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.