House of Commons Hansard #90 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghanistan.


11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

It being 11 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON


Motion No. 387

That, in the opinion of the House, as the various waterways known as the “Northwest Passage” are historic internal waters of Canada, the government should endeavour to refer to these waterways as the “Canadian Northwest Passage”.

Mr. Speaker, several months ago a constituent dropped into my office with a concern. He had just returned from a tour of the Northwest Passage, something literally unthinkable a number of years ago. He said to me, personally, “Daryl, in the past this certainly would not have been possible, but now with the specialized vessels and the changing climatic conditions, this tour has become a conditional reality”. He questioned why this historical internal waterway was not known as what we all believe it to be, the Canadian Northwest Passage. To him it was obvious. I could not agree more. That is why I rise today to emphatically and proudly state that all reference to what some call the Northwest Passage should now and in the future be referred to as the Canadian Northwest Passage.

The Arctic is a fundamental part of Canada's history, and certainly a priority in our government's actions on foreign policy. It is central to our national identity. 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. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs has said:

Canada's sovereignty over the lands and waters of the Canadian Arctic is long-standing, well-established on historic title.

The area is also an emerging region on the verge of major change. Sea ice has steadily decreased in the Canadian Arctic and this trend is likely to continue. As it does, shipping in the Arctic could become significantly less costly.

The various waterways known to some as the Northwest Passage are opening up for longer periods in the summer and their use is gaining international attention. Our sovereignty over these waters is not contested. Our government has repeatedly made it clear that the waters of the Canadian archipelago are internal waters of Canada by virtue of historic title, and we will protect them and exercise our sovereignty over them. Building the Canadian north is an essential part of building our nation. The government clearly understands the potential of the north, perhaps more than any other government before it.

The internal character of the Northwest Passage is derived from historic title and not the drawings of base lines around the Canadian Arctic archipelago or the amount of ice in Canada's Arctic. Though the ice levels have changed, it has no bearing on Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic and the government will continue to protect our Arctic.

The issue with the United States over the various waterways known as the Northwest Passage relates only to navigation rights in these waters and not to whom the waters belong. To be clear, no one disputes that the waters are Canadian. The United States contends that an international strait runs through these waters, which would limit Canada's right to regulate navigation. This government does not agree. I do not agree and I would certainly hope our colleagues on all sides of the House do not agree. We have made it collectively clear that the waters of the Canada Archipelago are internal waters of Canada. Our legal position is well founded in fact, in history, in tradition and in law.

The United States argues that the Northwest Passage is a strait used for international navigation, and according to this view, foreign-flagged ships have the right of transit through these waters. The answer to such arguments is that our historic title, as well as the absence of any regular international shipping, undermines any characterization of these waters as an international strait. With the exception of sporadic voyages by specialized vessels at a very tight framed time of year, the Northwest Passage has never been used for international shipping.

Canada has been clear that the waters of the Canadian archipelago are internal waters of Canada by virtue of historic title. In 1985 a U.S. icebreaker called the Polar Sea transited the Northwest Passage. Three years later Canada and the U.S. entered into the Canada-U.S. Arctic cooperation agreement.

The U.S. government pledged that navigation of all U.S. icebreakers within waters claimed by Canada to be internal, including the Northwest Passage, would be undertaken with the consent of the Government of Canada. We agreed to disagree without prejudice to the positions of our respective governments. Quite frankly, this has worked very well for both of us.

To be clear, the single disagreement over the waterways known as the Northwest Passage relates only to their legal classification and the navigation rights in these waters, not to whom the waters belong. We are confident that our position is well-founded in fact and law, and well recognized by all the signatories of the circumpolar convention, which the United States has yet to sign.

The fact that the waterways known as the Northwest Passage are internal waters means that they are subject to full regulation and control by Canada. The drawing of the base lines around the Arctic archipelago was done to clarify the extent of these historic internal waters under the Oceans Act of Canada. As a consequence, all waters landward of the base lines, meaning those inside the base lines, form part of Canada's sovereign territory, which makes them no different than Lake Winnipeg, Great Slave Lake or Lac Saint-Jean.

International law does not allow for passage into the waters of the Arctic archipelago enclosed within the base lines without Canadian permission. As a matter of policy, Canada is willing to permit international navigation in and through the Northwest Passage so long as the conditions established by Canada are there to protect the security, environment and interests of the Inuit.

Our government currently has legislation, policies and programs in place that allow us to monitor and control the waters of the Canadian Arctic and to ensure that these interests are protected. For example, these measures include pollution monitoring and control under the terms of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, air surveillance, a system of notification before ships enter Canadian waters, as well as ice information and ice-breaking services, which have been used on a number of occasions to help those in distress.

As marine traffic to the north increases, this government will adapt the regulations and the systems already in place to continue to protect Canadian interests in its environment and its people. While previous governments of many stripes talked a lot about Arctic actions, we are taking action. This government has taken real action and is making real investments to protect our north.

Our government has continued to exercise control over Canadian internal waters, including the Northwest Passage, by providing for Arctic patrol ships and expanding aerial surveillance. We have continued to invest in our Arctic by building a new docking and refueling facility; by increasing the size and capacity of the Canadian Rangers, our feet on the ground there, with their own local and personal knowledge; by setting aside specific land for Nahanni National Park; and by establishing a deepwater port in Nanisivik on Baffin Island, which will extend the operational range of the navy in the Arctic.

It is the reduction of the Arctic ice and the increased opportunity for shipping that is attracting attention to the international waterways, known by some as the Northwest Passage. Though the ice in Canada's Arctic has reduced significantly over the past few years, the Northwest Passage is not likely to be a reliable commercial shipping route for decades to come, if ever.

Indeed, between 1903 and 2008, only 113 distinct vessels sailed through the Northwest Passage, amounting to a total of 254 transits in that time. One hundred and thirteen of these transits were made by Canadian Coast Guard vessels for proprietary use. This does not amount to being a strait used for international navigation.

The various waterways known collectively as the Northwest Passage are internal waters over which Canada exercises full sovereignty. Canada enforces laws protecting the region, and as a matter of policy, allows foreign ships to pass through the Northwest Passage so long as the conditions established by Canada are respected. In short, the Northwest Passage is, and always will be, Canadian. Our government will always protect the interests of the north.

As such, Motion No. 387 seeks to reinforce our sovereign identity over this internal waterway. With the passage of the motion, all reference to the internal waterway would hereafter be referred to as the Canadian Northwest Passage.

I thank my colleagues from all sides of the House for their consideration, their thought and their input in assisting me in preparing a motion that has broad-based support from many if not most of my colleagues in the House. Today, as a proud Canadian, I respectfully ask for their unanimous support for this motion.

Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the mover of this motion for his passionate and moving speech.

He talked about the issue of Canadian sovereignty and he brought up some valid points, and I wholeheartedly agree with the gist of what he was saying.

Over the past 20 years at least there has been an issue involving the 200 nautical miles off the east coast of this country. Over time the European Union and other partners of NAFO have wanted more influence over what is inside the 200 nautical miles off the east coast.

I was wondering if my colleague could help us in solidifying the fact that sovereignty is sovereignty on the east coast and the other countries have no say within our 200 nautical miles. Would he be the defender of east coast sovereignty as well as the north?

Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am going to give a clear and unequivocal response to my colleague's question. Yes, on every boundary that we have, we not only must but we should and we will respect the 200 miles.

There is some discussion among the five circumpolar countries as to whether or not the 200 miles should be extended perhaps even to 350 miles based on subterranean land formations. It is conversation at this point. There has been no agreement. At a bare minimum, the 200 miles is emphatically within the government and within myself, and all supporters of the motion a statement that we would not deny and we would concur with.

Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for bringing up the idea of a name change for a somewhat amorphous region of my riding, the Northwest Territories. It is good that he is in this vein.

The Northwest Territories is not recognized by the House as a riding name for my riding, yet Yukon and Nunavut have that distinction. I have been after getting the name changed to represent the people in the Northwest Territories for the past two years, but that member's party has been blocking unanimous consent to right this particular wrong that comes out of the time when the Northwest Territories was divided into Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. The name change was not put in place.

It is almost outrageous that the motion would not pass with the unanimous consent of the whole House of Commons for such an important region in our country. It would show proper respect.

Would my hon. colleague support my efforts to achieve unanimous consent in the House of Commons as soon as possible for my riding of Northwest Territories?

Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are talking apples and oranges here, not a comparison with respect to the member. Provincial issues, national issues and international issues do have different obligations and, therefore, different rights and responsibilities.

I certainly have no difficulty with the member supporting his position on a Canadian national identity for his region, and that is admirable. Quite frankly, what I am dealing with here in this motion is the recognition by international sources that look at a pan-Canadian definition that will hold throughout the entire world.

There is a bit of a difference there. However, the member has a very valid point and I would be open to discussions with him to see if we can further his considerations.

Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today in support of Motion No. 387.

I commend the member for Prince Edward—Hastings for bringing the motion forward and for his interest in the Canadian Arctic.

The member is asking:

That, in the opinion of the House, as the various waterways known as the “Northwest Passage” are historic internal waters of Canada, the government should endeavour to refer to these waterways as the “Canadian Northwest Passage”.

I am delighted the member has followed up on my idea to add the word “Canadian” to this famed passage. I was honoured, as the official opposition critic for the Arctic, to make the first motion in the House of Commons to add the word “Canadian” to our beloved passage when I moved it in the last Parliament.

Unfortunately, it never reached the floor of the House before the election and again I have introduced the bill in this Parliament but I am not on the schedule for some time. I am delighted, therefore, that the member for Prince Edward—Hastings, who has an earlier slot on the schedule, has followed up on this idea.

My motion calls for the government to modify its policy on Arctic sovereignty and actually rename the Northwest Passage the Canadian Arctic passage which is slightly different but has the same basic intent as the motion we are debating today.

My motion asks that the future Canadian produced maps, textbooks, government and other documents recognize the renaming of these Arctic waters as the Canadian Arctic passage. Most of the detailed maps of the passage are and will be Canadian, so this will help spread our message around the world.

I believe the stamp of Canadian identity and ownership will be more clearly stated and imprinted on the world community by using the reference of Canadian Northwest Passage or Canadian Arctic passage. This will be a strong, meaningful and peaceful declaration of our Arctic sovereignty for all to heed and respect.

I also point out that with global warming and the melting of the polar ice, the Northwest Passage will be crossed from east to west and, just as frequently, from west to east, which is one of the reasons why I refer to the waterways as the Canadian Arctic passage. As most familiar with the north also know, the Northwest Passage refers to a combination of several routes across the north, which is another reason for my use of the term Canadian Arctic passage.

On the other side of the coin, the Canadian Northwest Passage is a more specific geographic identifier and means a connection with a storied historical past.

I will be interested to hear from people after today's debate which name they prefer: Canadian Northwest Passage or Canadian Arctic passage, and the reasons for their preference.

Although some have challenged our sovereignty before it was not much of an issue as almost year round ice made navigation and water access very difficult but the member for Prince Edward—Hastings has wisely acknowledged the dramatic effects of man-made climate change on the Arctic and the attention that it is bringing to Arctic navigation.

With global warming, of course, northern resources will be easier to access and we are all expecting significant development in the north: new mines, industries, resource development, tourism and other activities as a result of global warming.

The Canadian Arctic passage will prove to be a vital link for a number of existing and new communities for supplies and new materials to be used to nurture the inhabitants, mostly indigenous, for new developments in the north and for the protection of the pristine environment.

Many think of the Northwest Passage as one of the last frontiers of exploration with adventurers seeking the shortest routes to the markets of Asia and the Far East. Canadian students learned of the expeditions of Martin Frobisher, Sir John Franklin, Roald Amundsen, the RCMP vessel St. Roch, Sir William Edward Perry and Robert McClure, the person who in 1850 to 1854 proved such a route existed and was awarded a £10,000 prize for doing so.

What we do not remind Canadians enough of is that the Inuit people and their predecessors were the first explorers of the Arctic. They have been part of the Arctic land and waters since time immemorial. Many of their travels are undocumented but the Inuit are considered to be the rightful discoverers of the Northwest Passage. It is, therefore, important to hear and respect their views, collectively and individually and our partners in sovereignty, the Inuit before we make any change.

In Canada, we have the Northwest Passage but across the Bering Strait there is the northern sea route which is defined as a shipping lane from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It is more commonly known in Russia as the northeast passage, a vast route from Russia's northern Arctic waters to trading markets in Japan, China, Korea and, in the opposite direction, there are the capitals and huge economies of the European nations.

Just last month, two German container ships travelled from South Korea to Vladivostok. Then, travelling along Russia's Arctic coastline, the northeast passage, they headed on to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. This northern route saves about 3,000 nautical miles and 10 days from the usual southern route, which is down through the South China Sea, past Singapore, around the bottom of India, through the Suez Canal where they pay a toll, across the Mediterranean and up the west coast of Europe. That means lower fuel and other operating costs and also represents greater shipping potential.

The Russians are in a better position to take full advantage of the commercial opportunities from the Northeast Passage. They have a large fleet of icebreakers that are commissioned to travel with merchant vessels, ensuring safe passage through waters and ice floes.

As proven last month, regional warming has brought about the possibility of navigating the northeast passage without the assistance of icebreakers during the warmer part of the year. Previously, Russian authorities would only permit vessel passage when assisted by their icebreakers, thus incurring prohibitive costs. Permission for vessels with reinforced hulls to pass without Russian assistance has only recently been granted.

As the ice continues to disappear in the Arctic, not only will the northeast passage be an option but the direct route over the North Pole will be faster, shorter and less dangerous in a more intricate and confined Canadian Northwest Passage. Even so, under any circumstances we do not want to cede our view of our sovereign control over this route.

Our Inuit live by and depend on these waters, both when liquid and frozen, The ecology is fragile and needs monitoring and protection. Were Canada's Northwest Passage to become an international strait, it would allow overflights of the war planes of all countries of the world.

The corporate world is also preparing to take advantage of these northern routes. It was reported in June 2006 that companies had recently invested $4.5 billion in ships that can navigate Arctic waters. This imposes another responsibility on northern governments. We have a responsibility to protect the fragile, pristine environment that makes up Canada's Arctic.

As an example, we know that with the state of today's technology, if an oil spill of some kind were to occur, there is no way to clean it up once it gets under Arctic ice. As a result, no amount of money will be able to pay for the damage done, the cleanup costs or the prevention programs. Government must quickly invest significant funds to develop technology to deal with hydrocarbon spills in this fragile, harsh, ice-packed environment.

If the government is sincere in protecting the Arctic environment with the projected increase in shipping traffic through the Canadian Northwest Passage and other Canadian Arctic waters, it would look at accelerating the mapping and installation of navigation aids in the treacherous and sometimes very shallow sections of the passage.

In closing, I will once again say that I will be voting in favour of Motion No. 387 and I look forward to the next hour of debate. Hopefully, the member for Nunavut, an Inuit person, will be speaking so we can hear her views and the views that the government has obtained by consultations with the Inuit.

Perhaps this would have been better as a bill duly legislated and passed by the House. It would have had considerably more authority when it was presented to countries like the United States that has long held the view that Canadian Arctic waters of the Northwest Passage are in fact international waters, not Canadian territorial waters.

It is also ironic that while I believe there is support from the House to brand our Arctic waters with a Canadian label, unfortunately, as a motion, even though it might pass in the House, there is no onus for the government to act on it. I hope my colleague has strong assurances from the cabinet and the Prime Minister that when Motion No. 387 passes, it will actually be implemented.

The Canadian Northwest Passage is embedded deeply in our identity. Let us call it like it is.

Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois on Motion M-387, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, as the various waterways known as the “Northwest Passage” are historic internal waters of Canada, the government should endeavour to refer to these waterways as the “Canadian Northwest Passage”.

First, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois will not oppose this motion. However, it is important to understand what the motion is about. Obviously, for those who are watching, but also for our children and grandchildren, this is a historic moment. We are discussing the Northwest Passage, when these waters have long been considered a frozen desert. That is the reality. I understand that we have come to this point, but this is a terrible thing for humankind.

All this is happening because climate change is having a dramatic effect on the north. Scientists say that a temperature increase of 1oC to 2oC at the equator can create an increase of 6oC in the Arctic. We are witnessing global warming, because countries like Canada are not controlling their greenhouse gas emissions. That is the reality, and that is why today we have to discuss a motion so that Canada can assert its authority over this passage. We never should have had to discuss this motion. The Northwest Passage should have remained a frozen desert.

Clearly, no one in this House is worried about this. I am not surprised that the Conservatives are holding this debate or introduced this motion. It is not important to them to take action on greenhouse gases and climate change. It is unbelievable that the Conservatives are investing so much in the oil sands, which international scientists consider the biggest polluter on the planet. The oil sands are the biggest contributor to global warming, yet the Conservatives want to increase oil sands production fivefold.

What does it mean when Canada has such a terrible record as far as greenhouse gases are concerned? The earth heats up, which causes the ice in the Arctic to melt, which leads to major changes. I will speak about some examples.

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. Climate change will also cause the disruption and destabilization of transportation, buildings and infrastructure in the north. It has a major impact on the lifestyle of aboriginal peoples. It has 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.

The Bloc Québécois, as well as scientists from around the world, has been talking about these warning signs for years.

We can talk about a motion like this, which would add “Canadian” to the words “Northwest Passage”, so that Canada can once again assert its authority over this territory.

But that is not the battle we should be fighting. The real battle should motivate us to do whatever we can to bring the ice back to the Arctic. That is the real battle, not fighting to assert our authority over territory that will soon be ice-free, an ecological disaster. That is what the Conservatives are doing, day after day, slowly but surely, with all kinds of bills and government assistance for oil sands exploitation. We will see. At every major international environmental meeting, the Conservatives have not budged: they do not want to comply with the Kyoto protocol, and they are careful to emphasize that the Liberals did not comply either. The Liberals were no better. The ice cap is melting. The Liberals were in power for two-thirds of that time. They are no better when it comes to fighting greenhouse gases and climate change.

Personally, I am proud to be part of a political organization that serves as Quebec and North America's conscience. Once again, the United States is the biggest polluter on the planet, and Canada's oil sands operations are the most polluting on the planet, all in the name of money. The only reason this is happening is so that oil companies can line their pockets and pay dividends every three months. They are destroying the planet, our children and grandchildren's heritage, just to pay shareholders a quarterly dividend. This is not an enviable position to be in. It is terrible, but it is reality, a harsh reality that we must face, a reality that leads to debate over motions like M-387 here in the House to assert Canada's authority over the passage.

I mentioned a moment ago the changes, disruption and destabilization this causes, particularly for aboriginal communities living on those lands. Other bills aimed at developing that region have been introduced, seaports are being built and some people want to explore the area for oil. That is absurd. Some people will do anything to make sure the ice disappears forever from the Arctic. From one bill to the next, the Conservatives are destroying the planet a little more every day, and all to line shareholders' pockets. That is frightening. At least we have the opportunity to rise here in the House and denounce the situation. Our words here are part of recorded history. My children and grandchildren will be able to hear me, and they will see that I did not want to take part in destroying the earth. The Conservative members of this House, however, will have been complicit. That will also be written in history. Their grandchildren and children will be able to read about what they did to try to destroy the planet.

This brings me to talk about why the Bloc Québécois will support the notion that Canada should exercise its authority over this territory, over the Canadian Northwest Passage. It does present an excellent opportunity. Canada has definitely withdrawn all protection of the arctic territory in recent years. Oil interests and other financial possibilities have emerged in that area, which is why the Conservatives have become more aggressive. However, this occupation or assertion of ownership of this territory must be done peacefully and respectfully. Canada must not take up arms or build ships or submarines, which could be used as weapons, in order to avoid, or to think it is avoiding, attacks from neighbours. This must be done while showing full respect for our neighbours.

Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by saying I support this motion. What is not to support? It is symbolism. Symbolism is important in this country. It is important to understand how symbolism can make a difference for Canadians and for others across the world. This is an easy thing for the government to do.

What would be a little more difficult, but, I feel, more appropriate would be Motion No. 110, which calls to amend the motto of Canada so reference is made to all three oceans.

If this Parliament were to take this type of step, it would clearly indicate that the symbolism we are putting forward is intrinsic to the essence of our Canadian state, and it would carry much more weight in everything that we do. That would not exclude the need for us to establish boundaries, but including a third sea in our motto would be a clear indication that Canada includes the Arctic.

Perhaps the hon. member for Prince Edward—Hastings would ask the Prime Minister to decide whether my motion is worth supporting. The Liberal leader has come out in favour of it. On May 12, I hand-delivered a letter to the Prime Minister's Office, suggesting, because of his interest in Arctic sovereignty, he might be willing to throw his support behind changing the motto. Unfortunately, I have not even had a letter back acknowledging receipt of that letter.

Symbolism is important. However, the people of the north want more than symbolism, because the people of the north, in occupying the north, create more sovereignty than anything else that we could do.

Recently, the Standing Committee on Finance held a pre-budget session in Yellowknife. Here are some of the things that northerners think should be done.

There should be devolution. The north does not control its resources. Northerners do not control their resources as do people in every other area of the country. Decisions about resources can be better made by the people of the north, who understand how to develop to the north, and whose interests should come first. Their interests will drive Canadian interests. Their interests in building roads and proper transportation systems and strong communities will trump the interests of anyone else doing that work. So, we need to see the government moving toward devolution of the resources in the Northwest Territories and of control over the land and resources.

Proper funding of government programs and services was brought up very strongly. The current territorial financing formula set three years ago did show an increase, but it did not tie the level of funding to the actual cost of delivering services across the north. Over the last number of years, we have seen a marked increase in the only energy form that is commonly used throughout the north, that is, diesel fuel, home heating oil. Those prices have gone through the roof, and every territorial government, whether it is in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut, has to bear that cost. We need to see a better formula. We need to see a formula that really does take into account the cost of delivering services.

As we progress with resource development, as we find ways to bring more revenue to Canada, that will help the situation. However, without that, what are we in? The Northwest Territories, over the last number of years, has had the highest GDP per capita in the country for any jurisdiction. Yet what happened to the population last year in the Northwest Territories? It declined. Why did it decline? It declined because the cost of services in the Northwest Territories is so high, the cost of living is so high there, that people simply cannot afford to continue their lifestyle in the Northwest Territories, in the Yukon, and especially in Nunavut.

I am sure no members of the House are surprised that it costs more to live in Canada's north than anywhere else. If they are, I would suggest they take one of their special trips across the country and visit the north to understand the kinds of pressures that northerners are living with in their communities across the whole north. Then perhaps they will come up in the next budget with more than a 10% increase to the northern residents' tax deduction after 20 years of no increases.

Perhaps then they will understand the importance of supporting the people right across the north. Until that happens, we are not going to achieve the kind of sovereignty that we are looking for in the north.

It is important to move ahead with land claims and self-government in the north. I point to the Mulroney government which did many good things to promote land claims and self-government in the northern regions. I had hoped some small part of that attitude would exist in the current Conservative government when it came to power three years ago, but what have we seen?

As an example, I will refer to the Hay River reserve. The federal government last fall simply rejected the 14th draft of the comprehensive land claim proposal, after negotiating 13 other drafts. On the 14th, the government said, “No, that is the end of it”. How is that fair to northerners? Foot-dragging at the negotiating table is something the government seems to be very good at. We need to see progress in that area.

My last point is about the Northwest Passage and the Beaufort Sea. The biggest problem we have with sovereignty is with the U.S. on the Alaska-Yukon border. The U.S. has decided unilaterally that it has possession of 21,000 square kilometres of offshore land within the 200 mile limit. Most of those territorial waters lie within the jurisdiction of the Northwest Territories and within Canada.

In April of this year, the government sent a letter to the U.S. stating that it opposed the concept of the U.S. putting a moratorium on the entire Beaufort Sea, including the disputed area. On August 27, just after the Prime Minister was on a ship off Baffin Island promoting Arctic sovereignty, the U.S. unilaterally put in place that moratorium on Canadian waters. Has the government responded to that challenge?

Parliament passed the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act last year. We did it ostensibly to provide us with more control over offshore waters. What is the U.S. doing with this fishing moratorium, the fishing issues for the U.S. off Alaska, in Chugach Bay and the Bering Strait? The Americans' decision to move ahead with a moratorium on our territorial waters is a direct challenge to Canadian sovereignty, and the government has chosen to remain silent.

Yes, the U.S. is our trading partner and yes, it is our best friend, but we must stand up for ourselves regarding the Beaufort Sea or we will lose.

Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Calgary East Alberta


Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Prince Edward—Hastings for his commitment to Canada's interests in the Arctic region.

The Arctic region is undergoing rapid change. The increase in interest and activity, the search for natural resources and the effects of climate change on the sensitive environment are presenting new opportunities and challenges for the region.

As the Prime Minister stated on his visit to our country's vast north in August:

With immense natural wealth and the growing potential for new global trade routes, the strategic importance of Canada's Arctic is heightened as never before.

Canada is an Arctic nation and an Arctic power; our sovereignty over the land and the water is long-standing. This government has and will continue to protect our sovereignty and promote the development of Canada's Arctic and the north.

With over 40% of our land mass in the north, Canada is in a strong position to shape the stewardship, sustainable development and environmental protection of this strategic region.

Canadians see the north as the embodiment of our aspirations and our limitless potential. This is why our government's vision for the Arctic region is that of a stable, rules-based region with clearly defined boundaries, dynamic economic growth and trade, vibrant northern communities, and healthy and productive ecosystems.

The Arctic ice has been steadily and significantly reduced over the past years in a trend that is expected to continue. As a result, the various waterways collectively referred to as the Northwest Passage are opening up for longer periods in the summer and their use is gaining international attention.

Canada's sovereignty is not impacted by the changing amount or quality of ice that covers these waterways. Canada's sovereignty over these waters is not contested, nor is there a challenge to Canada's right to exploit the resources in and under these waters.

Though this ice reduction has no bearing on our sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, it has however attracted attention to these waters and the increased opportunities for shipping that are becoming available.

This is despite predictions that the Northwest Passage will not be a viable or reliable commercial shipping route for decades to come, if ever, and that current and historic shipping through the Northwest Passage remains infrequent and costly.

Despite the low volume of shipping, these waters must be protected, and they will be, because they are internal waters of Canada, our waters.

As the Minister of Foreign Affairs has stated,

The Canadian government clearly understands the potential of the North. Canada is an Arctic power. We hold a vast, magnificent treasure in trust for future generations.

To clarify where our internal waters actually are, Canada drew straight baselines around the Canadian Arctic Archipelago in 1986. All waters within those baselines are internal waters and form part of Canada's sovereign territory, subject to all of the rights and regulations of Canada in the same way that Saskatoon, New Brunswick and Vancouver Island are our sovereign territory.

International laws grant that no right of innocent passage or of transit passage exists in the waters of the Arctic Archipelago enclosed within the baselines.

As a matter of policy, Canada permits international navigation in and through the Northwest Passage, as long as the conditions established by Canada to protect security, environment and Inuit interests are met. Canada currently has legislation, policies and programs in place that allow the government to monitor and control the waters of the Canadian Arctic and to ensure that these interests are protected. These measures include, for example, pollution monitoring and control, air surveillance, a system of notification before entering Canadian waters, as well as ice information and ice-breaking services.

As marine traffic to the north increases, our government will adapt the regulations and systems already in place to continue to protect Canadian waters.

While the previous government talked a lot about the Arctic, no action was taken. This government is taking real action and making real investments to protect our north.

Our priority is not just national parks. We do not believe the Arctic is an international picnic spot. We are committed to continue delivering real action for Canadians.

This government is committed to ensuring that Canada remains a regulatory leader with respect to shipping in the Arctic, including the Northwest Passage. We exercise control over foreign shipping in our Arctic waters and navigation is taking place under Canadian regulation and control, like any other internal waters of Canada.

We currently maintain a broad set of guidelines and regulations that we apply to shipping in the Arctic covering important aspects of shipping such as hull structural requirements and proper waste disposal for ships. These regulations include the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, the AWPPA for short.

In August 2008, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, the AWPPA was expanded from 100 to 200 nautical miles from the baselines of the territorial sea so that it now applies to and protects all the waters of Canada's exclusive economic zone, up to 200 nautical miles.

Parliament passed the AWPPA to underscore Canada's commitment to protect the Arctic environment and its resolve to exercise sovereignty over Canadian Arctic waters. There is no question that the exclusive economic zone provides Canada with the legal authority to exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction over living and non-living resources up to 200 nautical miles from the shore. Our government has done more to secure Canada's place in the Arctic than any government before us.

In addition to the AWPPA, under this government we are developing the regulations to formally establish the NORDREG zone which would make the current voluntary reporting by ships entering Canada's Arctic waters mandatory. NORDREG's objectives are to enhance the safety and efficient movement of maritime transportation, prevent pollution, and most important, to exercise our sovereignty in Canada's Arctic waters.

We have delivered on the real action in the Arctic and in Canada's north. Budget 2008 allocated $40 million over four years for the mapping of Canada's Arctic seabed. The government has announced new Arctic patrol ships and a deepwater port in the north. We have expanded and re-equipped the Canadian Rangers.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has announced 20 graduate fellowship awards aimed at fostering innovative research and policy development on issues related to Canada's role in the circumpolar world.

By rebuilding our capabilities and standing up for our sovereignty, this government has sent a clear message to the world: Under this government, Canada is a leader on the international stage. Through our actions we have made it clear that the Northwest Passage is Canadian. We are proud to call these waterways the Canadian Northwest Passage.

Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on this private member's business, focusing on the naming of what a lot of people have up to now called the Northwest Passage.

This has a lot to do with the issue of Canadian sovereignty. I cannot imagine anybody in the House dissenting from a purported exercise in Canadian sovereignty, and I will speak to that at the end of my remarks if I have time.

A bundle of issues are associated with the issue of Arctic sovereignty and they are all apparently made more urgent at this time in history because of changes in the environment. Global warming has made more of the Arctic territory ice-free for at least part of the year. Improved transportation technologies have allowed humans greater access to that part of the world. Improved technology allows us all to view and monitor what has happened in that part of the world.

The world's voracious appetite to find and exploit natural resources is what brought the Europeans and the Vikings into the Arctic in the first place. All of this is going on at an enhanced pace now and there is focus on the Arctic Archipelago. I have never been there myself, but I have seen it on maps, winding its way through.

I recall the story of the RCMP vessel, the St. Roch, that made its way through the passage one summer in the 1940s. Canadians were proud at the time. It was strange for the mounted police to make a passage as opposed to a military vessel, but the Mounties opened up the European settlement in the north. They took the king's law and order into the north, so it was probably pretty natural for the RCMP to make the first voyage through.

In any event, the geography up there is badly in need of regulation to protect the environment and to regulate human activity. That should not be a surprise because the United Nations has pretty much done the same thing in Antarctica, where there are all kinds of significant and strict regulations on what can happen there. Treaties have been signed by many countries, including Canada, on just those kinds of regulations.

That has not happened in the Arctic for other historic reasons. One of the reasons is because Canada is there. The Arctic Archipelago is part of Canada so there would not appear to be a need for an international treaty.

Other countries have made claims to portions of the Arctic and for this reason there is an ongoing international process. A number of countries have come together and embraced the process for delineating the boundaries of their countries in the Arctic region. That is not to say in the Arctic Archipelago, but even further north of that. I refer to Denmark for Greenland, Russia, the United States for Alaska and maybe Norway. There are a few other countries and Canada itself. That process, which is being done in a peaceful and science-based basis, should come to an end in just a few years and it will establish the boundaries.

That process does not deal with the passage, but someone has to take care of the Arctic. Canada has been taking care of it and we are going to continue to do so.

The passage runs right through the Arctic Archipelago. It is part of our inland waters. We are not just going to talk the talk, but we are going to walk the walk. Canada will continue to regulate what goes on in the passage and in the Arctic Archipelago.

The motion proposes a name change to cosmetically impress upon everyone that it is not just the Northwest Passage for anyone. It is actually the Canadian Northwest Passage. They are internal waters. We will continue to view them that way, and I support that. In case the member had any doubt, I support the motion in this instance. Perhaps we could have given it a whole new name. Maybe we should have named it the Sir John A. Macdonald passage. Then it would be clear.

However, there is one point I will make. Passing this does not only involve a name change. It is an exercise of our sovereignty. If we pass the motion, we are saying that those waters and that passage are Canadian and it will be an exercise of our sovereignty with respect to that. It should be clear to all. I cannot imagine any other country even thinking about doing anything like this. This is our job. I do not know how the members will vote, but I will support the motion when it comes up for the vote.

Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business



Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I might just ask a question of my colleagues across the floor today. I have been very grateful for their unanimous support in conversations, albeit with their concerns about particular government action or non-action.

Because I think it is important to advance this motion, I might respectfully ask if the members of the opposition would consider advancing the motion, with unanimous support, at this point. I ask because I made that preface statement and its intentions in my opening comments. Otherwise, I would not spring that on them.

Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business


An hon. member


Canadian Northwest PassagePrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed from September 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-37, An Act to amend the National Capital Act and other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders



The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders


Some hon. members


An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders



The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members


An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders



The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from September 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, be read the second time and referred to a committee, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders



Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this matter today.

As debate in the House indicates, the issue before the House is a complex issue, regarding the ratification of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. There are very strong arguments in support of the ratification, and I will acknowledge that there are strong arguments against it also.

At the outset, several people in my riding came to visit me, people who I admire and respect deeply, and they urged us not to ratify the agreement, mainly for ongoing human rights abuses in the country.

The arguments for it are clear and I do not think they are debated. The basis is that the agreement will be of considerable advantage to both Canada and Colombia. I believe that debate has been settled. Certainly any nation that is successful is a trading nation, and the country of Colombia has to get beyond the existing regime it is into now, mainly with the trade with the Venezuelans.

On the other side, the arguments against it are also clear and they have some merit. There are and have been for many years human rights abuses in that country. These are serious matters and they are still ongoing. They do deserve discussion and debate in the House. As has been pointed out many times, Colombia is a country with a difficult past. A civil war has been going on for quite some years, which has morphed into a narco war that is very serious. It requires not only domestic, but probably international attention.

In a situation like this, when we look at what comes first, the chicken or the egg, if we took a snapshot in time and still saw some abuses, we could argue that perhaps we should not. I believe, and that is my argument today, that this has to be looked at as a continuum. As a developed country, we have to look at the progress and the improvements that have been made in that country over the last eight years, especially since the election of President Uribe. We have to consider the agreement in its totality, especially the ancillary agreements regarding the environment and human rights. We also have to consider the international thinking, the present dialogue going on in the United States and the dialogue going on in the European Union.

Considering everything, it is my view that Canada and Canadians and the country of Colombia and Colombians will be better off if the agreement were ratified by this Parliament.

I did not come to that decision lightly. When President Uribe was in Canada, I attended the briefing session. I met him. There was a lot of tough questions put to him during the hour and a half session. I was quite impressed with the president. I have spoken, as I indicated previously, with Colombians in my district, the city of Charlottetown. I have certainly spoken with our critics, the member for Toronto Centre and the member for Kings—Hants. I believe they spent four days in Colombia meeting with a number of NGOs, politicians and other interested parties on this agreement and the Senate committee on foreign affairs.

We are dealing with the business case, the economic case and the moral case. It is my position that these two issues really cannot be separated. The business case is very strong. There is very little economic risk to either country. There is no direct competition. What we import from Colombia is not really in competition with other domestic producers and what we export is not in competition with some of their manufacturing sector there. Trade is not large. Canada does have a trade surplus with the country of Colombia, but there is a very persuasive argument that this will form a platform for enhanced trade for both Colombia and Canada.

When we deal with the human rights issues, the waters get a little murkier. As I indicated already, Colombia does not have a good history. It is rife with some abuses, and the troubled country over the last eight, 10, 12 years has morphed into having a very serious ongoing narco trade. That has ancillary violence and gangs. We all know the problems that country is undergoing right now.

However, we have to look at the progress that has been made. We have to take note of the progress and state of affairs. We have to read all the reports, especially the one from the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights and the reports from the special rapporteur and the other NGOs that have reported on the progress, and I would say it is real progress, that has been made in this particular country.

I do not want to be seen in the House as downplaying the problems that remain. They are a very serious issue, but we cannot take a snapshot in time. We have to look at, within a continuum, the progress that has been made, especially in the past six to eight years. We have to take note of the other reports from the NGOs, politicians and senators in Colombia, of what is going on in the region, not only with regard to the narco trade but also as far as the influence from the Chavez government in Venezuela goes.

When we consider everything, it is my premise and my argument to the House that there is a very strong argument for signing this agreement. Of course, this has to be relayed in other agreements that I hope will take place, considering the comments from President Obama. There is a very strong case that this will spur on and result in other improvements being made in the country of Colombia.

As I said before, I do not believe we can separate the moral arguments from the economic ones. When we look at the poverty and lack of opportunities for the people who live in that country, I do not believe this agreement will be the whole answer. There is not a great deal of trade, though hopefully that will improve, but it will give certain people in Colombia an economic opportunity so they can move forward as a society, a culture and a country. I hope that eventually living standards will be raised, further progress will be made on the corruption there now, and they will move onward.

I know this is a very interesting debate for many people, myself included. I listened carefully to everything that has been said. I have read a lot of the reports that have been written with respect to this particular situation.

As I indicated when I first stood, there are sound arguments to be made for or against, but it is my belief that when we analyze everything, our country, but more importantly the country of Colombia, will be in a much better position to continue on that road of progress that it is on now. That is why I will be supporting the ratification of this agreement.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the problem, especially for us on this side, is that we do not believe we can separate economics from human rights. Colombia is a country that has systematically destroyed and taken away the collective bargaining rights of individuals to form a union or association or to argue those points with the current government, and I would say that quite emphatically.

The reality is that this trade agreement has workers' rights and human rights as a side agreement, not in the main body of the text. We have seen other agreements in which human rights and environmental standards have been included as side agreements, which says, in other words, that people will get around to those kinds of discussions later. First come the profits and the interests of the big companies, and then we talk about the people and the environment later.

My question to the hon. member is this. If he honestly believes, and I know he does, in the care and well-being of the people of Colombia, their respective unions and associations and most importantly the Colombian environment, why would he not insist that those things be in the main body of the text of the trade deal?