Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Etobicoke North for sharing her time with me and for her thoughtful words on Arctic sovereignty and the environment.
There is an old saying that the road to hell is paved with the best intentions. In looking at Bill C-3, an act to amend the Arctic waters pollution prevention act, that is what comes first to my mind.
This proposed legislation is relatively simple in terms of its purpose. Bill C-3 amends the definition of “arctic waters” in the act to extend the boundary north of the 60th parallel of north latitude from 100 to 200 nautical miles offshore. This is most definitely a direction in which we must head.
The age of the north as an intense area of international interest is upon us. We are in a new reality. Steadily melting Arctic ice is not just exposing vast unexplored fishing stocks and mineral wealth; it has also made the Northwest Passage navigable in the summer. In September 2008 the MV Camilla Desgagnés as part of Nunavut Sealink and Supply Inc., NSSI, transported cargo from Montreal to the hamlets of Cambridge Bay. A member of the crew is reported to have claimed that there was no ice whatsoever.
An open Northwest Passage would cut 5,000 nautical miles from shipping routes between Europe and Asia.
Just about everyone agrees that the many islands that populate the Arctic to the north of Canada's mainland belong to Canada, but what about the water between them? Who, if anyone, has jurisdiction over the waters separating Somerset Island from Devon island, or Melville Island from Banks Island?
As stated by Donald McRae in a paper published by the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, “It must be demonstrated that the waters are the internal waters of Canada and that the waters of the Northwest Passage do not constitute an international strait”. Yet the Russians have planted their flag on the ocean bed at the North Pole 4,200 metres below sea level. Since 1994 the Russians have also staffed a research base, called Ice Station Borneo, only 60 kilometres from the Pole. Over the years Denmark has sent ice reinforced frigates and laid many claims to ownership over Hans Island. Just days before U.S. President George Bush left office, his administration asserted U.S. military sea power in a rebuttal to Canada's claims. The U.S. maintained the Northwest Passage is a strait used for international navigation.
Updating the act with new language to update our country's claims to the area is a natural progression of our sovereignty claims. It is something we on this side of the House support. However, at the end of the day there are too many questions that have yet to be resolved when it comes to enforcement and tangible actions associated with such an update.
Canada's call to action must include northern penetration by land, sea and air. We need to be prepared to defend our rights to our land in the world courts by building a strong case to what is rightfully ours. According to the United Nations Law of the Sea, we have until 2013 to stake our claim.
By sea, Canada needs super icebreakers that can make it to the outer reaches of our territory. We also need more medium-sized icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard that could be stationed as far north as possible. How many ships will be needed to get the job done by 2013? Do we build, lease or borrow the ships required? Do we have the people to fill the required positions? These questions have not been properly answered by the Prime Minister.
By land, Canada must look at establishing permanent settlements in the north that would offer air access infrastructure and safe harbours for the vessels that would venture north to do seismic testing and mapping and yet, there is no plan on how and when this will occur.
By air, Canada needs to monitor movements of others in the dispute and to track changes in the ice. We need a fleet of planes that can offer supply, research, and search and rescue capabilities.
Should Canada not be able to have a military plane in the air within six hours of any potential need, do we have additional airports planned for the north so we can properly reach all of our territory?
Once again, the government has deflected these kinds of questions by offering no specifics.
This bill will extend Canada's sovereignty over additional waters that would represent an area the size of Saskatchewan. This is significant. If Canada wants to step forward and make claims in the international arena, then dedicated resources are needed, a diverse and balanced plan must be drawn up and executed and, most important, we need to stop talking without any sort of bite behind our bark. The eyes of the world are not only on the north but also on the actions, or inactions, of the government.
Right now, Canada with regard to northern sovereignty and our ability to protect what we consider ours, is being laughed at, as is our environmental stewardship.
On a final note, recently I had a chance to speak to the CEO of the Churchill Port Authority, a man who was once an esteemed parliamentarian in his own right, Mr. Lloyd Axworthy. He spoke of the great promise of the north and how fragile the ecosystem is there.
We have a short window of time to do this right. This legislation, in its current form, is not there yet.
To conclude, I and my colleagues support the simplicity and necessity behind this bill. However, we are also looking for more than rhetoric and political posturing in working toward building strength and stability in protecting Canada's north. I hope the Prime Minister and the government will realize the intentions. I would love to support this bill, and once it goes to committee, we will see how we can deal with this. This is about our country's future.