Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to thank the member for Churchill River for presenting to the House a motion which increases our awareness of the various issues concerning Canada's and Quebec's circumpolar community.
He did it through Motion No. 237, which reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should recognize the 55th parallel as the identified Canadian boundary for participation in the international circumpolar community.
Let me explain the substance of this motion. Right now, Canada uses the 60th parallel as the boundary of its circumpolar region. However, most countries bordering on the Arctic use the 55th parallel as the boundary of their circumpolar region. In other words, for them, the international circumpolar region is north of the 55th parallel.
Almost 30 years ago, Louis-Edmond Hamelin, the founding director of the Centre d'études nordiques at Laval University, a unique research centre in Quebec, said, and rightly so:
Definitions of the north mainly depend on the criteria used to assess the situation. Many tests have shown that the boundaries and the main elements of the north are not perceived the same way by those who live there. Some still believe that the north can be confined within specific isolines, such as the arctic circle. As for the federal, provincial and territorial governments, they are using, between Alaska and the Hudson Bay region, the 60th parallel, which has little natural meaning and makes little sense.
Mr. Hamelin then proposed to set a number of criteria to define what would become the “Hamelin line”, which defines the boundaries of the north according to various factors such as climate, population, latitude, precipitation, means of transportation and economic activity. That boundary is generally well below the 60th parallel.
We know that political relations in that area have been deeply affected by the cold war. Since the end of the cold war, co-operation mechanisms have been developed to improve relations between different countries in the circumpolar region and address various issues on a multilateral basis.
I am thinking here about things like the Canadian initiative to create the Arctic Council, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the strategy to protect the Arctic environment, the Nordic Forum, the Canadian Polar Commission, and the International Arctic Science Committee.
Canadian communities in the northern part of our provinces, beyond the 55th parallel, cannot take part in these great forums where are being discussed issues that are their concern in many ways. Like the hon. member for Churchill River said, we have forgotten people in that part of the Canadian north.
All these communities very often share the same concerns and aspirations. They have the same environmental problems generated by the south. The arctic environment is particularly vulnerable, and many dangers are already present there, like transborder air and water pollutants.
Why could these people, who know their territory so well, not take part in these discussions, offer solutions and make their views known? We have a lot to learn about sustainable development from the traditional knowledge of the people who live in these areas.
Moreover, north of the 55th and 60th parallels, there are important mineral and mining resources, and the economic development of the Arctic is vital to better living conditions of people in these areas. Why could they not be full participants in the dialogue on resource management?
Finally, I would like to speak about international co-operation in science and technology, which started afresh after the end of the cold war. The International Arctic Science Committee, or IASC, is made up of the national scientific organizations of the eight Arctic countries, including Canada, and other countries engaged in research in the Arctic.
It would be unfair, to say the least, if the provinces' northern regions between the 55th and 60th parallels could not be included in the research carried out by these organizations because, territorially speaking, they are not considered part of the circumpolar region.
I do not believe the sponsor of the motion, the member for Churchill River, intends to survey the far north and put markers or stakes every six feet. Nor is it his intention to alter the borders of the provinces through a possible change to the circumpolar territorial limit.
No, the noble principle behind the motion by the member for Churchill River is rather to allow communities living between the 55th and 60th parallels to be full members of the international circumpolar community. If passed, the motion will mean that Canada will finally accept the limit internationally recognized by the northern community.
I also wish to point out that we are debating a motion, not a bill. As I said at the beginning, the great merit of Motion No. 237 is to raise the Canadian and Quebec circumpolar issue, to evaluate the challenges involved, to solve the existing problems and to promote sustainable development in this area.
In conclusion, I want to stress once again the importance of adopting the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Mercier to replace, in the French version of the motion, the term “frontière” by the words “limite territoriale”. At first glance, the nuance may seem subtle, if not insignificant. Yet, there is a clear difference between “frontière” and “limite territoriale”.
Indeed, the French dictionary Le Petit Robert partly defines “frontière” as a “ligne idéale, au tracé arbitraire, généralement jalonnée par des signes conventionnels (bornes, barrières, poteaux, bouées”. The word “limite” seems much more appropriate, since its first meaning is “ligne qui sépare deux terrains ou territoires contigus”.
It is therefore imperative, so as to avoid any confusion, to adopt the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Mercier in the French version of the motion. As she said so appropriately, we completely change the meaning of his motion if we change the border of the provinces. Tis is not at all what the member for Churchill River intended with his motion.
During their study on Canada and the circumpolar region, all the members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade came to realize that the communities living north of the 55th parallel have a unique environment and culture. There can be no sustainable development and economy without their contribution and without the concrete knowledge that these people have of their milieu.
This is why the Bloc Quebecois will support Motion M-237, with the amendment we proposed.