Mr. Speaker, the following reflects a consolidated response approved on behalf of Global Affairs Canada ministers.
In response to part (a) of the question, Canada is a steward of the unique ecosystems and wealth of biodiversity that exists in the ocean and understands that, despite often harsh conditions, offshore and deep-sea marine environments host a diversity of habitats that support many organisms. The oceans are the largest ecosystems on the planet and fulfill a role in mitigating climate change through heat absorption and carbon sequestration. For this reason, Canada’s approach to the protection of the high seas and international seabed is to provide leadership and support to the development of a legal and regulatory framework that provide effective protection of marine environments by applying the precautionary approach, the ecosystem approach, and the use of best available science and Indigenous and local community knowledge. Canada is engaged in this regard at the International Seabed Authority and with the ongoing negotiation for a new implementing agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). Further, Canada is engaging in the UN Ocean Decade (2021-2030) that will advance transformative ocean science to support sustainable ocean policy, including specific initiatives to better understand the ocean-climate nexus as well as marine biodiversity and ecosystems.
Canada has a long tradition of providing leadership on international ocean governance and negotiating strong environmental agreements. Canada is committed to the development of a robust, effective and practical treaty that will enhance the coordination and coherence of international efforts to conserve biodiversity in the high seas. As such, on February 11, 2022, the Prime Minister of Canada endorsed the High Ambition Coalition on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction launched at the One Ocean Summit in Brest, France. This commitment provides further impetus and opportunity for greater Canadian leadership in advancing the conclusion of an ambitious high seas treaty.
As regards part (b) of the question, Canada is a member of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, or the Ocean Panel, and has endorsed the recommendations of the Ocean Panel’s “Transformations for a Sustainable Ocean Economy” document, which advocates for regulations that provide effective protection of marine environments by applying the precautionary approach, the ecosystem approach, and the use of best available science and indigenous and local community knowledge. This includes working towards the Ocean Panel’s 2030 outcome of sufficient knowledge and regulations being in place to ensure that any activity related to seabed mining is both informed by science and ecologically sustainable.
Concerning part (c) of the question, Canada does not have legislation in place that would permit the mining of hydrothermal vents, polymetallic nodules or seamount crusts in areas under its jurisdiction. Pursuant to UNCLOS, to which Canada is a party, any eventual national legislation established for seabed activities in areas under national jurisdiction must be “no less effective” than international rules, standards and recommended practices and procedures.
The Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents, or EHV, were designated as the first marine protected area under Canada’s Oceans Act in 2003. The designation of the EHV as an MPA provides for the long-term protection of this biologically diverse and productive ecosystem. It also allows us to conduct further scientific research that will contribute to the understanding of the hydrothermal vents ecosystem and the numerous unique species of animal that rely on it.