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.