moved that Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, Canada is an Arctic nation, an Arctic power. The Arctic and Canada's north make up more than 40% of our land mass. We occupy a large part of the Arctic. The Arctic and the north are integral to our national identity.
Over 100,000 Canadians live in our three northern territories: Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, our newest territory.
The north also includes portions of Canadian provinces characterized by northern conditions. Many of those living in the north are Inuit and first nations whose ancestors have inhabited the region for thousands of years.
The history of Canada's presence in Arctic lands and waters establishes and supports our sovereignty over the region.
Bill C-3 is a powerful demonstration of Canada's commitment to and leadership in the Arctic. This government's commitment to demonstrating Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic is unprecedented, particularly the government's northern strategies fourth pillar, which is to protect our environmental heritage. Because Canada is sovereign over its lands and waters up to the Arctic point, we should apply the environmental safeguards needed to protect this unique piece of our identity.
Our government is doing that by ensuring the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act applies to the full extent of Canadian Arctic waters. It will do so by extending the application of the legislation from the current 100 nautical miles from shore to the full 200 nautical miles permitted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
As many international law experts have stated, the bill is an action that should have taken place a long time ago. Once again, this government is showing leadership and a comprehensive strategy with respect to the Canadian Arctic. I commend my colleague, the Minister of Transport, on this important amendment.
It is important that members of the House understand the origins of the legislation as a significant demonstration of sovereignty over Canadian Arctic waters.
Members of the House should note that the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act was originally enacted in 1970, in response to the voyage of the U.S. oil tanker SS Manhattan through the Northwest Passage in 1969. The Manhattan was the first commercial attempt to navigate the Northwest Passage and signalled the arrival of technological advances that permitted the construction of ice-reinforced oil supertankers.
Even though the voyage of the Manhattan took place with the consent of Canada and with the assistance of Canadian icebreakers, it was nevertheless viewed as a trial run by commercial interests to test the feasibility of year-round transport of oil by sea from fields in Alaska to facilitate on the northeastern U.S. coast through the Northwest Passage. However, the difficult ice conditions experienced at the time confirmed that even at their annual minimum extent in September, there remained significant challenges to vessels navigating these Canadian waters.
Nevertheless, the Manhattan demonstrated the potential for growth of commercial transportation through the Northwest Passage, due to technological developments, and focused attention on the growing risk of potential consequences of a major oil spill occurring in ice covered waters.
It was in this context that the Parliament of Canada passed the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to underscore Canada's commitment to protect the Arctic environment and its resolve to exercise sovereignty over Canadian Arctic waters.
Canada's ratification of the UNCLOS in 2003 provides an additional international legal basis for the proposed amendments in Bill C-3. Prior to the conclusion of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, in 1982, international law did not recognize the concept of a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone as it does now.
Today there is no question that the exclusive economic zone provides coastal states, such as Canada, the legal authority to exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction over living and non-living resources up to 200 nautical miles from the shore, including important rights with respect to the prevention of marine pollution.
Canada also benefited from UNCLOS through the inclusion of an additional provision, further recognizing the legality of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act under international law. Canadian negotiators were successful in including article 234 within UNCLOS, permitting additional rights for Arctic coastal states, such as Canada, within ice covered water. Article 234 is commonly referred to as the Arctic exception and is the product of negotiations between Canada, the United States and the then Soviet Union.
It is beneficial to consider some additional international legal considerations of the proposed amendment. Some states have differing interpretations with respect to the international legal status of the various waterways known as the Northwest Passage.
For example, in 1988 Canada and the United States concluded a bilateral international co-operation treaty concerning the transit of U.S. government icebreakers through the Northwest Passage. This agreement, resulting from an initiative of former President Reagan and former Prime Minister Mulroney, allows Canada and the United States to continue to maintain differences in the interpretation over the international legal status of the Northwest Passage by literally agreeing to disagree, while on a practical basis allowing movement of icebreakers through the Northwest Passage on a basis within the best interests of both states.
The legislation under consideration would not affect provisions of this agreement. As a matter of policy, Canada is nevertheless willing to permit international navigation in and through the Northwest Passage, so long as the conditions established by Canada to protect security, environmental and Inuit interests are met. These measures include, for example, pollution monitoring and control under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, which we are now considering.
As marine traffic to the north increases, our government will adapt the regulations and systems already in place to protect Canadian interests. Our government has also pledged an enhanced surveillance and military presence in the Canadian Arctic waters. We are also implementing an ecosystem-based approach to ocean management in the Beaufort Sea and elsewhere.
As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I am committed to strengthening our bilateral cooperation with other Arctic nations. That is why I will be touring circumpolar capitals to promote the Arctic and Canada's interests in the region.
We have some interests in common with our Arctic neighbours—Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland—and we have a lot to learn from their experiences.
We are looking at how trade, innovation and investment can contribute to sustainable development in the north.
Partnership with Arctic countries must rest on a solid legal foundation, and Bill C-3 is an integral part of that foundation.
I would like to emphasize that Bill C-3 is yet another means of exercising Canadian sovereignty over its Arctic waters. By extending the application of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act from 100 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles from shore, Canada will give full effect to the sovereign rights permitted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. These rights were secured in large part by Canadian negotiators. Their inclusion in UNCLOS constitutes international recognition of Canadian domestic legislative action over its Arctic waters through this act.
By passing Bill C-3, the Parliament of Canada, the government and Canada will take an important step to ensure that the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act applies to all Canadian Arctic waters and to ensure proper stewardship of this important Canadian region for future generations.
I look forward to the support from all parties on this important amendment.