Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you for inviting me and my colleagues to address the committee today. We are indeed pleased to be here to discuss Canada's Arctic sovereignty.
As activities in Canada's Arctic increases, including in relation to vessel traffic, concerns about pollution, safety, and security are often perceived as threats to Canadian sovereignty. The reality, however, is that increased vessel traffic, if conducted properly and in accordance with Canadian law and policy, actually serves to reinforce Canada's Arctic sovereignty.
Mr. Chair, no one disputes Canada's sovereignty over the lands of the Canadian archipelago, covering in excess of 1.4 million square kilometres and containing more than 36,500 islands. The only exception is the 1.3 square kilometre Hans Island between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, which is also claimed by Denmark.
Canada has two maritime boundary disputes in the Arctic. One is with the U.S. regarding a portion of the Beaufort Sea, and a second is with Denmark regarding two small zones in the Lincoln Sea. Each disagreement is well managed, and will be resolved peacefully and in due course, in accordance with international law. Indeed, just three weeks ago, Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark announced the establishment of a joint task force on boundary issues to explore options and provide recommendations on how to resolve outstanding boundary issues between the two nations.
Let me turn now to Canada's sovereignty in relation to the Northwest Passage. All waters of Canada's Arctic archipelago, including the various waterways commonly known as the Northwest Passage, are internal waters of Canada by virtue of historic title. For greater clarity, Canada drew straight baselines around its Arctic islands in 1986. All waters landward of the baselines are internal waters, and Canada has an unfettered right to regulate them as it would for land.
There have been some recent transits through Canada's Arctic waters by foreign ships that have attracted the attention of the media, with some commentators arguing that these transits somehow threaten Canadian sovereignty. These arguments appear to be based on a misunderstanding of the legal situation.
My colleague, Shawn Steil, will tell you about the passage of the Chinese research vessel last summer. I would just stress that navigation conducted in compliance with Canadian requirements, like the Chinese research vessel's transit, does not challenge Canadian Arctic sovereignty.
In May, Canada and our Arctic neighbours marked the 10th anniversary of the Ilulissat Declaration by the five coastal states of the Arctic Ocean. Those states are Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway, and Denmark.
That declaration recalled that an extensive international legal framework applies to the Arctic Ocean. It emphasized that the law of the sea provides for important rights and obligations concerning the delineation of the outer limits of the continental shelf, the protection of the maritime environment, including ice-covered areas, freedom of navigation, marine scientific research, and other uses of the sea.
Canada remains committed to this legal framework and to the orderly settlement of any possible overlapping Arctic claims.
Mr. Chair, let me conclude by providing you with an update about Canada's work on defining the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Arctic Ocean. Canada is currently in the final stages of the preparation of its Arctic Ocean submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the scientific body established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to review coastal state continental shelf submissions. All of the scientific data required from the ocean floor and the geology beneath it, which is needed to establish our outer limits pursuant to the provisions of the convention, has been obtained. We are now analyzing the data and drafting the submission. The submission could be ready to file probably early in 2019.
Once the commission has reviewed our submission, it will make recommendations based on the convention's scientific and legal definitions. When this process has played out for all five Arctic Ocean coastal states, overlaps will become known. Maritime boundary delimitations can then be settled, in due course, by those involved. The end result of this project will be international recognition for the area over which Canada will exercise its sovereign rights over the seabed and subsoil in the Arctic Ocean, thereby establishing the last line on the map of Canada.
Thank you again for this opportunity to address the committee.
I look forward to taking your questions once my colleagues have also offered their remarks.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.