House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.


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12:50 p.m.


Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that there is a commitment under the START I convention that was signed between the former Soviet Union and the United States of America where there is an obligation to be able to log the overflights that will be coming. Canada is not part and parcel of that.

What I can say, and I want to reassure my colleague and the members of the House, is that I have had the opportunity of speaking with the Russian Federation's foreign affairs minister to see what can be done to advance the cause.

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12:50 p.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to this bill on a personal basis, as well as a representative of the Liberal Party, Her Majesty's official opposition. As an individual Canadian, and I am sure like all parliamentarians in this House, I welcome the fact that the Government of Canada, any Government of Canada, takes a proactive measure that says what we are going to do is advance the cause of Canada; we are going to advance the interests of Canadians; we are going to promote all those things that make us richer, not just in financial terms but in cultural, social and political terms as well, and more productive for all to see—in other words, that we want to take our rightful place in the world. We see that. We do that with great pride.

The minister, as I said in my intervention a moment or two ago, addressed the issue of this being a powerful demonstration of our commitment to the north, to our claims in the Arctic, and our willingness to take a rightful position in the north, and in fact, in the entire world. Then he said, as well, it is without precedent.

So we want a powerful demonstration of defence of Canadian interests.

Do members know how much we want that, those of us from the official opposition, those of us who work here but want to carry on the tradition of Liberal governments that looked out for the interests of Canadians throughout the ages in all aspects of Canadian interests?

In 1970, so much for unprecedented, the Canadian government of the day, that of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, passed the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. It is the basis for Bill C-3, because that act gave the legislative powers to the Government of Canada to not only outlaw waste disposal in the north, but regulate a wide range of fields, including the construction standards of ships using the Arctic. It contained enforcement powers and a regime of civil liability for 100 miles and left the opportunity to extend that an additional 100 miles to be included in Canada's exclusive economic zone.

One might add, why did we not do that then? Did we not recognize Canadian interests should expand and extend that much further?

I will go back to the issue of unprecedented action. Governments of the day would appear to have had a rather mature approach to making claims, ones that the minister opposite just recognized, but we cannot do it unless we are in a diplomatic environment where other people recognize those interests, realize that they are legitimate, and are prepared to support them. Otherwise we have to engage in some military tactics in order to get our point across.

The government of the day continued its diplomatic efforts, and I noted that, reluctantly, the minister opposite conceded that, yes, there was some further activity in 1982 when, pursuant to that Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, we signed on to an internationally accepted and mandated authority to extend those rights in what is, of course, the UN Law of the Sea, in article 234.

So we have had this authority for quite some time. One might say, why did we not extend it further? Why did we not do that before? One could pose that today in a petty partisan fashion, because after all, the government has been in office for three years and did not think this was important until now. But we are not going to do that, because we recognize that things change and as they change they demand different approaches by governments of the day.

One of those changes, of course, has been global warming and its impact on the navigability of Arctic waters. Because of the navigability of those Arctic waters being improved, there have been a series of interests by various governments and by various private sector organizations that decided they needed to look at the potential of the Arctic.

Keep in mind, it is the potential that is there. For example, scientists coming from the United States Geological Survey went and examined the potential of the subwater beds for conventional energy sources. Ever since the first oil crisis, people have been talking about the shortage of conventional energy resources, basically those that are petroleum-based, natural gas.

What did this centre discover? Well, it discovered that the Arctic holds some 13% of undiscovered conventional petroleum sources are resident in the Arctic. This is an estimated number and we are willing to allow that they may be wrong, that it may actually be underestimated. A further 30% of natural gas deposits may be resident in the Arctic. That is 30% of all potential in the world and a further 13% of natural gas liquids resident in the Arctic of all potential in the world.

We can imagine that there are people who are interested. What did they do? They have to look for indicators. For example, Shell recently paid $2.1 billion for the lease rights in Alaska, in the Arctic Circle. BP did something similar to the tune of $1.2 billion. These companies put money where their interests lay. Exxon contributed something like $585 million, according to a recent newspaper article, for similar rights.

These companies, private sector corporations, interested in exploiting the potential that is held in secret by Arctic waters and ice are now looking at the potential to go and make exploration and economic development. They are doing it.

Countries, on their part, are beginning to do the exploration necessary to see to what extent they can lay their appropriate claim to that territory. We saw the Russians do it recently.

Government members opposite say, “Baa haa haa, that was a gimmick”. Maybe not so much more of a gimmick than that of the Minister of National Defence who decries the fact that the Russians are going in overflights on Canadian territory without telling us, and then we find out not only is that not an accurate reflection of the truth but it is also a distortion of the reality.

Then we find that the Minister of Foreign Affairs says, “We are going to do this. We will not tolerate anybody incurring into our territory”.

Why did he have to do that? According to the minister's speech a moment ago, he was to establish a diplomatic environment where we could advance our cause. Why, for example, would he not then go to the Chinese, who are already taking a look at the possibility of moving a lot of their transport through that Northwest Passage, using the warming that appears to be taking place in the Arctic waters in order to take a look at the economic competitive advantage they want to establish through different transportation modes down the road, building ice breakers and ships that can navigate in waters where icebergs are the norm, and where ice floes are a natural part of the environment and where thick ice may have to be blown over to one side in order to allow this navigation.

They think this navigation will give them a competitive advantage in the transportation field. Rather than use other means, they are going to go through the Northwest Passage to deliver their goods to Europe, not to Canada and North America but to Europe.

So we can see that the interest is there. The Chinese, by the way, contrary to what the Minister of Foreign Affairs would have suggested a few moments ago, are already very busy indicating to the entire world that they are going to consider that passage as international waters.

The minister can claim, all he wants in this House, that there is a powerful demonstration of the Canadian government's willingness to do something, but I think that the facts tell us a different story.

The Americans have already said, “You can say what you like, but this is what we're going to do and, by the way, if you want to do it with us, we'll give you a face-saving way to get out”. However, please do not tell us that this is an unprecedented act to advance Canadian interests. Let us say that this is a necessary item that brings full circle the initiatives that were begun in 1970 and then we will deal with things in a mature fashion because that mature fashion then takes a look at how to protect those interests.

We want to protect the environment. We are well aware of what the four pillars of a northern strategy are. We put them forward from this side of the House many years ago. We do not need to be reminded that they now have a different name and that we are going to try to spin it differently. The fact of the matter is we want to protect the environment. We want to protect the interests of the indigenous population, we want to develop the economic potential that is resident in the north, and we want to expand our position internationally because it is our position.

Not only are we custodians of the environment of the people in the north, but we are the proud heirs of the work done by others. Let us not turn our backs on the work that has been done by others, even if it was done by those with a different partisan stripe.

We took a look at this in committee and members will probably know that the committee said it wanted to support this. A mature approach would say, yes, but we must be prompted by care and due diligence. We need to take a look at what the other part of the government's claim is and that is that this is, again, a very powerful issue and that we are going to do everything we can in order to protect Canada's interests.

For those who are following this debate, they need to understand that the implementation of Bill C-3 is one that says we are going to expand the Canadian territory by an additional 500,000 square kilometres. That is the equivalent of a province the size of Saskatchewan. There are very few countries in the world that are the size of Saskatchewan. That calls to mind immediately the need to engage in diplomatic negotiations with other countries in order to recognize that claim.

More importantly, it then imposes a responsibility on the Government of Canada to ensure that it can do what it says it must do under the four pillars of a northern strategy, an Arctic strategy, that safeguards the environment, promotes the interests of the people who are indigenous to the area, allows Canadian economic interests to be advanced, and allows for us to advance our political leadership in that area.

One would ask, “What are the measures the government is putting in place to substantiate that?” The committee began to ask that question. For example, Mr. William Adams, the chair of the Defence Science Advisory Board, referred to the fact that we will have great difficulties in the case of environmental cleanups because there is a growing probability of a major oil spill.

Émilien Pelletier is a professor at the Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski at the Université du Québec à Rimouski.

He says that, “In cold water, after just 48 to 56 hours, oil turns into a sort of pudding that is difficult to pick up. It then becomes impossible to recover”.

What do we have as a measure to prevent that from occurring? Environment Canada officials, who appeared before the committee, said that Environment Canada does not have a mandate to enforce the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. That is problem number one. If we do not have the authority to enforce it, why do we claim that we have powerful instruments at play?

Transport Canada officials said that surveillance and enforcement are limited to, are members ready for this, a single Dash 7 airplane and access to satellites. A single Dash 7 airplane to cover the territory equivalent to the province of Saskatchewan. Mr. Speaker, that is your home province. Can you imagine one single plane, a Dash 7, patrolling all of Saskatchewan? Except that this territory is spread out over a longer distance and is limited by the amount of fuel that it can carry, given the climatic situations governing flights like those of the Dash 7. Just imagine.

The general public in listening to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, applauds the fact that the government has powerful instruments to enforce our interests. A Dash 7 to survey incursions into our territory. We know they are coming. The Russians have said they are going to do it. The Chinese said they are going to do it and the Americans said, “to heck with you if you want to stop us”, especially with a Dash 7.

Now they are not the only ones. Did not the Minister of National Defence, in a moment of bravado, suggest that if the Russians want to continue their incursions into Canadian territory, whether it be by air or by sea, that they would find us ready? Well, it appears that his own officials said no, the Department of National Defence does not have a mandate to enforce the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. I do not know whether bluster is allowed to replace fact but the government is trying very hard to establish that principle.

Now hold on a moment, I think I said initially that this was a transportation bill because it was presented by the Minister of Transport. He appeared before the committee and said that in order to have a truly effective legislation, we must have a government that presents legislative items and measures in order to enforce it. We must be proactive, we cannot be reactive and we need to back that up with real action.

I wonder whether he talked to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of National Defence, Minister of the Environment, and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Why? Because the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for the Coast Guard. Oh, Coast Guard officials before the committee said that they do not have any plans to increase northern capacities in order to assist the enforcement of Bill C-3.

We wonder whether the measures to back up a piece of legislation that we know is the logical conclusion of legislative initiatives by Liberal governments starting in 1970 going to 1982, are ones that we find ourselves having to support. We saw the critic for the Bloc Québécois stand and say the Bloc will support this bill. The government has enormous goodwill from everyone, I dare say even the critic for the NDP will stand and say the NDP supports the bill. Heck, I am critic for transport on this side of the House and we find that we want to close the circle.

However, we cannot accept the government putting a claim down for a bill that skims over its competence to deal with the issue of enforcement and the issues that deal with international cooperation. The minister talked about the issues of consultation and that officials from his department said that most Arctic neighbours who were consulted, although we do not know who they are, did not express concern about Bill C-3. That is imaginable because it is consistent with the normal flow of the first initiatives in 1970 and 1982.

The United States has asked us for more information and the Russians have expressed some concerns but nowhere did they say that they would be as observant about Bill C-3 as we would like them to be.

We will support Bill C-3 because we must support Canadian sovereignty but we have the reflections of concern about the government's competence to handle our interests in an international affair.

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1:10 p.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was struck with how the member's speech dealt with not just the environmental issues in the bill but it seemed to deal with issues involving the boundary between Canada and Russia and the alleged grandstanding by the Russians close to our territory. Probably, in that incident, they flew in their own territory. There is nothing wrong with that. Perhaps it was the grandstanding of our own defence minister in alleging that there was something strange about Russians flying military flights in their territory close to Canadian territory. I am just wondering whether that has muddied the waters in relation to the bill. In fact, no country, Russia, Canada or the U.S., will be publicly debating in a place like this the measures they may take to protect their own sovereignty in places like the Arctic.

Could I conclude that the member does not see the bill as hugely problematic but that it may involve a lot of sidebar issues that are distracting us from the bill? In other words, should we not get the bill passed and then move on?

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1:15 p.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River, in his usual erudite fashion, has asked the position that every individual who is following this debate is asking, which is: Do we as members of Parliament stand for the development of individual Canadian interests and collective Canadian interests?

There is an easy answer to that. I belong to a party that has always promoted the Canadian interest and the interest of every individual Canadian no matter where they come from

I feel exceptionally proud when we can say that we are providing leadership, as we did when we promoted the Arctic waters act and when we had the additional measures under section 234 on the Law of the Sea. This is an extension of that and a recognition of that.

I want to advise my colleague that the interventions by ministers of the government in the last little while, yes, they have muddied the waters. They have bruised our reputation, so much so that the Russian minister of defence, I think it was he, felt that he had to write an opinion piece in one of our national newspapers to correct the record. That does not help in any diplomatic relations that we will have going on down the road. The government keeps insisting on poking the eye of the Chinese.

However, I think we will support the principle of the bill.

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1:15 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for an excellent outline of the debate and its ramifications.

All sorts of topics were brought forward in committee by government ministers and government officials tangential to the bill. However, the one that is brought forward most often is basically, as the member for Scarborough—Rouge River said, an administrative extension of the great Liberal bill by Trudeau. The ramifications are that we have this huge area the size of Saskatchewan to protect. What all the opposition parties are questioning is the ability of the government to protect that area.

We can give ourselves new power but there is no one to protect it, or if we add 100 square miles to the area to be policed but there are no new policemen, how will we monitor it? The government had no answers to that except to say that it definitely did not put any money in the budget and no department would respond that it had added any new resources.

I wonder if the member has concerns about the ability to monitor this area the size of a prairie province.

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1:15 p.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Yukon came to committee to raise precisely those issues.

We approached the bill in a serious fashion. We said from the very outset that we wanted to support the principles of the bill, which is a logical extension and conclusion of initiatives that began in 1970 and then proceeded in 1982 under a Liberal government led by Pierre Elliott Trudeau. We felt that this was the way to go but we all wanted to have answers about the environment. It was not the what to do about the environment but the how to do it. How would the environment be protected? What measures would the Government of Canada take to illustrate that there would be a serious approach to ensure that any polluters would pay, or to use the words of the Minister of Transport, “polluter pays”?

We brought forward officials from the various departments to see how they were equipping themselves to take on this additional responsibility. Members heard what I said in my speech. They shrugged their shoulders and said that they did not know, that they did not have the mandate and that nobody knows what is going on.

That raised questions. Does the government have the competence to do what the bill demands it to do? Is the government exaggerating its own importance in doing what is the logical extension of previous legislation? On that, there is no doubt that the government exaggerates and demonstrates incompetence.

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1:20 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

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.

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1:40 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I quite enjoy the member at the aboriginal affairs and defence committees. He made a very good point about the importance of aboriginal people who have lived in the north for thousands of years and their role in sovereignty there.

Could he comment further on that and give a cogent example of when the United States tried to send a ship through without having asked Canada for permission, although we gave it? An Inuit dog team pulled up and stopped the mighty ship's progress forward. I would love to have a picture of that for my wall. As international lawyers define historic use, which has gone on for a thousand years, this was a perfect example of that. Could the member talk about that role in sovereignty as opposed to a lot of the military items about which we have talked today?

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1:40 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague for giving me the opportunity to talk a little more about the Inuit and first nations presence.

The member gave an excellent example, specifically, the ship that violated Canadian sovereignty. He is quite right. Canadian authorities granted authorization after the ship had already passed. People in the far north objected and positioned themselves in the path of the ship.

There was a point I was not able to address in my speech and I would like to address it now. It has to do with the presence of the Canadian Rangers. The Rangers, who are often Inuit, patrol the far north. I even asked the Rangers if I could go out on a few patrols with them. It is the basic map that will prove to international opinion and to international courts that these are the people who live on that land. Not only are they Inuit, but they are also Canadian.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say that the government must include Nunavik in its strategy for the far north. Nunavik has been completely overlooked. The importance of other Canadian regions is finally being recognized, with the exception of Nunavik in Quebec. I urge the government to include Nunavik among the other Inuit partners. Yes, the Inuit presence is extremely important in our argument to prove Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic to the rest of the world.

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Saint-Jean on his excellent speech. As other members of the House will have noticed, he is very familiar with this file. Personally, I have one concern about this issue.

Members have talked about the impact of climate change—we have seen the ice melt and the consequences of failing to invest in the Kyoto protocol—and the importance of working with the Inuit on this file. I also have a problem with militarizing the Arctic, which will involve huge sums of money. Enormous amounts of money. Military spending has gone up since the Conservatives have been in power. This government tends to spend heavily on the military. And this would mean spending vast amounts of money. Money spent on this kind of thing does not help unfortunate people who lose their jobs, nor does it help to create social programs.

I would like my colleague to comment on that. What can we really do to avoid increasing military spending in the Arctic?

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question. Since the Conservatives were elected, militarization has run rampant. Purchases of aircraft alone total $16 billion, not to mention procurement for land and naval forces.

The government promised to purchase a huge icebreaker, which is not a military item. It is required for travel in areas where there is thick ice so that Canada can maintain a presence in Arctic waters. It seems that this has been shelved and they are considering purchasing military vessels. That is a dead end. I said, as did my colleague, that we are all worried about the military presence in the far north. That is not the solution because we are facing much larger players than ourselves. We would not succeed even if we were to use Canada's total budget. The United States spends almost three times as much as Canada: $450 billion per year compared to our budget of about $200 billion. Thus, that will not work. That is not the answer.

My colleague is right. Diplomacy and science, the continental shelf, and the presence of the Inuit people are our best bargaining tools.

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-3. We in the NDP came out in support of the bill at second reading. After a fairly rigorous examination of the simple bill in committee, we felt we could continue to support it. It really does not have any negative aspects other than the fact that it is unable to provide the level of protection through the actions of the government, which a bill like this would tend to make people think would come.

Bill C-3 extends coverage of our environmental laws to 200 miles offshore, but in evidence given in committee, it was quite clear that this new limit really only applied in one part of the Arctic, and that is the area adjacent to the Beaufort Sea, now covered with ice. As the witnesses demonstrated in committee, there was no traffic at all into the region the bill was designed to expand our control over. It is covered with ice and no ships are entering other than perhaps research vessels or the Canadian icebreaker.

The area is not under dispute between different countries. This is a rather innocuous change but it is an important subject. That is why all of us are standing up one after the other to talk about it. That is why we took time in committee to look at all aspects of Arctic development and had witnesses appear from a variety of government departments and a variety of other concerns. The Arctic is important and what happens there is extremely important. What happens to the Arctic in terms of climate change will change the ice coverage in the area we are extending our jurisdiction over.

There will be more traffic. There will be other uses coming forward, whether it is shipping, tourism or other things. It is important that we join the rest of the world in understanding how we can deal with the Arctic. One of the key aspects we have to approach is our relationship according to how the other countries of the world, which have a stake in Arctic waters, approach the issue.

I had the opportunity to attend, on behalf of my party, the Ilulissat, Greenland meeting. As well, last summer I had an opportunity to visit with the Arctic parliamentarians when they met in Fairbanks, Alaska. I had a chance to learn about the attitudes of people across the world toward Arctic waters and to hear questions about the change in the nature of the Arctic ice cover to the importance of Arctic resources.

Quite clearly, the government needs to continue to expand its international presence on Arctic issues. When the government took office three and a half years ago, it had the attitude that it would use the Arctic sovereignty issue as a political football to enhance its image as standing up for Canadians. In some ways, that is exactly the wrong approach to take.

It is not a question of Canada's status in the Arctic. We have great status in there. Our status has come through our work, along with other countries, to ensure the Arctic is developed and used in a responsible fashion.

I am pleased to say, at the meeting in Tromso, which unfortunately I was unable to attend but which I have followed very closely, the 2009 Arctic marine shipping assessment report was delivered. That report has been in the making for a number of years. It speaks to many of the issues in the Arctic and it speaks to them on the basis of all the Arctic countries, which I think is a very useful approach.

When it comes to sea ice, what does the marine shipping assessment say? There is a possibility of an ice-free Arctic Ocean for a short period of summer, perhaps as early as 2015. This would mean the disappearance of multi-year ice, as no sea ice would survive the summer melt season. To people who live and work in the north, this is a truly frightening occurrence. We are completely changing the nature of the Arctic.

What does the retreat of Arctic sea ice over these recent decades mean? It has improved marine access to some degree, although when we talk about particular shipping lanes, we talk about the fact that when we take off, we will see a lot more movement of ice through the areas as well, as the ice cover comes off. There will be more pack ice moving through. There will be more intermittent access than perhaps steady, free access to that area.

We will see changes in coastal ecology and biological production. We see that in the types of fish that are coming around the coast of Alaska from the Pacific Ocean and that are starting to show up in the nets of fishermen on the Arctic coast.

On the other side, we see that the change in the melt ice has created a situation. This was talked about today on the radio, the decreased level of salt in the waters off the coast of Labrador and those areas. Those things are happening right now.

There are adverse effects on many ice-dependent marine mammals. We have the issue of the status of the polar bear, which came up strongly last year. We also have increased coastal wave action. That plays out very much in my riding on the Beaufort Sea, where the lack of sea ice cover has increased the type and severity of the weather there. Once again, we see these problems.

From the marine shipping assessment report, what is one of the main items that are considered? The most significant threat from ships to the Arctic marine environment is the release of oil through accidental or illegal discharge. In committee this was raised by the parties, through their witnesses, and the answers were much less than satisfactory. The answers that Environment Canada had for its enforcement or its ability to get out there and find out what was going on were very limited. The technology development in which we were all interested, in terms of how to ensure that these—

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I could encourage somebody else to speak to this issue after my—

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member makes a good point. It is becoming increasingly difficult to hear him. He is on the other side of the chamber. Perhaps we could have a bit of order, as we should always have, to allow the Chair to hear his remarks.

The hon. member for Western Arctic.

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I bow to the goodwill of the other members of the House to continue my address.

When we looked at the problems that we had in terms of the major and most significant threats from ships in the Arctic, we did not have answers, at lease no answers that we could identify which suggested that we were on top of this issue.

How much is the Arctic being used right now? The marine shipping assessment report says that there are approximately 6,000 individual vessels making multiple voyages in the Arctic regions and that approximately half of them are on the great circle route in the north Pacific that crosses the Aleutian Islands. Approximately 1,600 of these vessels are fishing vessels.

Nearly all the movement in the Arctic is destinational, conducted for community resupply, marine tourism and moving natural resources out of the Arctic. There is no trans-shipping yet that occurs in the Arctic regions. That is something that probably would more likely occur once the future ice cover has moved back and we have a clear understanding of the intermittency of the pack ice in the area.

Significant increases in cruise ships, the majority of them not built for Arctic waters, have been observed in summer season around Greenland within the past decade, and certainly those ships have been identified as an area of potential concern.

What is the governance? When we are talking about the need to protect the Arctic, we are talking about the need to protect from marine vessels. We are not talking about much else when we talk about how we will deal with marine protection in the future. How do we deal with the governance of Arctic shipping?

The law of the sea is reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It provides the fundamental framework for the governance of Arctic marine navigation. The International Marine Organization is a competent UN agency with responsibilities related to the global maritime industry. It has been very active in developing guidelines for ships operating in Arctic ice-covered waters. I think that is one of the issues that we must come to grips with here. Guidelines are not good enough.

What we need for Arctic shipping to protect the Arctic is international regulation that says that ships operating in the Arctic must meet minimum conditions for Arctic waters. The International Association of Classification Societies has developed non-mandatory unified requirements for its members that addresses the issues around ship construction, which are defined again in the guidelines.

We need to move forward from that point, which is where Canada can work very effectively at the international level and potentially within our own waters to ensure that we have that quality of ships working in the Arctic.

There are no uniform international standards for ice navigators. Quite clearly, when entering into Arctic waters, one needs to have proper navigation, a pilotage system that can deliver those ships safely through very difficult waters. Even within the Northwest Passage, the charting that has been done there is very minimal.

We have a new marine terrain opening up and that marine terrain has to be well protected.

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member for Western Arctic will have approximately six and a half minutes the next time this bill is before the House after question period.

Arts and CultureStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize one of the world's leading centres of performing arts and digital media education, the Sheridan College Institute in Oakville Ontario.

On Friday evening, Sheridan's School of Animation Arts & Design celebrated its awards evening for Sheridan's famous musical theatre school, one of the world's best, where some of Canada's most brilliant young performers develop and polish their art.

Sheridan graduates amaze audiences from the Stratford and Shaw Festivals to Broadway, Disney World and Hollywood. Graduates from Sheridan's computer animation department have led the world in artistic digital storytelling, helping create films in Canada and internationally; blockbusters like Star Trek, Star Wars and the Terminator series.

Every performer in Canada helps create jobs and opportunities for others, like stagehands, set designers and carpenters. Our artists also serve us by helping define who we are as Canadians. That is why federal funding for the arts and culture in Canada has never been higher than right now.

We salute the dedicated, talented young people at Sheridan and across Canada, and their teachers who put their futures on the line to tell Canadian stories and touch our hearts.

Katyn, PolandStatements By Members

May 4th, 2009 / 2 p.m.


Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring to the attention of the House and Canadians the horrific historical event that was the Katyn massacre of 1940.

It is commemorated each April by the Polish Canadian community to bring recognition to the systematic slaughter of 23,000 Polish military and civilian leaders in the Katyn forest and other locations and their burial into mass graves by the Russian army on the orders of Stalin.

Long denied, today the horrors that were suffered are only partially recognized. I invite members of Parliament to join with our Polish Canadian community in pressing internationally for full recognition of the Katyn massacre for the genocide it was and to help bring final peace for the victims and their families.

Aimé DespatisStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the people of Les Moulins are in mourning, for Aimé Despatis has passed away. We have lost a great scholar, a true community builder.

Aimé Despatis was passionate about information. He was remarkably open and honest, easy to talk to, connected to people, generous and cultured. He brought significant cultural, social and political change to his community.

Among other things, he played an important part in the Quebec ministry of culture's acquisition of Île-des-Moulins, which is now Quebec's second-largest historical site. He also founded Terrebonne's independent La Revue, a newspaper that told the story of our growing city and region for 50 years. Thanks to Mr. Despatis, the people of Terrebonne have discovered whole chapters of their local and regional history. He was the heart and soul of “his” paper until the very end.

The Bloc Québécois members and I would like to offer our most sincere condolences to Mr. Despatis' family and friends, as well as to the staff of La Revue.

Employment InsuranceStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend, I attended a rally held in front of the Beta Brands plant, in London, Ontario. This plant closed more than two years ago and workers are still waiting for money owed to them. They did not receive any severance and their pensions are gone. Workers at this plant have lost their jobs, their homes and their life savings. Some had to wait six weeks or more for EI and others six months or more to even find out if they could access retraining.

Plant closures and layoffs in London have been far too frequent and are devastating to the people involved and to our community. Lives are thrown into turmoil with every closure.

More needs to be done to address these job losses. The government needs to fix the employment insurance system, create more opportunities for retraining and implement all of the NDP's workers first bill to protect those pensions.

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of CanadaStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the past seven years, Ted Dawes has teamed up with the UFCW locals 175 and 633, and has raised closed to $75,000 in support of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada.

This year, Ted and his team are taking their efforts on the road and he is walking 440 kilometres from Parliament Hill to Nathan Phillips Square. Event coordinator, Sue Amsbury, and her team have worked tirelessly to organize this event and with great success.

Many companies have stepped up to support, including Imprinted Apparel, Jack McGee Chevrolet, Gold's Gym, the law offices of McGillen, Ayotte and Dupuis, Coca-Cola, Reebok, Del Mastro RV, as well as many individual donors.

Ted's official department from Ottawa will be tomorrow at 11 a.m. and he expects to arrive in Toronto on May 22 where the Toronto Argo cheerleaders will cheer him across the finish line.

I encourage all of my colleagues to come out to the reception this evening and support the “Ted on the Road” team and meet some of Peterborough's finest citizens.

With each step, he is putting the boots to leukemia and lymphoma.

Helen GravesStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all colleagues in the House, I want to acknowledge with sadness the passing of Helen Graves on Tuesday, April 14.

She was best known here for the political internship program designed by her for our House of Commons in 1984 and which she directed for over 20 years. It was the first of its kind then, an experimental education program, and to date, over 500 U.S. students interned in Ottawa under Dr. Graves.

It has provided valuable resources to MPs, given opportunities to students and added value to cross-border relations, benefiting both countries over many years.

Students learned parliamentary functions, did research for MPs and drafted written work. Many of these students went on to become active in politics and they all hold a special place in their heart for Canada and Canadians.

Helen believed deeply in the power of education and she was a professor for several U.S. universities where she implemented the internship program and earned numerous academic and civic awards.

We in the House join in celebrating her life, her love of learning and her manifest contribution to U.S. and Canadian democratic institutions.

Battle of the AtlanticStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, of all the important campaigns Canada was part of during the second world war, the Battle of the Atlantic was unlike any other.

For six years, day after day, courageous Canadians met the challenge of making the relentless crossings of the treacherous north Atlantic, sailing from Canada's east coast to a beleaguered British nation and bringing with them vital troops and much needed war supplies. These were ordinary Canadians who did extraordinary things.

Sixty-six years ago, in May 1943, the tide finally turned in favour of the allies but a terrible price would be paid for this victory as more than 4,600 courageous men and women lost their lives at sea.

They are our heroes and today we honour those who endured Canada's longest battle of World War II. We remember their supreme sacrifice to defend our values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, those whose final resting places cannot be marked by graves.

Canada's military men and women are fighting to protect those same values today.

Canada remembers the Battle of the Atlantic.

Trait d'Union Community CentreStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Trait d'Union community centre is celebrating its 25th anniversary today. That organization serves the people of my riding, especially those in the Sacré-Coeur neighbourhood of Longueuil. It provides a place for people to come together and share resources and ideas, and it serves as an anchor for the entire community.

Community involvement and the tenacity of many local stakeholders have produced positive results. Today, the Trait d'Union offers social and cultural recreation programs, summer day camps for children, sports and other physical activities, as well as community programs for all age groups.

I would like to congratulate and sincerely thank the staff and many volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to the well-being of their community day after day. I would also like to posthumously recognize the enormous contribution made by Raymond Guay, one of the founders of the community centre, who served as its director for 20 years.