded Bill C-3. What I am asking the minister, which I know he will not be able to answer because his time is up, and to repeat what I said a few minutes ago, is to have a how to plan. We want the specifics, the resources that had to be associated with this bill, in order to give those of us on this side of the House the comfort level that the objectives enunciated in the four pillars are actually ones that, number one, are workable, but, number two, to which we can also put a timeline on the full-time equivalent jobs over a long period of time. However, that has not happened.
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
February 23rd, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.
Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to Bill C-3, an act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act.
First of all, our party is going to support this legislation, but it feels like a bad movie. We are talking about the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, which means that if there is a risk of polluting arctic waters it is because there are marine transportation activities going on. And if there are such activities going on, it is because the ice has disappeared. And if the ice has disappeared, it is of course because the temperature is rising.
I want the record to show this, because I would not want our children and grandchildren, some day, to blame me for having addressed this legislation. We must adopt these measures, at last, because the current Conservative government and the previous Liberal and Conservative governments did not do what they had to do. That is why we are now facing global warming and a totally new situation in the Arctic. We must bring in regulations and we must protect that territory, because an increasing number of ships will navigate these waters and there will be development potential.
It makes me shudder to hear this, because they want to develop, they want to get that gas and that oil, but we are talking about the world's last reserves. Given the way the Conservatives are managing, some day our planet will disappear, and the reason for that will be obvious.
But in the meantime, given that the retreating polar ice is creating new waterways, we must consider that Canada has a legitimate right to establish its sovereignty over arctic waters. Considering that this will be a new development channel and that a number of countries share the territory around the North Pole, discussions are indeed to be expected.
By extending the limit of its internal waters from 100 to 200 nautical miles, Canada will have better control over marine traffic in its waters and over the management of the natural resources in those waters. So, the fact that the ice is melting creates a whole new potential for development. Consequently, it is only normal that neighbouring countries want to look after their geographic protection and, of course, their nationality and their sovereignty. A sovereignist party cannot be opposed to the idea that Canada would protect its sovereignty. On the contrary, we are hoping to achieve our own sovereignty in Quebec and, therefore, we cannot object to Canada wanting to do the same.
Obviously, in terms of Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic, we are saying that any future action in this region must reflect certain basic principles, which I will outline.
First of all, any exploitation of northern resources must be closely monitored and regulated so that the region will not be exposed to uncontrolled exploitation of its resources. Obviously, it would be ineffective to only deal with the prevention of pollution in Arctic waters.
The Bloc Québécois members are proud to rise every day in this House to defend the interests of Quebeckers. Given that a part of Quebec is in the north, we feel it is important that any exploitation respect ecological development because, once again, if we trigger one disaster after another, we will not fix anything. We must make sure that development is done in such a way that the environment is respected.
The second basic principle is that any border disputes must be resolved peacefully, diplomatically and by respecting international law. Expanding Canada's rights from 100 to 200 nautical miles is obviously consistent with international law. We hope that these issues will be peacefully and diplomatically respected so that we can negotiate with other countries, since this is not a given in this geopolitical situation. The question of the north pole and the entire Arctic territory is not a given either.
The third basic principle is that we must fight climate change, which is a huge source of the Arctic's problems. We must also adequately protect our extremely fragile ecosystems. Yet, that is not what the Conservatives have been saying. Obviously, I have been told that it is a bill to prevent pollution. It is true, we cannot fix everything that has already happened.
I asked the minister about this. Everyone in this House should be determined to fight climate change.
The climate should be restored, and there should be more ice in the Arctic. Quite simply, we need to work very hard to restore the ice that used to be there. If we want to extract oil, then we need to find ways to transport it other than by ship. There are other ways. We need to do everything we can to make sure the north pole and the Arctic get colder again and the ice returns, especially so that the animal populations can survive. The people who live in the Arctic and have always lived in a cold climate are not happy about what is happening. I have seen a lot of reports, but I have not seen anyone who is glad the ice is melting. When a people has always lived with ice, it does not take any pleasure in seeing that ice disappear.
Even though the minister is saying today that there is going to be development and people are going to have work, I do not think that the goal of these communities is to work for oil companies, even though that is where things are headed. I think they would rather live as they used to live.
The fourth basic principle is as follows: any action in the Arctic must take into account the people who live there. That is what we say. It is all well and good to try to turn people into oil people, but if that is not what they are interested in or what they want, then we need to do everything we can to put them at ease. They are the people who have lived in this area. If Canada is entitled to claim international rights today, it is because communities have lived in this part of the world, which comes under our jurisdiction. It comes under Canada's jurisdiction now. We have to be able to live in harmony and choose to defend these people and consider what they want.
The Bloc Québécois denounces and will always denounce any militarization of the north and any military operation that could take place there, whether naval or otherwise. We would like to move away from that and instead chose another way to ensure sovereignty. It must serve as an example for the entire world. One cannot go all over the world trying to resolve conflicts and then turn around and start one in the north because of an interest in oil. There are enough wars in the world caused by oil, and I hope we do not create one here ourselves because we are trying to protect a certain area.
To patrol Arctic waters, we recommend that Canada invest more in the Canadian Coast Guard. Any other means of protecting the arctic would, in our view, incite war and violence, which we have always opposed.
As the ice melts, Canada's sovereignty in that region will come into question. That is one of main reasons why legislation is passed. As I said earlier, the ice is melting. The problem is that, instead of doubling its efforts to fight climate change, the government is doubling its efforts to encourage economic development in the Arctic. As I said at the beginning, everyone here in the House of Commons has a part in this bad movie. No one should be in this movie at all, but once again, the Conservatives are leading and this is how they lead.
Canada must therefore work with other Arctic states within the framework of the Arctic Council. There is a council of all the sovereign states that border on this area. The purpose of the council is to protect the environment and ensure sustainable development. Clearly, it needs to be more proactive when it comes to sustainable development and protecting the environment.
We believe that any solution in the Arctic must involve and make the most of Inuit populations living there. On one hand, they must be included in the negotiation process and on the other hand, they must have help developing their economy. If the people there decide to develop their economy through some means other than oil development, that decision must be respected.
I am going to take a few moments to summarize Bill C-3, which amends the definition of “arctic waters” in the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to extend the limit of the Arctic waters protected area from 100 to 200 nautical miles. The original act, which was passed in 1970, defines “arctic waters” as follows:
“arctic waters” means the waters adjacent to the mainland and islands of the Canadian arctic within the area enclosed by the sixtieth parallel of north latitude, the one hundred and forty-first meridian of west longitude and a line measured seaward from the nearest Canadian land a distance of one hundred nautical miles...
Therefore, the objective is to increase the outer limit from 100 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles from the nearest Canadian land. Increasing this limit will ensure that the waters within that limit are recognized as internal waters, and not as international waters or as an exclusive economic zone. These 200 nautical miles are very much a reality, as is Canada's authority over that area. International waters used to be outside the 100 nautical mile limit. Now, international waters will be outside the 200 nautical mile limit.
For a long time, Arctic waters were considered to be an impenetrable ice barrier for human beings. That is why I said earlier that this is like being in a bad movie. It was a frozen desert where nothing happened. Of course, climate change has changed all that now. The Arctic is particularly affected by global warming.
It is expected that a rise of 1oC or 2oC along the Equator, could result in a rise of more than 6oC in the Arctic. I personally believe that if we do not do something about climate change, we will end up with a natural disaster, while others see an opportunity for major development in the north and in the Arctic.
But the fact remains that climate change will have a serious environmental impact on the Arctic. The climate in that region is warming up more rapidly, which triggers even more drastic changes, such as a change of vegetation zone and a change in the diversity, range and distribution of animal species. For example, we are seeing a rapidly increasing number of polar bears drowning, because the distance between ice floes is constantly increasing.
These are scientific facts but those listening to us have an opportunity to see it all regularly on television reports. A multitude of filmmakers have focused on this issue and filmed the havoc caused by global warming. Climate change will also cause the disruption and destabilization of transportation, buildings and infrastructure in the North. For the Inuit and other people living there, everything is changing. They used to travel by snowmobile but now they may have to add wheels. That may be the reality. We can laugh about it but it is enough to make you cry.
Climate change has a major impact on the lifestyle of aboriginal peoples. It has also led to increased ultraviolet radiation, which affects animals, people and vegetation. Since 1960, the surface area of the permanent ice pack has decreased by 14%, with a 6% reduction since 1978. The ice pack has thinned by 42% since 1958. These figures, with explanatory notes and references, may be found in our statement.
The dispute over Arctic sovereignty centres on the Northwest Passage and the navigable waters in the Arctic archipelago. The dispute between Canada and the United States is one of international law, namely, how to define the waters surrounding the Arctic archipelago. Canadian sovereignty over the islands is recognized and not contested. For Canada, the islands constitute an extension of its continental shelf. Thus, Canada considers the various straits between islands as “internal waters”. Therefore, the 200 nautical mile limit applies to the contour of the islands.
The battle over jurisdiction is understandable. The United States has never recognized these waters as Canada's “internal waters” and deems that they constitute only an “exclusive economic zone”. In January 2009, former U.S. President George W. Bush, in his presidential directive on the Arctic region, stated it represented an exclusive economic zone and not “internal waters”. I will spare you this text, but that was its objective.
Therefore, we can understand why Canada wants to clarify the situation. Whether or not this bill will succeed in doing that, I am not so sure.
That is why we have to focus on negotiation and diplomacy. There is no point sending navy ships to assert sovereignty over Arctic waters. The United States is not happy. I hope that the Conservatives have thought about this, because I do not think that our armed forces will ever be anything more than a tiny fraction of the size they would have to be to take on the U.S. military. Nevertheless, I do not think that anyone wants armed conflict. That is why we have to negotiate diplomatically.
Article 8 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea defines “internal waters” as follows: “—waters on the landward side of the baseline of the territorial sea form part of the internal waters of the State”. According to the convention, a coastal state has the right to take the necessary steps “—to prevent any breach of the conditions to which admission of those ships to internal waters [...] is subject”. In other words, coastal states have sole jurisdiction over their internal waters. They have every right to prevent foreign vessels from entering their waters.
The goal was to increase the boundary from 100 miles to 200, particularly around the Arctic islands, to give Canada complete control over all vessels navigating those waters. However, in article 55, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea defines the “exclusive economic zone” as “—an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea—”, and that is how the United States interprets it. Article 58 reads as follows: “In the exclusive economic zone, all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy [...] the freedoms [...] of navigation and overflight and of the laying of submarine cables and pipelines—”.
Once again, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea included provisions for pipelines and that kind of thing. So it should come as no surprise that the United States prefers article 58 and thinks of these areas as economic zones rather than interior waters. States are entitled to restrict marine traffic in, to charge fees for access to, or to prevent entry into their interior waters. In respect of fossil fuel exploitation, I do not want to repeat what I have already said, but as we all know, transportation of fossil fuels is at the root of wars going on in many parts of the world. That is a snapshot of the legal challenge we are issuing to the Americans.
As a result, there could be an increase in commercial marine traffic, because the Northwest Passage is the shortest way from Asia to Europe. Here are some examples of routes in kilometres. From London to Yokohama is 23,300 km through the Panama Canal, 21,200 km through the Suez Canal, 32,289 km around Cape Horn—a major detour—but 15,930 km through the Northwest Passage. There are huge savings to be made. The distance from New York to Yokohama is 18,000 km through the Panama Canal, 25,000 km through the Suez Canal, 31,000 km around Cape Horn and 15,000 km through the Northwest Passage. From Hamburg to Vancouver is 17,000 km through the Panama Canal, 29,000 km through the Suez Canal, 27,000 around Cape Horn and 14,000 km through the Northwest Passage.
When the government talks about economic development, potential and job creation for residents or border communities, it is anticipating that this passage will be increasingly available, 12 months a year. The government is hoping that the passage can be navigated without icebreakers, and so on. Obviously, that would facilitate marine traffic. Because of the distance between Asia and Europe, this passage would be used more and more.
So it is important to understand that although the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-3, it does not do so happily. As I said, the Bloc Québécois members stand up every day in the House of Commons to defend the interests of Quebeckers. We are playing in a bad movie, I said. We need to stand up every day to fight climate change so that there is more and more ice in the Arctic and there are fewer and fewer ships going through there if we want to protect the global balance.
But today, the government is talking about obtaining rights to land and increasing Canadian sovereignty because more and more ships are plying the Arctic waters and there will be economic development, which is what the Conservatives want. Once again, this is being done at the expense of the environment and our future generations. I hope my children and grandchildren will forgive me.
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
February 23rd, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I fully agree with what my colleague said today about Bill C-3. We cannot be blind to the fact that what the government is trying to do is use the argurment of environmental protection as a means for asserting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. The second part of this is acceptable. I can understand that Canada would want to assert its sovereignty in the Arctic. The problem lies in the fact that they are using environmental issues as a front for Bill C-3.
Does my colleague agree that what the government really wants to do is assert control over the oil resources of the far north? That is the reality. Everyone knows there are lots of natural resources there. Is there not a danger of large-scale development of these resources even though this part of the north is a major source of biodiversity?
Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
February 23rd, 2009 / 4:35 p.m.
Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-3. It is one of many bills that I am sure will be in front of our transport committee, given the hard-working minister we have in charge, one who is perhaps more hard-working than hard-thinking on many issues. All opposition critics have a responsibility to ensure that ministers think about bills in front of them in a reasonable fashion. Hard work does not replace smart thinking.
Bill C-3 is an interesting bill. It has merit within it. It comes out of quite a bit of work directed toward the Arctic and the northern waters by the Conservative government.
For instance, I could talk about the cabinet's trip to Inuvik last August. The entire cabinet, the Prime Minister as well, took time to visit my riding. They certainly excited the population there with the thought that there were going to be announcements of some significance.
What we did see coming from that trip to Inuvik and the trip to Tuktoyaktuk by the Prime Minister was the announcement of the name of an icebreaker that was going to be built a number of years later.
People in Tuktoyaktuk live on the Arctic coast and are experiencing the ravages of climate change on their own community and the degradation of the community washing away into the sea. They were hoping for a little more. They were hoping to hear about a land connection to Inuvik, tying them into a highway system that would allow them some additional economic development and perhaps make life easier for them there on the coast. They did not get it. The Prime Minister made a very simple release that really had no content to it.
When he spoke in Inuvik, the Prime Minister announced that the government was going to make the registration of ships in Arctic waters mandatory, something that we in the New Democratic Party have been requesting for the last two years. It was a good thing to do that, but it certainly was not what the people in the north were looking for.
Is the bill in front of us now what the people of Canada are looking for in terms of Arctic waters protection? It does extend the boundaries, and that is a good thing, but does it create any more protection for the Arctic, or is it simply another gesture on the part of the Conservative Party toward our deepening interest in the Arctic?
Canadian Arctic waters are changing fast. The condition of the sea that is now not covered with ice in the Beaufort area up through the Arctic Islands is getting worse. Larger, more severe storms are hitting the area. There are more hazards to navigation now than in years past, when the Arctic ice was over the water for longer periods of time. The permanent ice pack was further south from the pole. These things have changed, and now massive weather disturbances in the area are causing extreme problems.
This legislation deals with Arctic transportation in difficult and changing times. We are allowed to do this under the United Nations law of the sea convention. It is part of a practice that I am sure the rest of the world would be happy to see us do. However, once again, in the bill we do not see any indication of where we are going with respect to our ability to protect the Arctic.
We are also currently having disputes about much of our Arctic waters. What is the impact of this legislation going to be on our current dispute with the United States over a large chunk of the Beaufort Sea? Who is going to be responsible for those waters? Where is the diplomatic effort to solve this issue, which has been in place since 1983? Where is the effort to come to a conclusion with the United States about the delineation of the line between Alaska and the Yukon?
Increasing the size of the area under protection in the Arctic is meaningless unless there is an increased effort on enforcement. However, enforcement is difficult in the Arctic. It is expensive. It requires an effort that I do not see our government ready to put in yet.
However, there is a pathway to protect the Arctic waters, and it is through international diplomacy. I had the chance to travel to Ilulissat last year, and to see the foreign ministers of the major Arctic nations agreeing to a treaty on the UN law of the sea applying to the boundaries between countries. The one foreign minister who was not at this gathering was the minister from Canada. He was replaced by the Minister of Natural Resources.
We are not taking an active role in diplomacy. We are not putting diplomacy up front. Our Prime Minister is putting an aggressive, confrontational attitude out front, rather than using international cooperation and diplomacy as the way to solve some of the issues facing us.
We need compliance on international treaties. We need a working relationship of the highest order between the Arctic nations to accomplish our goals in protecting our Arctic environment. There is no question of that. That should be the number one element in the Canadian strategy in dealing with the Arctic.
We need Arctic search and rescue. The other countries are talking about Arctic search and rescue. There are even agreements being formed between the U.S. and Russia to protect the Bering Strait so that they can work cooperatively to deal with the problems that are inherent in shipping in hazardous waters. We should be doing the same thing with the United States. In fact, at a lower level in our system, we have no choice but to do that. We need the effort at the top end, through the highest officials in this country, to stress the importance of international diplomacy.
When it comes to protecting the Arctic, mandatory registration of shipping is not all we need. We also need to accept the International Maritime Organization's regulations for shipping in Arctic waters. We need to make it an international fact that ships traversing the Arctic waters all have the same level of regulation relative to the kinds of hulls they use and the kinds of equipment they use to protect the environment and themselves. We need to ensure that the ships that are increasingly going to be entering the Arctic have the correct and best technology available for this type of work. We need those types of international agreements as well.
The Arctic is not a place where defence and aggressive military action are going to solve our problems. We are not going to solve our problems with the United States over the Northwest Passage and the Beaufort Sea by getting into military confrontations. There is only one way to deal with these problems with the United States, and that is through diplomacy and the actions of our government in concert with the U.S. government in coming up with agreements. Those are the only directions in which there is any hope for getting ourselves solid on those issues.
An international report on shipping is coming out very shortly on the use of Arctic waters. It has been co-authored by a number of countries. We are expecting it in the next year.
This document can be the basis of building an understanding among Arctic nations about how to deal with Arctic waters, how to protect Arctic waters, and what to expect with the development of fishing, mineral exploration, oil and gas, and tourism. The increase in cruise ship passages in Arctic waters is astounding.
All these things are coming together, and the international community is working on them right now. What Canada has to do is take back the lead on international diplomacy and work with these countries to come up with solutions that can deliver us an Arctic policy that, in conjunction with the rest of the world, will protect the Arctic and will make our 200-mile environmental protection act a working document.
The government has many ideas about the Arctic. Unfortunately, some of them are simply ideas that come out of someone's head, rather than out of the consensus-building process that is needed for Arctic conditions. An example is Arctic research. Canada has just announced that a major research facility will be built in Nunavut, which is contrary to what Arctic researchers are after.
A group of Arctic researchers was commissioned by the federal government to make a report on where the research centre should be and what it should encompass. They came back and said that we do not need a report on that; we need a report on the Arctic research initiatives that are required. In other words, we do not need facilities; we need a plan for Arctic research that will allow our scientists to deliver the information we need to protect the Arctic and to understand the changes that are going on there, and that should be the first priority of the government, not building facilities.
Right now we have facilities for researchers in our territories. They are reasonably well used, but they are used in a different sense from what the government is looking for. These facilities are used by researchers as home bases to extend their research out into the Arctic region. The idea of a fixed centre for Arctic research is anathema to most researchers, who are looking for linkages throughout the Arctic for the type of research they do.
By missing consultations, by coming out with policies that set directions without examining what is actually required, and by putting forward ideas that are like building monuments to our sovereignty rather than by looking for the solutions we require for our sovereignty, we are failing Canadians.
I think of the Colossus at Rhodes. Perhaps the Conservatives would like to build a colossus on the Northwest Passage to indicate our ownership of that area. Perhaps it is in their minds that somehow the grandiose gesture is more important than the practical work of government, making international arrangements and directing scientists into research in the areas that are required, but those types of things have a greater potential future for our country.
There is another issue. Right now in the Arctic we are expanding the use of the Beaufort Sea. We have opened up some fairly major drilling areas offshore, and these are going ahead. Interestingly enough, probably the major catastrophic pollution issue that we are likely to encounter in the Arctic is the potential for large oil spills in our Arctic waters, and we do not have the capacity to deal with that. Probably one of the things that should be foremost on the government's agenda right now would be to come up with the technology required to deal with oil spills in Arctic waters.
Wherever there is more than 35% ice in the water, the science of cleaning up oil spills is very limited. We need to have a program that will allow this to happen. This is more likely to protect our environment than any bill we pass here, any Arctic research centre we set up in a single location. This is the sort of effort we need right now to protect our Arctic.
When the drilling sites were sold, when companies were given the opportunity to move into the Beaufort Sea, this lack was pointed out to the government. We have not seen a response yet on this item. We need to see that response.
Our capacity is limited. We do not have the human resource capacity and the technological capacity to protect the Arctic environment. We do not have the capacity to do the research to understand what is likely to happen in the Arctic. We are not going to get that with facilities. What we need is a clear plan for Arctic research, followed up by dollars invested in Canadian scientists across the country who want to perform the research there.
We also need to work with the international community so that we are not doubling up our research. We need to create the linkages between the countries that will allow the research to flourish and so that every Arctic country will understand how to deal with the Arctic conditions.
When it comes to defending Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, we need to stand up for the environment. That is a good direction to take. It is important that we protect the environment not only in the 100-mile area off our coast but in the 200-mile area off the coast. It is also very important, when we think of the Arctic ice melting all the way to the North Pole, to consider how we are going to protect the environment right up to the North Pole. We cannot do that without international agreements. We cannot do that without an international understanding of the issues. We need to see that kind of approach from the government. It is that simple.
Capacity is important, as well. It is not good enough simply to put this bill forward without some understanding as to how we are going to make people comply with it, how we are going to enforce the regulation that is in place, how we are going to ensure that we have the answers to fix what happens to the environment when accidents occur, and most likely they will.
I hope that over the next while we will look at these issues. This bill has merit. It is important. However, the government needs to say more about this issue than it has already. The government needs to come forward with a more detailed plan for the protection of our Arctic waters. When it does that, we will have a solution that all Canadians will subscribe to and support.
I would say to our hard-working minister, let us put some hard-working thought into what we are doing here and we will come up with great answers for Canadians.