Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, members of the committee and others.
I'd like to thank the committee for offering me this opportunity to present this brief concerning Bill C-3 and to support the passage of Bill C-3. I think it will have a very important influence on how Canada handles environmental issues in the Arctic in the years to come.
In the 1970s, as a research scientist with Environment Canada I was involved in the series of studies called the Beaufort Sea project, which included extensive research on the potential impact of oil pollution in the Arctic. It seems that again, almost 40 years later, there is a high probability that greatly increased oil and gas exploration will be undertaken in the high Arctic. There is also an increase in shipping due to reduced ice cover, so it appears there is a growing probability of a major oil spill or even of an oil or gas blowout occurring, which would release oil into this Arctic ice and water regime.
I would like to offer a short summary of these very important earlier Canadian studies.
In July 1973, cabinet granted approval in principle for exploratory drilling using drill ships in the Beaufort Sea. However, the drilling authority was subject to two riders in the cabinet decision. These were that the actual drilling would not take place before the summer of 1976, and that the authority would be issued conditionally on constraints that would be determined by the Beaufort Sea project, which was the name given to the group of studies from which the assessment would be made.
A unique feature of this project was its joint government and petroleum industry nature, whereby industry contributed $4.1 million--in 1970 dollars--to support the Beaufort Sea project. By the time the project was completed in late 1976, the total cost was estimated at $12 million.
Included in the project were studies on wildlife, marine life, oceanography, meteorology, sea ice, and oil spill countermeasures. These studies provided ecological baselines for a better understanding of the physical and biological environments and the knowledge related to the consequences of a possible oil spill and methods of oil spill cleanup in ice-infested waters.
Reports on these studies--some 45 detailed technical reports--were published. As well as this technical report series, the reports have been synthesized into six books, which appeared somewhat later. This is an example of one of the books that appeared in the early 1980s. These are very good resources on this massive undertaking.
This particular report was not an impact statement. Its purpose was to present information, not arguments for or against the development of petroleum or other resources in the Arctic. That is, I think, important. It was a baseline study, and it's been a critical Canadian contribution to this very important area of Arctic oil resource exploitation.
The studies undertaken on oil spill countermeasures were the ones that I took part in as an expert on the air, ice, and water interface and what happens to oil when it's released into this regime. We were concerned about the impact of oil on the melting of sea ice in the spring, as well as on the organisms living in, under, and within the ice.
Another major area of concern, which is very interesting in the present day, when we're talking about climate change, was related to the impact of oil on the reflectivity of the ice--in other words, on the albedo of the oil-contaminated sea ice. The concern was whether oil-polluted sea ice from a major blowout could impact the climate by influencing the degree of ice cover from year to year.
The field experiments were conducted by releasing hot crude oil under the two-metre-thick ice in mid-winter near Cape Parry. I can tell the committee from my own experience that should a well blowout occur or a ship release oil under the conditions found in the ice-covered Arctic Ocean, there are very few options even now for the cleanup of such a major environmental disaster.
I've come before the committee to urge them to consider the need for additional and sustainable funding to extend our knowledge of the impact of oil spills and oil cleanup methods in ice-covered waters. It's my great disappointment that after the tremendous efforts by Canada and industry in the 1970s, this excellent work by many diverse scientists across the Arctic in the Beaufort Sea project was not vigorously continued in the following years.
I would also like to suggest that, as in the case of the Beaufort Sea project that was co-funded by the petroleum industry and the federal government, a new long-term project of Arctic research on the impact of oil on sea ice should be undertaken. We now obtain significant data from satellites, including from our own Radarsat system, and more capabilities are being planned. But ground truth is often lacking with regard to sea ice, especially with regard to tracking where the oil goes once it's released into the ice environment.
Finally, I would like to make the point that extending Canadian jurisdiction to 200 nautical miles offshore greatly increases the area requiring monitoring and will greatly increase the cost and difficulty of any remedial action in the case of oil spills.
I am presently chair of the Defence Science Advisory Board that reports to the deputy minister and the Chief of Defence Staff, and we are currently working on a study, sponsored by DND, on infrastructure requirements for increased activity by the Canadian Forces in the Arctic. In fact, we are meeting today, just across the street.
We are also looking at an all-of-government approach, and we are trying to assess the potential for collaborative infrastructure initiatives with the northern communities. I suggest that in the case of environmental disasters in the Arctic, an all-of-government approach will be essential.
Therefore, I hope that Bill C-3 will be just the beginning of a series of actions by the federal government to increase Canadian Arctic research efforts in the critical area of sea ice and oil interactions. If future economic developments occur in the Arctic as projected, then I believe this money would be very well spent.
I have three recommendations. First, provide additional and sustainable funding to extend our knowledge of the impact of oil spills and oil cleanup methods in ice-covered waters. Second, such a new long-term project of Arctic research on the impact of oil on sea ice should be co-funded by the petroleum industry and the federal government. Third is that a proposed Arctic research program such as this should be an all-of-government initiative and must include the residents of the Arctic.
I'd like to thank the committee again for their attention to my brief, and I'm willing to entertain any questions.
I would first like to thank the committee for kindly inviting me to appear today.
The Arctic environment is extremely important. We have long known that it is a fragile environment, as is evident from programs such as AMOP that have been mentioned and the many studies carried out at the other end of the world, in the Arctic.
We acquired our experience as chemists and toxicologists largely by studying environmental problems in the Antarctic. That is why we have some knowledge of how hydrocarbons behave in the soils, sediments and waters of the Antarctic. Obviously, the environment there is very similar to the Arctic environment.
It is hard to imagine a major spill of 5,000 tonnes or more of crude oil or refined hydrocarbons in Canada's Arctic waters, including the extended zone proposed by Bill C-3. Weather conditions in the whole southern part of these waters up to the M'Clure Strait, with the Beaufort Sea to the west and the Baffin Sea to the east, are increasingly like the conditions in Prince William Sound, where the Exxon Valdez accident occurred. It is reasonable to think that if an accident were to occur in the summer, when there is no ice along the coast, thousands of kilometres of shoreline would be severely contaminated, depending on the location and the prevailing atmospheric conditions in the days following the accident.
Given the area's immense size, low population density and relative inaccessibility, it is unlikely that a rescue and mitigation plan could be implemented within a few days. 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. We believe that the consequences of a spill in the southern zone would be devastating and almost unimaginable. The same is true of the northern zone, where there is a lot of ice. It is virtually impossible to recover oil through and under the ice.
In summary, I would like to make a number of recommendations that I believe could help not only protect the Arctic environment, but also, I hope, support Canada's sovereignty in its Arctic waters and the extended zone proposed by Bill C-3.
We feel that this bill is a small step forward, but an absolutely essential first step. We believe that, as soon as possible, Canada must acquire vessels to enforce its environmental legislation. The environmental impact of an oil spill in Arctic waters is such that Canada must adopt an approach that calls for absolute or extreme protection of its Arctic waters. To develop such an approach, Canada must take the initiative of organizing an international conference to negotiate a protocol to protect Arctic environments and ecosystems.
The protocol could be modelled, for example, on the Madrid Protocol, which protects the Antarctic waters. To protect certain especially fragile marine areas, Canada must develop an environmental zoning plan that identifies restricted zones or sectors where no access for tourism, commercial or industrial purposes is allowed. Lastly, federal departments and agencies should work together to protect the Arctic environment through a formal structure created for that specific purpose, rather than through interdepartmental committees, which are often heavy and too likely to lead to jurisdictional disputes.
I thank the committee members for giving me the opportunity to appear.
Mr. Chair, your very helpful staff suggested that we keep our comments to five or ten minutes.
I had asked the chair if I played hockey with him way back in my teenage years in Manitoba. He said no, we probably didn't, but we should maybe talk later. I played for the Selkirk Steelers, and we were really lenient with him.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the invitation to appear here.
I am appearing here on behalf of Duane Smith, the president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada office, who sends his regrets from Inuvik, in the Beaufort Sea area. He would definitely be willing to respond to any questions that you may have shortly after this intervention on my behalf.
I'm an adviser to the ICC, not only here, but also in Greenland, Canada, and Russia. He asked me to stress the fact that the Inuit don't only live in Canada. Some of the concerns we're presenting here are also the concerns of the one people living across four countries, from Greenland right to Russia.
Let me begin by saying that ICC Canada welcomes the general intent of Bill C-3, which is to protect the Arctic environment. There will be several recommendations that you'll find embedded in my intervention. But as Mr. Adams said in one of his recommendations, it's important to involve the residents of the Arctic.
I would add that it's especially important to involve the Inuit, given the land claim settlements and obligations and the international commitments that the Canadian government has, not only in the implementation and in giving us the opportunity to speak here, but if the bill is passed, in analyzing it and monitoring it to see how it works in the future.
One year ago, as part of an Arctic Council project under the Arctic marine shipping assessment, ICC Canada interviewed Inuit hunters and elders from numerous communities across the Canadian Arctic. In a sense, for some of you who know of the 1970s land use and occupancy studies, these were comprehensive studies that were done across the then-called Northwest Territories and parts of Labrador, which laid the foundation for a lot of things, including the land claim settlements. There were a lot of interviews then. We and the ICC updated those interviews.
We found that despite the effects of climate change and changes that occurred in the Inuit communities within the past years, the Inuit continue to rely heavily on a traditional diet. Some call it “country food”. The diet in large part consists of sea mammals and fish, as you are well aware. This traditional diet is based on extensive travel over sea and ice in order to harvest the resources required for subsistence. We'd be happy to supply our report, which is entitled “The Sea Ice is Our Highway”, to those who want it.
Inuit continue to rely heavily on the subsistence economy because it is central to who they are as a people. As you know, the store-bought food that ends up in many parts of the Arctic has leap-frogged through airports along the way and a freeze-thaw cycle. The cash that's required and the nutritional value are often not that great when it gets there.
At its core, Inuit life in Canada and across the circumpolar Arctic is connected to what we still call the pristine Arctic ecosystem. As you know, it's perhaps the most fragile ecosystem on the planet. Therefore, any effort to protect the Arctic ecosystem, as this bill intends to do, is a step in the right direction.
As the committee considers this bill to enlarge the area defined as Arctic waters, at the same time, ICC urges you to strengthen the regulations that are enforced within Canada's Arctic waters. ICC Canada also urges the Government of Canada to apply more stringent pollution prevention standards prior to approving any further resource exploitation and development under the current national and international standards, which the Inuit consider to be highly inadequate.
As Mr. Adams said earlier, because there is currently no way to properly clean up pollution in the Arctic waters, the penalties for pollution must be high. There should also be a lot of cooperation with the local people on identifying spots where pollution may be especially problematic for the community. We also have to convince the exploration and development companies that they cannot afford to be careless or allow for any mistakes.
ICC Canada urges the Department of Transport, together with other departments responsible for environmental protection and economic development in the Arctic, to take a coordinated approach, and to do this in cooperation with Inuit in order to ensure the highest possible standards of environmental protection.
Finally, Mr. Chair, we also urge the government to look at all matters in the Arctic from a position of circumpolar and international cooperation, and this bill should do the same. ICC is itself a model in this regard, as Inuit got together in 1977 across what they sometimes look at as artificial boundaries back in Alaska, when they were facing the oil companies moving up and coming in without consultation. That's what happened. Again, I keep referring to Mr. Adams, but he talked about the Beaufort Sea project as well. It's important to include the federal government and the petroleum industry, but if you include the Inuit people, you will also have greater success.
I'd like to take that a step further, though, to make sure we look at the international cooperation that the Canadian government is part of. As all of you know, the Arctic Council is another model that doesn't only include Inuit, but also states. Then there are other international instruments that provide guidance in developing and monitoring this bill.
Arctic sovereignty is a hot topic these days. ICC Canada would caution that the focus on this bill should be on environmental protection, yet it should be located in the larger discussion of international cooperation, sovereignty talks, and the like, which are taking place beyond this bill. These include rights of free, prior, and informed consent of Inuit.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you very much. I almost feel like there's a little bit of an old Manitoba mafia here, finding out you're from Selkirk and Brandon, being a good Birds Hill boy myself.
In the context of my comments overall, I have four comments in regard to the bill. But let me begin, first of all, by clearly expressing my support. This is an action that we've needed to take for a long time. I'm very happy to see that it is being brought forward, and particularly in conjunction with the mandatory element of the NORDREG reporting aspect. This is something that is of critical importance to our sovereignty concerns in the Arctic and our environmental protection of the Arctic. Having said that, I have four comments that I want to focus on. They deal with the institutions of the protection of our sovereignty, the enforcement that we need for our sovereignty, the surveillance that will flow from this particular act, and, lastly, the diplomatic effort that in my view will be necessary.
Now let me start talking about institutions. As several of the preceding speakers have made clear, Arctic sovereignty is indeed a hot topic, but it has of course been an issue that has been with us since the 1940s, picking up steam in the late 1960s and into 1970s. One of the things I think this bill illustrates is that we need better institutional formats to coordinate our overall Arctic policy. If we look at the history leading up to the creation of this law, we've already had two periods of time that in my view were lost opportunities when we could have strengthened our claims of Arctic sovereignty even more so. Both the Conservative and Liberal preceding governments have missed opportunities, and once again it comes back to the fact that I don't think we have the proper institutional oversight that addresses it as a pan-Canadian issue.
In 1986 the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney brought in the very strong act closing the Arctic with straight base lines. In my view, and in the view of others, there was the opportunity to have extended the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act at that point. Then in 1996, under the government of Jean Chrétien, the Canada Oceans Act was brought forward. Once again we did not see people quite thinking of extending the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. I don't offer these comments as criticisms, but rather to suggest that as a result of the lack of an overall pan-Canadian bipartisan approach to the needs of Arctic sovereignty we often have found ourselves historically creating legislation such as Bill C-3 that is absolutely necessary but something that probably should have been and could have been done at least 20 years earlier.
Moving on to the bill itself, there are three major follow-throughs that absolutely have to be monitored and prepared for. The first one is the diplomatic requirement. There will, in all probability, be push-back from both the Americans and the Europeans. The Americans, in January this year, released an Arctic policy where they clearly stated that they view the Northwest Passage as an international strait, and ultimately, when push comes to shove, what we are doing with this act and it do not fit together. By the same token, in the fall of 2008 the European Commission issued a policy paper that also restated their position that the Northwest Passage is an international strait.
Now, we have, on the other hand, the fact that the Russian government is about to release a law very similar to what Bill C-3 is actually doing. We do have a country, Russia in this particular instance, that in fact is very much copying our efforts to increase our control of Arctic shipping. What this ultimately means, in my view, is that we need to launch a diplomatic effort to address those countries that may see this particular act as confrontational to their particular policies. I think it's necessary to push the environmental side to make it clear that perhaps under article 234 of the Law of the Sea we are in fact not going against their interests in this context. But that requires a very strong diplomatic effort.
We also should be looking, with our Russian neighbours, to coordinate the policy so that the world does not necessarily see this as a land grab, as it may be portrayed, but rather as proper environmental stewardship.
The two other aspects I'd just like to briefly touch on, which I note that some of the other commenters have raised already, are the issues of surveillance and enforcement. There is no question in my mind that this act, as necessary as it is, will require significantly more surveillance capabilities.
Once again, the coordination, I would argue, needs to be strengthened. When we're getting ready to put in such things as Radarsat-2, we may be looking at ways of having ship identification systems. There is already comment about the DND project to improve our surveillance, specifically Northern Watch. It is imperative when we have this type of legislation coming forward that efforts such as Northern Watch be strengthened and actually applied.
The last issue I'd like to raise is enforcement. I've taken the time to go through the Hansard comments in terms of the speeches made when this bill was introduced and also to see the comments of some of the other witnesses. I think the one theme the committee is probably very aware of is that if we are indeed serious about this legislation, we do need to be prepared to ensure that everybody is in fact following it. Also, when we indeed do face a country, company, or ship that may wish to challenge this particular legislation, we need to have the ability to ensure that the particular actor follows our legislation. That requires an enforcement capability that at this point in time we probably do not have in full.
We see this among the Russians, the Norwegians, and the Danes. In fact, they are thinking very similarly in terms of improving their enforcement. The promise of the Arctic offshore patrol vessels and the new large icebreaker will all be essential. I suspect we will find that when shipping comes forward, we will need even more than those particular infrastructures.
Ultimately, we need a pan-Canadian approach to ensure that we are we are taking action such as Bill C-3 in a timely fashion. We need to prepare for the diplomatic push-back that will be coming. We need to improve our surveillance and enforcement.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The point I wanted to raise at the end of the hour is really one that has been raised by every one of the witnesses. I'm torn between supporting the bill, as all witnesses have said they want to, and looking closely at how the bill is going to actually be implemented. Mr. Huebert talked about an environmental bill. This is a transport bill. Those of us on this side of the table are looking for some sense of accountability. That accountability has to be shouldered by at least one representative of the government.
Last week I read in Hansard that a representative from INAC suggested that the minister responsible for INAC is the one in charge of what will happen in this area. Recently, we had the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence issue statements that suggest they are going to take the measures necessary to do what Mr. Huebert, Mr. Pelletier, Mr. Reimer, and Mr. Adams have proposed in respect of the question of surveillance and enforcement. Every one of you has said, directly or indirectly, that we need more diplomatic efforts in order to impose our will in an area that's already being contested.
One of the issues not raised in this bill is how much it will cost to conduct this surveillance and ensure enforcement. I'm wondering whether any of you are prepared to say what that amount will be. Will it be the cost of icebreakers, patrol boats, cruisers? I don't want to say Dash-8s, because I suspect that they probably wouldn't be sufficient in monitoring a territory the size of Manitoba. I'm wondering, Mr. Reimer and Mr. Huebert, in particular, what you think would be required to have sufficient enforcement and surveillance.
I'd like to make a brief comment on the surveillance issue.
We're actually tasked at the Defence Science Advisory Board right now to look at the all-of-government issues associated with Arctic surveillance or Canadian surveillance. I believe there are committees in place now among the different government departments that have an interest in knowing what's going on throughout Canada. The environment department is one, as are the coast guard and DND, of course.
I believe that what is emerging is a rather complex and layered surveillance system that will involve satellites, unmanned vehicles, manned aircraft patrolling, and a response capability. This is actually being planned out now, and the assets are in some cases already being procured. The required infrastructure is in the planning stage and should probably be in place within the next three or four years.
I think that in some ways the issue is more related to how one cleans up an environmental disaster, should it occur, than to how one locates it. If you can't locate it, obviously you can't even start. As well, we have to think about what we're going to do when we find a problem. What we're already doing is, I think, along the right tracks, though, in terms of surveillance.
Canada should really take the initiative on an international protocol. In my opinion, it is the only country that can take the initiative, because it is directly affected when the European Union, Asian countries and the United States use the Northwest Passage.
If Canada wants to defend its sovereignty in that passage, if it wants to protect its environment up to 200 nautical miles, as Bill C-3 proposes, then an international protocol to protect the environment is absolutely essential. This sort of protocol already exists to protect the Antarctic. It was negotiated at length and ratified. The Madrid Protocol protects the Antarctic ecosystems extremely effectively, and nearly all the countries in the world signed this protocol, after much hesitating and lengthy negotiations. If there is a protocol to protect the Antarctic that is called the Madrid Protocol, why could there not be a protocol to protect the Arctic that would be known as the Ottawa Protocol or something like that.
I do not see what country other than Canada could take the lead on this, because Canada is the country that would suffer the most in the event of an oil spill. As the other witnesses mentioned, an oil spill is hard to imagine, just as a nuclear accident is hard to imagine, and so we must do everything we can to prevent it from happening.
We have to find ways to prevent a major spill from happening, because we do not have the means to protect ourselves or clean up after such a spill.
Unfortunately, you're absolutely right. If you look back to the history of the creation of the Arctic Council, which was a Canadian initiative, our hope was that we could create the council as a means of having a political body that would deal with all these issues on a circumpolar basis. The focus was environmental protection. This was very specific. Because of the Americans' concern in terms of their disagreements with us and their disagreements with the Russians, at the time, on the Bering Strait, which continues to be a boundary issue for them, the Americans refused to participate on anything that would give political power to creating the type of cooperative effort that we were going to be seeing.
We're now having new actors. One of your colleagues made reference to China. The Chinese recently have made several statements that they see the Arctic as a common heritage, and in fact, they are starting to give signs that they will, in fact, be taking the American and European position on the status of the Northwest Passage.
We talk about the requirement for surveillance. Another issue that no one has brought up is that we also have to have surveillance of where the industry, particularly the shipping industry, is now going. Most Canadians will be very surprised to find out that it is the South Koreans, Samsung and Daewoo in particular, that have become the world leaders in commercial vessels in Arctic waters. We need to ensure that we are also negotiating with these countries so that as they are building both the oil and liquefied natural gas carriers that are being designed for Arctic operation, they are, in fact, building them to standards that fit our requirements. This is also a means of forward surveillance, in my view.
We are doing what is necessary with the passage of this law, but I think the committee needs to be very aware that we will be creating a series of political issues. Hopefully they can be kept relatively low key, but my suspicions are that we probably will not be able to contain each and every one of them. But we should be prepared and not let that veer us from this course.
Maybe you misunderstood me. I'm not an expert in security. What I was aiming at was that with any kind of security system or any kind of surveillance, please involve the Inuit.
Secondly, I think you have to involve.... Again, back to the diplomacy argument, China was mentioned, and the Arctic Council was mentioned. Whether it's security or an environmental bill--and as Mr. Volpe said, it's a transport bill, but it's still an environment bill, in a sense--you need to have Inuit involved, and you need to have other countries involved. Sovereignty, even though it may sound like an oxymoron, involves other countries. You can't do it on your own.
Coming back to surveillance, you need to work with other countries. They are not our enemies. Inuit, for example, have cousins and friends and others living in Greenland. Greenland is becoming more and more sovereign. On June 21 of this year, they will have negotiated what you might say is a sovereignty association with Denmark. It's another step towards home rule. Build upon the Inuit having these ancient ties to the other people, and build on Canada's diplomacy also.
If Canada wants to strengthen the surveillance, stand up at the Arctic Council and make it something that has more teeth. Incidentally, China, as Mr. Huebert said, is becoming more involved. China has applied to be an observer at the Arctic Council, and that could be a place where we could involve them more.
But coming back to your specific question, I'm not an expert in surveillance techniques; I'm talking more about the process and involving Inuit.
And thank you to the witnesses for appearing before the committee today.
I have a couple of points I want to touch on. In some of the background documents prepared for the committee, it says that this extension will give us jurisdiction over an additional half a million square kilometres of our water, which is roughly equivalent to the land mass of one of our prairie provinces. It also cited Senator Rompkey, in terms of the key word being “control”. We can prove that the water is Canada's, but what people care about is control.
There are two points there. One is that simply because we have legislation that extends the boundaries, without adequate resources to actually look at environmental protection, it's a fine statement to the international community about extending our boundaries, but the mechanisms to actually enforce it simply aren't there.
A number of you have touched on surveillance and enforcement. I'm more interested in the environmental aspects, so I'll direct my question to Mr. Adams.
It's very troubling in your statement that you indicated there are very few options for cleanup available. Given that, what do you see that needs to happen immediately in conjunction with this piece of legislation?
Thank you very much for that question.
A population pyramid, if you know what one looks like, is very different for the Arctic from what it is for down south. Some Inuit have children or marry at a young age, and they'll be having children soon, so people in their twenties need jobs; you're right.
How do you take economic development and juxtapose it with the need to have a safe and clean environment? If you look back 20 or 30 years to when Justice Berger did his quite well-known study on the Mackenzie pipeline and at other studies since, you see that economic development won't work if you don't include the Inuit; it just won't work. And if you include Inuit at the free and prior consent levels, you're going to have a much better outcome in terms of protecting both the environment and promoting jobs.
Inuit are not at all against economic development that is promoted in a safe and sustainable manner. The important thing they stress—again, this is through consultation and being part of the plan—is to make sure that you don't have what I think is called “the Dutch disease”, wherein you have people come from the outside and there's an economic boom and they leave. It's really important; there are conditions on economic development.
I'll refer to Greenland. Just last week there was a uranium mining seminar in south Greenland. It could have happened in Canada too. People there said they don't want economic development if it means bad health for them or means that they have problems.
So there's a trade-off, but absolutely the Inuit are in favour of economic development. Coming back to my Justice Berger example, now, 20 or 30 years later, the Inuvialuit and others are part of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group. There's communication, and if it's done in a sound manner, it's important and it's necessary. Jobs are necessary.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I want to do it in the spirit of moving along.
I realize that what's happened is that Ms. Hoeppner has said this is a good first step and nobody wants to stand in the way of a good first step. As you know, you've received notice from me of a notice of a motion. I've given the 48 hours' notice and it will be dealt with, I guess, on Thursday.
In anticipation of that, the context that we've been provided by all four witnesses is as follows. First, there appears to be a lack of coordination or a requirement for greater coordination by several departments of government in order to do the job right. Secondly, there are implications for each of those departments that need to be addressed, and they have some diplomatic consequences that will impact on whether this bill will actually accomplish what it was intended to accomplish. Thirdly, there are financial implications for this that need to at least be aired so that we have the appropriate ministers come forward and say “This is what we are prepared to do as part of our planning for this legislation”.
I suggest--and you will find it in the motion before you when we come to it--that we have the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Development, National Defence, Environment, and Indian Affairs and Northern Development come before this committee to at least give us an indication of where they are.
I know, Mr. Chairman, that you wrote to each and every one of them, because I asked you to do this a week ago, and only one of them has responded. I think if we want to proceed with this legislation, despite the fact that it's only one paragraph in length, you can see from the witnesses we have before us today that the implications for us to consider are a lot more serious than what we initially thought would be the case.
Some of the questions that I read in the Hansard, as I acknowledged earlier on from a couple of my colleagues from the Bloc, suggest that they are also viewing these things with the same kind of--I don't want to say profound consideration, because I don't want to attribute anything other than good--serious parliamentary work on the part of everybody. I think it's important for us, Mr. Chairman, to make that one last effort to get these ministers or their representatives.
I see you have some DFA officials coming up in a few moments. There's no reason that we can't get some of the others at the table so that we know exactly what it is they are doing in this and that it wasn't just a piece of legislation that came forward because the Minister of Transport wanted to do something. I think the Minister of Transport, judging from the transcripts, indicated last week that it's not his jurisdiction here and that this one would be better equipped to answer the question. I don't mean to be critical. I take him at his word. Let's get those other ministers before us. Let's get their senior officials in the event that those ministers can't come forward and let's at least put the issue out on the table before we go into the one clause-by-clause that we were going to have to consider.
I think the committee would be well served—and I'm hoping all colleagues will see this—by having the appropriate departments through their ministers or senior officials give us an indication that they've gone through some of the thinking that these witnesses, who are actually in the private sector or in academia or as private individuals, suggest should take place, ought to be taking place, or is taking place. I haven't heard that from the government's side yet, so I'd like to do that before we proceed.
As Mr. Pelletier already said, it is a very small step.
I think the main benefit we can add, as this committee, is to put this in context. The DIAND representatives weren't able to do that for us. They say they take a coordinating role.
For the benefit of witnesses who haven't gone, we want to know how this fits into a plan. And there are some very firm recommendations there that maybe we can try out with the different departments. An international conference--do we have enough of an integrated position, where the pieces fit together, that we can hold an international conference, which is what we're being recommended to do by a number of the intervenors, and make sense? Talk about all government efforts, talk about bipartisan—I think you mean multipartisan, which is the nature of our particular Parliament—and I think this is what has struck us as we look at extending a 100-mile limit over what isn't very much activity right now, but it does bring all these other questions.
Mr. Volpe, if we can extend some of our outlook to maybe push some of that forward, I think that's the kind of theme we're getting. I'm not sure we're going to be capable of doing it justice in the time we've got, but I think you can't take this bill simply as an isolated measure, because it frankly isn't that consequential by itself. It has meaning. Its meaning is, does it fit; do we have it as a piece of a puzzle that we understand and are prepared to get coherent on? And that's the curiosity I'd like to see, how far we are and how far away we are from having that.
I cannot disagree with what Mr. Volpe says. This is probably the shortest bill there is—it has only one clause—but it will have a very great impact on other countries. I understand what the government wants to do. It wants to make a point.
But we do not even have the equipment to get around our own territory, as Mr. Pelletier says. That means that we cannot provide the protection this bill is intended to provide. Consequently, I agree with Mr. Volpe to a certain extent.
I understand that we want to go to 200 nautical miles and mark our territory. That is fine. However, that has an impact on other communities. That is more or less what we discussed the last time.
Have you communicated with the other countries? Have discussions been held? We are far from where we want to be. We would like to have an environmental agreement, but there have not even been any diplomatic talks. We will see with the representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. I hope some talks have taken place.
That means that we just want to mark our territory and stand up to our neighbours. I have no problem with that. I am used to doing that in politics. But we need to be very aware of what we are doing. That is what Mr. Volpe means.
Mr. Chair, members of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to talk about Bill , which proposes to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act.
My name is Alan Kessel , and I am a legal adviser with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. I am also pleased to introduce my colleagues from the legal branch of Foreign Affairs: Caterina Ventura, deputy director of the Oceans and Environmental Law Division, and John Burnett of the same division.
Mr. Chairman, by way of introduction, DFAIT assists the Minister of Foreign Affairs in fulfilling his statutory duty to foster the development of international law and its application in Canada's external relations. Within DFAIT, the legal branch is the principal source of legal service and advice to the Government of Canada on an increasingly wide and complex range of public international law issues, including the establishment of Canadian maritime zones and their boundaries in conformity with international law.
For this reason, I am appearing before this committee today to discuss the important sovereignty aspects of Bill C-3. In particular, I will address the extension of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, fondly known, as you may know, as the AWPPA, 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 and how this will further demonstrate Canada's sovereignty over the full extent of its Arctic waters.
I will briefly address the origins of the AWPPA, in part as a demonstration of Canadian sovereignty over its Arctic waters. I will then discuss the consistency of the proposed amendments with international law. Finally, I will briefly address additional international aspects of the proposed legislation.
The AWPPA, as you know, was enacted in 1970 following the 1969 voyage of the ice-strengthened U.S. oil tanker SS Manhattan through the Northwest Passage. The Manhattan represented the first commercial attempt to navigate the Northwest Passage and marked the arrival of technological advances that permitted the construction of ice-reinforced oil supertankers. At that time, commercial interests were assessing the feasibility of year-round transport of oil by sea from fields in Alaska to facilities on the northeast U.S. coast. The Manhattan's voyage was primarily viewed as a trial run to see if transport of oil through the Northwest Passage was a feasible alternative to constructing a pipeline or transporting oil by sea to facilities on the U.S. west coast.
The voyage of the Manhattan occurred with the concurrence of Canada and with the assistance of Canadian icebreakers and demonstrated that ice conditions, even at their annual minimum extent in September, still posed 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 and potential consequences of a major oil spill occurring in ice-covered waters.
As one response to the Manhattan voyage, Parliament passed the AWPPA to stress Canada's commitment to protecting the Arctic environment and to demonstrate Canada's resolve to exercise its sovereignty over Canadian Arctic waters.
At the time of enactment in 1970 the AWPPA was an important development in international law. It signified Canada's commitment as a coastal state to protecting the sensitive Arctic environment by creating a unique environmental protection zone out to 100 nautical miles from Canadian land. As part of this innovative action, Canada announced a reservation for compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in The Hague with respect to this legislation, thereby preventing other states from challenging Canada's position at international law.
Prior to the conclusion of the third 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 the exclusive economic zone provides coastal states such as Canada with the legal authority to exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction over living and non-living resources up to 200 nautical miles from shore, including important rights with respect to the prevention of marine pollution.
UNCLOS also included an additional provision further recognizing the legality of the AWPPA 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 waters. Article 234 is commonly referred to as the “Arctic exception”, and was the product of negotiations between Canada, the United States, and the then Soviet Union.
To briefly summarize, article 234 provides coastal states with the authority “to adopt and enforce non-discriminatory laws and regulations for the prevention, reduction and control of marine pollution from vessels in ice-covered areas within the limits of the exclusive economic zone”. The inclusion of article 234 in UNCLOS validated the then-current 100-nautical-mile application of the AWPPA under international law, but it would also permit its extension to the full 200-nautical-mile limit of the exclusive economic zone.
Canada's confidence in its strengthened legal position with respect to the AWPPA following the conclusion of UNCLOS resulted in our withdrawing the previous reservation with the International Court of Justice in 1985. Finally, Canada's ratification of UNCLOS in 2003 provided an additional international legal basis for the proposed amendment in Bill C-3.
I will now briefly discuss 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. However, these disagreements are well managed. For example, in 1988 Canada and the United States concluded a bilateral international cooperation treaty concerning the transit of U.S. government icebreakers through the Northwest Passage.
This agreement, resulting from an initiative of President Reagan and Prime Minister Mulroney, allows Canada and the United States to continue to maintain differences in interpretation over the international legal status of the Northwest Passage by in essence agreeing to disagree, while on a practical basis allowing movement of icebreakers through the Northwest Passage on a basis of its being within the best interests of both states. The legislation under consideration would not affect provisions of this agreement.
Mr. Chair, before concluding my opening remarks, I would like to point out that Bill is another way for Canada to exercise its sovereignty over its Arctic waters. By applying the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act for 200 nautical miles from shore rather than 100 nautical miles as before, Canada will fully assert its sovereign rights, as permitted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Those rights were obtained in large measure by Canadian negotiators, and the fact that they are included in UNCLOS is proof that the international community recognizes the validity of Canada's domestic law regarding its Arctic waters, the AWPPA.
Now, I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Well, you've raised about a seminar's worth of questions here, and I'll try to reduce it to bite-size chunks.
First of all, there's a mythology out there that somehow because there's snow and ice in the Arctic—the Canadian and all the other Arctics—it's similar to the Antarctic. The Antarctic and the Arctic are polar opposites, if one could use the phrase. First of all, the Antarctic is a land mass covered by ice. It was terra nullius, and it has been fought over in terms of its territory by a number of countries. They've staked it out, and they've come to an accommodation, through a number of international instruments, to govern it.
That's not the case with the Arctic. There is no question as to who owns the land in the Arctic and there's no question as to who owns the sea in the Arctic. Not only that, but we have an international regime, the Law of the Sea Convention, which governs the functioning of all of us throughout the world, including the Arctic.
So to compare the Arctic with the Antarctic is really a bit misleading. The sovereign territories in the Arctic—which is clearly around the Arctic Ocean—Canada, the U.S., Russia, Norway, and Denmark, have domestic legislation to govern their territories. Not only that, but we have a 200-mile EEZ. We have authority to extend our continental shelf, and we will be doing that. This is not a claim; this is what we have. There is no such thing as a claim to what we are entitled to, and we're doing that. So this is very different from Antarctica.
The other thing we have, of course, is the Arctic Council, which is a combination of the eight Arctic states. The reason the other three, which are Finland, Sweden, and Iceland, are not included in the five Arctic Ocean states is that they do not have the legal right to delineate their continental shelves in the Arctic Ocean. They don't have a continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean. But except for that, we work very closely with them, together with Inuit and other NGOs and non-state actors.
So we do have a regime. To say there isn't one I think would be misleading. To say they aren't dealing with environmental, social, and economic issues would be misleading. I think we're doing pretty well.
If the oil spill happens in Canada, in the Canadian Arctic, surely. But if the oil spill happens in the Russian Arctic, it may be confined there.
It will be in our interest, as states around the Arctic Ocean, to cooperate together to develop the methods to contain oil. In fact, this is part of the discussion that's going on, not only within the Arctic Council but in other organizations, such as the International Maritime Organization.
For instance, you may be interested to know that the private sector is well ahead of governments, except of course ours, in terms of developing interest in the protection of the Arctic. We started in 1970 with determining that vessels had to be double-hulled and have certain protections. That's 1970. Only recently are we seeing, for instance, the shipping companies of the world taking a look seriously at how to develop vessels that would resemble the very provisions that we've put in place for the past close to 40 years.
I was at a recent conference in Montreal run by Lloyd's insurance. This is very key, because the insurance companies will be the ones who determine which vessels actually go there. Don't make any mistake, a vessel's not going to go anywhere without adequate insurance, and insurance is not going to be given unless those vessels are adequate, and those vessels aren't adequate unless they conform to Canadian specifications.
We have been working very closely and with a very keen eye to making sure that our Arctic is protected. Clearly, what we do have to continue to do.... We're not keeping vessels out. We want trade. We want transit. And we want it done on our conditions, meaning that we want to work with other states in the area to ensure that things like pollution protection, search and rescue, and assistance to vessels in distress are coordinated. And we are working on that, too.
No. The AWPPA has been a law of Canada since 1970. So by definition, that has been in place. But if my colleagues from the Department of Transport haven't done it, I will run through this for you.
For instance, for domestic vessels, enforcement largely consists of annual inspections for compliance with the AWPPA, and the issuance of a safety certificate is mandatory. That may include the voluntary Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act certificate, as well. Classification societies are authorized to inspect foreign ships for compliance with the AWPPA provisions when those vessels are outside of Canadian waters and also issue the AWPPA certificate prior to those vessels entering into our waters.
Under the port state control inspection program, Transport Canada inspectors frequently board and inspect foreign ships calling in northern ports such as Churchill. A portion of the voyage to Churchill is in Arctic waters, and certainly the Churchill-Murmansk issue is something that maybe you have discussed here as a potential future expansion of trade with Russia. Transport Canada inspectors and other officers can be given authority as designated pollution prevention officers, entitling them to direct or divert traffic, board vessels, and provide other authorities. These pollution protection officers may be aboard aerial surveillance aircraft, as well; and maybe some of our Transport Canada colleagues have indicated that we do have patrols up our coast, including military patrols, and aircraft and satellites are used to monitor vessel traffic. This is experience that we have gained over the close to 40 years of the AWPPA. We'll simply use that extra 100 miles to benefit ourselves in the future. So we're confident that we have certainly this capacity.
Clearly, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is not the department involved with this, but I'm glad to have been able to clarify that. Certainly if you wish further questions, you may direct them to Transport Canada and the military.
I want to thank the witnesses from the department for coming.
I've actually got a couple of questions around resources. I just thought it was interesting that you were reading all of the ways by which we're going to be protecting the north. I think the unfortunate reality is you can have all the legislation and regulations you want in place, but if you don't actually put resources into it, they are meaningless.
I know that there have been a couple of cases where.... For example, in Cambridge Bay two years ago, there was a derelict vessel there for over a year--and for all I know it may still be there--and there was no mechanism to deal with it effectively. And I believe that there was a Chinese vessel that ended up in Tuktoyaktuk, a couple of decades ago, mind you.
I think the key concern--and you've heard it before--is enforcement. So I wonder if you could comment on whether, in your opinion, the resources were in place to actually enforce the legislation and regulations that we already have.
Clearly, my caveat before I answer this question is that this is not really in the purview or the mandate of the Minister of Foreign Affairs; therefore, I would bow to other ministers and other departments. But in case it hasn't been answered--and I haven't seen all the transcripts from your discussion--certainly Mr. Borbey or others from Transport Canada and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development would have indicated to you that this government has committed itself strongly over a number of Speeches from the Throne to a northern strategy, and they've probably spoken to you about the four pillars. You've probably heard them a million times; I will not repeat them. But clearly, this government has indicated not only a commitment of resources, but also a commitment to dealing with some of the serious issues within Canada in the north. Not only that, but it has reached out--and that's why we use the Department of Foreign Affairs--to our neighbours and other Arctic states to work on similar problems together.
In terms of the enforcement aspects, I have indicated to you the litany of enforcement regimes that we have under the AWPPA. Of course, others would have probably described the new military initiatives that will be going up into the north. Others will have talked about other investments in infrastructure in the north. Others will have spoken about the Rangers we have in the north. And in terms of search and rescue, we've had discussions with our neighbours, and future infrastructure is building from that.
So without going into details on domestic policy, from the point of view of the Department of Foreign Affairs, we're satisfied that our domestic departments are taking seriously the development of our north.