moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand and speak to this very important legislation. I want to thank the House leader for recognizing just how important this bill is for the environment in the precious north.
The Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act is a small but important symbolic piece of legislation. Our vast Arctic region remains a Canadian icon known the world over. This government has taken unprecedented and historic steps toward keeping Canada's north safe. Bill is another example of this action.
Protecting Canada's Arctic waters from pollution is one of our government's key priorities. Our proposed amendment would double the geographic application of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act from 100 to 200 nautical miles midway between Greenland and the islands in the Canadian Arctic.
Presently, the discharge of waste is permitted at internationally agreed levels in the area between 100 and 200 nautical miles. Our proposed changes would disallow this practice and further strengthen the pollution protection regime in our Arctic region.
This was an important commitment that the made when he travelled, not just to Inuvik but also to Tuktoyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea to show his commitment to the Arctic and to environmental protection. This increased range would allow Canadian environmental laws and shipping regulations to be enforced to the fullest extent and give us greater control over the movement of ships through the Northwest Passage.
With this amendment, we are sending a message that Canada is tremendously serious about protecting our Arctic sovereignty and keeping northern waters clean. This complements other Arctic initiatives that this government has already put in place under the health of our oceans components of our national water strategy and initiatives, such as outfitting Arctic surveillance aircraft in order to help us track polluters.
In August 2008, the had the opportunity to travel to the Northwest Territories where he announced our intention to move in this important regard and today, once again, like the always does, he followed through with specific action.
Our reinforced that we believe in the “use it or lose it” policy when it comes to our Arctic regions. We made it clear that in Canada's Arctic we will play by Canada's rules.
The baselines around Canada's Arctic Archipelago were formalized in 1986 and are consistent with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and with the 1996 Oceans Act, which established an exclusive economic zone of up to 200 nautical miles off Canada's coasts, including around the Arctic Archipelago. Canada has jurisdiction regarding the protection and preservation of the marine environment, which is an incredible sensitive ecosystem, including the ice covered waters within the exclusive economic zone.
In 2003, Canada became a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Article 234 of the convention enables a coastal state to put in place special requirements for pollution protection in ice covered areas within its exclusive economic zone.
Extending the pollution protection from 100 to 200 nautical miles would enable Canada to exercise enhanced jurisdiction with regard to pollution control north of the 60th parallel. This extension will be consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea's article 234.
In addition, this government will act to ensure that new regulations under the Canada Shipping Act are in place for the 2010 season. These regulations will require the mandatory registration of vessels entering this expanded zone. There is nothing more fundamental than the protection of our nation's sovereignty and security and our government will continue to rigorously defend Canada's place in the world and our rightful territories, and the Arctic is no exception.
Canadians see in our North an expression of our deepest aspirations: our sense of exploration, the beauty and the bounty of our land, and our limitless potential. For too long, the federal government ignored the North. Its potential is still untapped.
One of our greatest prime ministers, John George Diefenbaker, made a tremendous priority of Canada's north. He, in fact, was one of the inspirations for the founding of Inuvik where the and I and a good number of members of the cabinet travelled this past August. The Arctic was also close to Prime Minister Chrétien, but the most leadership we have seen in this last century has been from this with respect to ensuring Canada's sovereignty is protected in the north.
To this end, our government has established a northern strategy that rests on four key pillars: northern economic development, protecting our fragile northern environment, asserting Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic and providing northerners with more control over their own destiny.
The expansion of coverage of the Arctic shipping legislation is directly linked to this strategy which commits our government to ensuring a sustainable and comprehensive approach to Arctic shipping.
The first pillar, northern economic development, is designed to encourage responsible development of the North's bountiful economic resources, ensure the health and good governance of Northern communities and provide jobs and opportunities to those living in these communities.
Strong worldwide demand for our natural resources increases the viability of resource exploration and extraction in Canada's Arctic. It is estimated that Canada's north possesses 33% of our remaining conventionally recoverable sources of natural gas and 25% of the remaining recoverable light crude oil. The discovered resource of the Arctic basin approaches 31 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.6 billion barrels of oil. The potential for resource extraction in the area is thought to be approximately 14.7 billion barrels of oil and approximately 433 trillion cubic feet of gas.
The second pillar, environmental protection, aims to protect the unique and fragile Arctic ecosystem for future generations. We must remain vigilant, especially in our north. Our northern environment is fragile, something people living there have always known. Potentially longer operating seasons and the increase in northern resource development may mean maritime activity in Canada's Arctic will soon increase and the passage of this important legislation will have a part in that.
In 1970, we acknowledged the fragility and special circumstances of waters north of 60 and established stringent measures of 100 nautical miles from shore, further than any country at the time. The original application of the act has not kept pace with the international convention and, as a result, Canada has not been able to exercise the full authority under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. The extension of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act would eliminate that gap.
The third pillar, sovereignty, asserts and defends Canada's sovereignty and security in the Arctic. Our government recognizes the challenges Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic could face in the future. In the coming years, sovereignty and security challenges will become more pressing as the impact of climate change leads to increased activity throughout this ecologically sensitive region. The defence of Canada's sovereignty and the protection of territorial integrity in the Arctic remains a top priority for our government.
To support Canada's position whereby waters surrounding the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, including the various traffic lanes known as the Northwest Passage, are internal waters, Canada has to exercise, and be seen to exercise, effective control over foreign merchant shipping in the Canadian Arctic.
Such control means having the ability to deny passage or facilitate shipping in Arctic waters and, at the most elementary level, to enforce Canadian law in the Arctic Archipelago and within the territorial sea of Canada and the surrounding exclusive economic zone.
The waters of the Arctic Archipelago are internal waters of Canada by virtue of historic title. This means that Canada has sovereignty over these waters. Canada must therefore move quickly to affirm and protect its sovereignty over this archipelago, including the navigable waters in it. We are working to strengthen our Arctic maritime security in the future. After all, maritime activity is critical to our Arctic communities. Getting fuel, food, medical and other supplies all depends on reliable and effective maritime shipping.
Arctic security is also key to Canada's security as a whole. All of these will assist in detecting and preventing criminal and terrorist activities that may pose a serious threat to national and international security. It also allows us to find those who pollute our waters and harm our northern environment. To that extent, our government has introduced new Arctic patrol ships and expanded aerial surveillance that will guard Canada's far north and the Northwest Passage.
Funding has also been committed for a new polar class icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. Most important, Mr. Speaker, and I know you will be very pleased to be reminded of this, it will be named after former Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and for the Arctic seabed mapping. Amendments to the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act would expand for an additional 100 nautical miles control over pollution and shipping compliance.
The last pillar looks at providing northerners with more control over their own destiny.
The 19,000 Inuit residing in the 15 communities along the coast of Ungava Bay and the eastern shore of Hudson Bay inhabit a territory with an enormous potential. With its wealth of resources and abundant fish and wildlife, Nunavut offers a world of possibilities to its inhabitants in terms of mining, outfitting, tourism, fishing and much more.
Our government is determined to ensure that those who live, work and raise children there can fully benefit from these significant opportunities.
With this amendment our government will help address concerns from Inuit communities regarding pollution in waters surrounding their homes and workplaces. Expanding the application of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to 200 miles improves Canada's ability to prevent ship source pollution from happening, helping to keep the Arctic waters clean.
Northern communities support clean and sustainable economic development in the north, as do all Canadians who want to protect the integrity of Canada's Arctic waters.
When I talk to constituents in my constituency of Ottawa West—Nepean, far away from the Arctic, there is a real sense of the value, that this is an important part of our great country, a precious part of our world. They believe we have a collective responsibility to ensure this important part of our country is kept clean and is kept free from the mistakes that we have made far too often over the last 200 years in southern Canada.
The north is relevant and important to all Canadians. Obviously, it is particularly relevant and important to northerners. The has brought this view to the cabinet table. I have had good discussions as well with the and the .
We have important responsibilities in this place to ensure we do everything we can to promote sound environmental practices and to ensure that we assert our sovereignty. That is more than just in a military sense, it is more than just in a natural resource sense, it is more than just in a fisheries sense, it is also very much in an environmental sense. That is why this piece of legislation was presented in the first session of this Parliament and has been reintroduced in the second session.
I want to thank members from all parties. There have been good briefings and discussions. I think Canadians would be very pleased if they looked at the work done by the transport committee in the last session of this Parliament and the constructive work that it has already begun to undertake in this Parliament.
I look forward to hearing from all members of the House and to advancing this important piece of legislation so that we can put this important law on the statute books.
Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my questioning just a moment ago, and I now want to reiterate, on balance this does not look like legislation that we would have any difficulty in at least studying further at committee and perhaps supporting.
Why would I say that? I do not think there is a Canadian in the country who would not agree that we should extend our sovereignty over waters that we have traditionally considered to be our own. As the minister says, these are part of waters that we have thought to be our internal waters. They are part of the Arctic Archipelago and therefore they are Canadian territory.
As for the part that goes beyond that, and think about this for a moment, we are, with a stroke of the pen, reasserting what we have already agreed with all our partners in the United Nations, and that is this is our territory, it is our right to extend our jurisdiction to the full 200 kilometres. That is great. We want to do that. It is good for us. We expect that as part of Canadian sovereignty we would give notice to the entire world that these waters are now our waters.
Just so you know, Mr. Speaker, because I know you come from that province, this is equal to the entire land mass of Saskatchewan that we are, with this bill, advertising to the world is now territory water, aquatic territory, over which the Canadian government, the state of Canada, will now exercise its jurisdiction.
I know members have read the bill in great detail. It is about 10 lines long, yet it generated from the minister a speech of about 15 minutes. My compliments to him. I listened through it all, hoping to hear something more than “looking at”. I think the minister, perhaps to his credit but certainly to the advantage of his party, indicated that the government was looking at a whole stream of things that would be made possible with the passage of the legislation.
We would be delighted to help him along. In the process, however, we would want to ask a few questions. He talked about four pillars upon which the legislation would be based. I was looking, for example, at the mechanisms, the processes, the moneys, the resources that he and the government would be putting in place in order to, first, effectively exercise the jurisdiction which we are claiming as is our right under the Conventions of the UN over this entire territory.
For example, how many more ships are we prepared to buy, to lease, to engage in protecting the territory that, as I said a moment ago, is the size of the province of Saskatchewan, which is bigger than almost every other country in the world, save maybe the top 10?
If we are not to have more ships in aquatic territory, how does the minister expect Canadians to feel assured that they will exercise greater sovereignty over this great expanse of further territory? It is not that Canadians do not want to, because we do. We have already established that we feel it is our right, it is part of our territory, and we do want to protect it. We want to exercise sovereignty over it.
We want to, as well, as the minister suggested, ensure that there is greater security. For that, aside from the satellite beams that we will be engaging to help us track where ships might be, because I think we are talking about ships in aquatic territory, we are not really talking about tanks, we are not talking about land rovers, we are not talking about boots on the ground, as he mentioned, we are also talking about ocean-going vessels, whether they are below surface or above surface. However, there is no indication that resources will be put at the disposal of the Canadian government and its enforcement agencies to ensure they can do the job that the bill would have them do. Otherwise it is meaningless.
To say that we are now extending our sovereignty over additional waters, the equivalent size of Saskatchewan, without being able to put resources to effect that sovereignty is empty rhetoric. It is a looking at rather than doing.
In my question for the minister, who is courteous enough to listen to debate in the House, I mentioned a second thing I was looking for, and perhaps he might want to address this.
We must remember that we are extending sovereignty over an aquatic territory. If this is going to be an economic development exercise in economic development, we are not only going to claim our sovereignty over this vast expanse of water, but we are going to take claim an authority over whatever is underneath the ocean bed.
The minister has suggested that an additional 33% of all the natural gas deposits in the northern part of the western hemisphere are resident in this area. I guess some of the science has speculated that is where it would be. The minister has made a similar observation about light crude and its availability for the energy requirements of tomorrow. I want to accept this.
That is all the more reason why I ask this. Where are the resources in the bill to ensure that Canadian businesses and Canadian residents in the three Arctic territories and beyond have the right of first development of those natural resources? Where is the plan? Can we look at, speculate and plan? Yes, we can do all of these three things, but where is the plan? Where is the how to that tells us that we would, through the bill, be engaging in the development of the future interests of Canadians not only in the north, but everywhere? I do not see that. I do not see the resources.
It is a bit disconcerting because here we are in the midst of a debate about the budget implementation bill. I know Bill is not a part of that, but we are still seized in the House with ensuring that the budget implementation bill and all of the tens of billions of dollars that this Parliament would authorize the government to expend for the purpose of stimulating the Canadian economy and for developing the future assets of Canada's potential resources are spent. There is not a penny, not a dollar, not an indication of a specific agenda item.
There is though, if I might digress, some value in rhetoric, but there is a lot of rhetoric. I am not sure rhetoric is going to buy the credibility that Canadians so desperately want when it comes to engaging in particular actions.
A third pillar the minister says is an environmental one. The environment that he has talked about up until this point has to do with ocean-going vessels polluting the waters they traverse. By that pollution, I am not sure if he is talking about greenhouse gas-type emissions. I suspect he is talking in greater detail about hard pollution that goes from the ship into the water and affects the marine life and anybody who is dependent on that marine life. The minister has talked about that at great length and he has talked about how we will protect that.
Canadians, or at least the ones who had the good fortune to exercise their vote for me, did not see from the government in the last Parliament any substantive action on pollution abatement, on pollution restriction, or on going after polluters in our backyard.
Will we now believe the Conservatives when they say that they will get those people who pollute waters, which are about the size of the entire province of Saskatchewan, but that they will not spend a dime to do it? They will stand in the House of Commons on Bill when everybody is watching them. Because they say that they will do that and because they say that the environment is one of the concerns they will try to address with Bill , everybody will believe them and will back off. I find that difficult to believe.
One reason why I find it difficult to believe is that even the casual reader will know that over the course of the last summer and fall, various other countries have taken a special interest in the Arctic waters, waters which we claim as our own. In fact, we have always said they have been our own. However, they extend to countries like Norway, Russia, Denmark, Greenland and the United States. They all have competing claims, competing interests and overlapping concerns about the environment and about pollution. The environment and pollution appear to be the umbrella under which everybody operates when they want to talk about interests and development.
I have not seen anything anywhere in the bill that says that we have engaged any of those countries in any bilateral discussions about how we will enforce our sovereignty, especially with respect to environmental and pollution type issues in the Arctic and in these waters in particular. I do not see that anywhere and there has not been any indication that the government has actually engaged in those kinds of discussions. Not only that, there is no indication that the government has raised these in the United Nations forum.
I understand the is at the United Nations today. During question period, one of my colleagues asked the government side a question about an agenda. In response none of those items were on that agenda, but it was asked during question period, not during answer period. Perhaps the minister would care to elaborate on specifically which items related to the bill and, more specific, to the environment and pollution will be raised by the with counterparts in the United Nations so we can get the compliance of the countries that have a more immediate interest in the geography in question under the legislation.
If we do not have a forum in which to raise these issues with a receptive series of countries, and it is important that they be receptive, then we go back to one of my very first items of concern, which is: where are the resources to ensure that we have the military capacity to protect the sovereignty that we claim with the bill?
Are we spending more money in defence? Are we buying more vessels? I heard only one for Coast Guard increased capacity. One Coast Guard vessel, or turning it to a land example for our purposes, would be about three 18 wheelers, maybe four. If we dropped four 18 wheelers, one after the other, in the middle of Saskatchewan, who would notice? Not very many. It would take a while for those four 18 wheelers, one right behind the other, to patrol a territory the size of Saskatchewan.
We do not even have an indication that is what we will do. In a time when we are asking jurisdictions to spend tens of billions of dollars, along comes legislation that says the government will take care of this. It will be its territory. It will take care of the environment, catch all polluters and develop the economy in the area.
We could probably build infrastructures for three months of the year, so it would take a substantial amount of time to do infrastructure that might, in other places, take three or four years. However, there is no indication of resources. How seriously can we take the government on this?
We hear the usual story about trying to help people locally. Yes, we want to help people locally and we want to give them greater authority over all of this but we need to remember that this is a bill about aquatic territory. The minister explained how this would do great things for people in the north, especially in those areas where they are resident about 1,000 kilometres from the shore. We, too, have great interest in ensuring that the economies and the sovereignty of people indigenous to the area are protected and enhanced.
However, we do not want to blow smoke in their eyes when we are talking about something else. We would like to have a bit of direct honesty about what it is we are going to do with them specifically that will enhance their sovereignty, give them greater autonomy and make them full partners in the development of that economic exercise that he says is one of the four pillars of this particular bill.
He says that Bill would give us control over those commercial shipping lanes, not that they are already available. They do not go through 12 months of the year. The depth of the ice is still such that it prevents that from happening. However, has the government given us an indication of how many ships use these shipping lanes? How will we monitor them?
For example, members may recall just recently the great activity by pirates just off the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is in the papers every day. The first thing that all countries, which have merchant marines operating in the area, tell us is that the ocean is so vast that it is impossible for anybody to monitor or keep track of all these pirates. In Canada we would say polluters because that is what the minister focused his attention on.
Where are the resources to ensure that an aquatic territory that is vastly larger than the seas off Somalia and Saudi Arabia will be any safer for all of us? He said that we need to protect the security of Canadians from terrorists and from criminal organizations. Does he have an indication of which ones? Has he given us an indication of how much of that activity is currently going on and what means we need to engage in order to put an end to it?
I am shocked. If the minister could indicate to us that all of this is actually taking place, why have we not done anything so far? Is a piece of legislation that is some eight lines long, which gives us the authority to exercise jurisdiction that is already ours by UN convention, going to solve that problem? I would think not.
I would think that the minister would probably say that we need to do this, that we need to expend this amount of money, these hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, to ensure that Canadian sovereignty is firmly established, that security for all Canadians is protected in this area, and he would show us how. He would show us the vessels that we would engage, the satellites in which we would invest and the additional marines, RCMP or soldiers that we would engage in the area. He would show us the plan that is already in place to develop the economy with the hope that it will produce X number of jobs and X number of activities that will generate the economy in the area.
After all, the object of the day, in passing the action plan in this House, is to ensure that the tens of billions of dollars that Canadians are willing to invest go for the benefit of Canadians, not just today but down the road, and that they do it in an environment that gives them security and addresses the concerns for the environment and pollution, which are also very much on everyone's minds, and finally, that they provide the indigenous populations that are resident in the territories adjacent to this vast aquatic area with the future that we want them to take for granted.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to Bill .
First of all, our party is going to support this legislation, but it feels like a bad movie. We are talking about the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, which means that if there is a risk of polluting arctic waters it is because there are marine transportation activities going on. And if there are such activities going on, it is because the ice has disappeared. And if the ice has disappeared, it is of course because the temperature is rising.
I want the record to show this, because I would not want our children and grandchildren, some day, to blame me for having addressed this legislation. We must adopt these measures, at last, because the current Conservative government and the previous Liberal and Conservative governments did not do what they had to do. That is why we are now facing global warming and a totally new situation in the Arctic. We must bring in regulations and we must protect that territory, because an increasing number of ships will navigate these waters and there will be development potential.
It makes me shudder to hear this, because they want to develop, they want to get that gas and that oil, but we are talking about the world's last reserves. Given the way the Conservatives are managing, some day our planet will disappear, and the reason for that will be obvious.
But in the meantime, given that the retreating polar ice is creating new waterways, we must consider that Canada has a legitimate right to establish its sovereignty over arctic waters. Considering that this will be a new development channel and that a number of countries share the territory around the North Pole, discussions are indeed to be expected.
By extending the limit of its internal waters from 100 to 200 nautical miles, Canada will have better control over marine traffic in its waters and over the management of the natural resources in those waters. So, the fact that the ice is melting creates a whole new potential for development. Consequently, it is only normal that neighbouring countries want to look after their geographic protection and, of course, their nationality and their sovereignty. A sovereignist party cannot be opposed to the idea that Canada would protect its sovereignty. On the contrary, we are hoping to achieve our own sovereignty in Quebec and, therefore, we cannot object to Canada wanting to do the same.
Obviously, in terms of Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic, we are saying that any future action in this region must reflect certain basic principles, which I will outline.
First of all, any exploitation of northern resources must be closely monitored and regulated so that the region will not be exposed to uncontrolled exploitation of its resources. Obviously, it would be ineffective to only deal with the prevention of pollution in Arctic waters.
The Bloc Québécois members are proud to rise every day in this House to defend the interests of Quebeckers. Given that a part of Quebec is in the north, we feel it is important that any exploitation respect ecological development because, once again, if we trigger one disaster after another, we will not fix anything. We must make sure that development is done in such a way that the environment is respected.
The second basic principle is that any border disputes must be resolved peacefully, diplomatically and by respecting international law. Expanding Canada's rights from 100 to 200 nautical miles is obviously consistent with international law. We hope that these issues will be peacefully and diplomatically respected so that we can negotiate with other countries, since this is not a given in this geopolitical situation. The question of the north pole and the entire Arctic territory is not a given either.
The third basic principle is that we must fight climate change, which is a huge source of the Arctic's problems. We must also adequately protect our extremely fragile ecosystems. Yet, that is not what the Conservatives have been saying. Obviously, I have been told that it is a bill to prevent pollution. It is true, we cannot fix everything that has already happened.
I asked the minister about this. Everyone in this House should be determined to fight climate change.
The climate should be restored, and there should be more ice in the Arctic. Quite simply, we need to work very hard to restore the ice that used to be there. If we want to extract oil, then we need to find ways to transport it other than by ship. There are other ways. We need to do everything we can to make sure the north pole and the Arctic get colder again and the ice returns, especially so that the animal populations can survive. The people who live in the Arctic and have always lived in a cold climate are not happy about what is happening. I have seen a lot of reports, but I have not seen anyone who is glad the ice is melting. When a people has always lived with ice, it does not take any pleasure in seeing that ice disappear.
Even though the minister is saying today that there is going to be development and people are going to have work, I do not think that the goal of these communities is to work for oil companies, even though that is where things are headed. I think they would rather live as they used to live.
The fourth basic principle is as follows: any action in the Arctic must take into account the people who live there. That is what we say. It is all well and good to try to turn people into oil people, but if that is not what they are interested in or what they want, then we need to do everything we can to put them at ease. They are the people who have lived in this area. If Canada is entitled to claim international rights today, it is because communities have lived in this part of the world, which comes under our jurisdiction. It comes under Canada's jurisdiction now. We have to be able to live in harmony and choose to defend these people and consider what they want.
The Bloc Québécois denounces and will always denounce any militarization of the north and any military operation that could take place there, whether naval or otherwise. We would like to move away from that and instead chose another way to ensure sovereignty. It must serve as an example for the entire world. One cannot go all over the world trying to resolve conflicts and then turn around and start one in the north because of an interest in oil. There are enough wars in the world caused by oil, and I hope we do not create one here ourselves because we are trying to protect a certain area.
To patrol Arctic waters, we recommend that Canada invest more in the Canadian Coast Guard. Any other means of protecting the arctic would, in our view, incite war and violence, which we have always opposed.
As the ice melts, Canada's sovereignty in that region will come into question. That is one of main reasons why legislation is passed. As I said earlier, the ice is melting. The problem is that, instead of doubling its efforts to fight climate change, the government is doubling its efforts to encourage economic development in the Arctic. As I said at the beginning, everyone here in the House of Commons has a part in this bad movie. No one should be in this movie at all, but once again, the Conservatives are leading and this is how they lead.
Canada must therefore work with other Arctic states within the framework of the Arctic Council. There is a council of all the sovereign states that border on this area. The purpose of the council is to protect the environment and ensure sustainable development. Clearly, it needs to be more proactive when it comes to sustainable development and protecting the environment.
We believe that any solution in the Arctic must involve and make the most of Inuit populations living there. On one hand, they must be included in the negotiation process and on the other hand, they must have help developing their economy. If the people there decide to develop their economy through some means other than oil development, that decision must be respected.
I am going to take a few moments to summarize Bill , which amends the definition of “arctic waters” in the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to extend the limit of the Arctic waters protected area from 100 to 200 nautical miles. The original act, which was passed in 1970, defines “arctic waters” as follows:
||“arctic waters” means the waters adjacent to the mainland and islands of the Canadian arctic within the area enclosed by the sixtieth parallel of north latitude, the one hundred and forty-first meridian of west longitude and a line measured seaward from the nearest Canadian land a distance of one hundred nautical miles...
Therefore, the objective is to increase the outer limit from 100 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles from the nearest Canadian land. Increasing this limit will ensure that the waters within that limit are recognized as internal waters, and not as international waters or as an exclusive economic zone. These 200 nautical miles are very much a reality, as is Canada's authority over that area. International waters used to be outside the 100 nautical mile limit. Now, international waters will be outside the 200 nautical mile limit.
For a long time, Arctic waters were considered to be an impenetrable ice barrier for human beings. That is why I said earlier that this is like being in a bad movie. It was a frozen desert where nothing happened. Of course, climate change has changed all that now. The Arctic is particularly affected by global warming.
It is expected that a rise of 1oC or 2oC along the Equator, could result in a rise of more than 6oC in the Arctic. I personally believe that if we do not do something about climate change, we will end up with a natural disaster, while others see an opportunity for major development in the north and in the Arctic.
But the fact remains that climate change will have a serious environmental impact on the Arctic. The climate in that region is warming up more rapidly, which triggers even more drastic changes, such as a change of vegetation zone and a change in the diversity, range and distribution of animal species. For example, we are seeing a rapidly increasing number of polar bears drowning, because the distance between ice floes is constantly increasing.
These are scientific facts but those listening to us have an opportunity to see it all regularly on television reports. A multitude of filmmakers have focused on this issue and filmed the havoc caused by global warming. Climate change will also cause the disruption and destabilization of transportation, buildings and infrastructure in the North. For the Inuit and other people living there, everything is changing. They used to travel by snowmobile but now they may have to add wheels. That may be the reality. We can laugh about it but it is enough to make you cry.
Climate change has a major impact on the lifestyle of aboriginal peoples. It has also led to increased ultraviolet radiation, which affects animals, people and vegetation. Since 1960, the surface area of the permanent ice pack has decreased by 14%, with a 6% reduction since 1978. The ice pack has thinned by 42% since 1958. These figures, with explanatory notes and references, may be found in our statement.
The dispute over Arctic sovereignty centres on the Northwest Passage and the navigable waters in the Arctic archipelago. The dispute between Canada and the United States is one of international law, namely, how to define the waters surrounding the Arctic archipelago. Canadian sovereignty over the islands is recognized and not contested. For Canada, the islands constitute an extension of its continental shelf. Thus, Canada considers the various straits between islands as “internal waters”. Therefore, the 200 nautical mile limit applies to the contour of the islands.
The battle over jurisdiction is understandable. The United States has never recognized these waters as Canada's “internal waters” and deems that they constitute only an “exclusive economic zone”. In January 2009, former U.S. President George W. Bush, in his presidential directive on the Arctic region, stated it represented an exclusive economic zone and not “internal waters”. I will spare you this text, but that was its objective.
Therefore, we can understand why Canada wants to clarify the situation. Whether or not this bill will succeed in doing that, I am not so sure.
That is why we have to focus on negotiation and diplomacy. There is no point sending navy ships to assert sovereignty over Arctic waters. The United States is not happy. I hope that the Conservatives have thought about this, because I do not think that our armed forces will ever be anything more than a tiny fraction of the size they would have to be to take on the U.S. military. Nevertheless, I do not think that anyone wants armed conflict. That is why we have to negotiate diplomatically.
Article 8 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea defines “internal waters” as follows: “—waters on the landward side of the baseline of the territorial sea form part of the internal waters of the State”. According to the convention, a coastal state has the right to take the necessary steps “—to prevent any breach of the conditions to which admission of those ships to internal waters [...] is subject”. In other words, coastal states have sole jurisdiction over their internal waters. They have every right to prevent foreign vessels from entering their waters.
The goal was to increase the boundary from 100 miles to 200, particularly around the Arctic islands, to give Canada complete control over all vessels navigating those waters. However, in article 55, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea defines the “exclusive economic zone” as “—an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea—”, and that is how the United States interprets it. Article 58 reads as follows: “In the exclusive economic zone, all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy [...] the freedoms [...] of navigation and overflight and of the laying of submarine cables and pipelines—”.
Once again, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea included provisions for pipelines and that kind of thing. So it should come as no surprise that the United States prefers article 58 and thinks of these areas as economic zones rather than interior waters. States are entitled to restrict marine traffic in, to charge fees for access to, or to prevent entry into their interior waters. In respect of fossil fuel exploitation, I do not want to repeat what I have already said, but as we all know, transportation of fossil fuels is at the root of wars going on in many parts of the world. That is a snapshot of the legal challenge we are issuing to the Americans.
As a result, there could be an increase in commercial marine traffic, because the Northwest Passage is the shortest way from Asia to Europe. Here are some examples of routes in kilometres. From London to Yokohama is 23,300 km through the Panama Canal, 21,200 km through the Suez Canal, 32,289 km around Cape Horn—a major detour—but 15,930 km through the Northwest Passage. There are huge savings to be made. The distance from New York to Yokohama is 18,000 km through the Panama Canal, 25,000 km through the Suez Canal, 31,000 km around Cape Horn and 15,000 km through the Northwest Passage. From Hamburg to Vancouver is 17,000 km through the Panama Canal, 29,000 km through the Suez Canal, 27,000 around Cape Horn and 14,000 km through the Northwest Passage.
When the government talks about economic development, potential and job creation for residents or border communities, it is anticipating that this passage will be increasingly available, 12 months a year. The government is hoping that the passage can be navigated without icebreakers, and so on. Obviously, that would facilitate marine traffic. Because of the distance between Asia and Europe, this passage would be used more and more.
So it is important to understand that although the Bloc Québécois supports Bill , it does not do so happily. As I said, the Bloc Québécois members stand up every day in the House of Commons to defend the interests of Quebeckers. We are playing in a bad movie, I said. We need to stand up every day to fight climate change so that there is more and more ice in the Arctic and there are fewer and fewer ships going through there if we want to protect the global balance.
But today, the government is talking about obtaining rights to land and increasing Canadian sovereignty because more and more ships are plying the Arctic waters and there will be economic development, which is what the Conservatives want. Once again, this is being done at the expense of the environment and our future generations. I hope my children and grandchildren will forgive me.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill . It is one of many bills that I am sure will be in front of our transport committee, given the hard-working minister we have in charge, one who is perhaps more hard-working than hard-thinking on many issues. All opposition critics have a responsibility to ensure that ministers think about bills in front of them in a reasonable fashion. Hard work does not replace smart thinking.
Bill is an interesting bill. It has merit within it. It comes out of quite a bit of work directed toward the Arctic and the northern waters by the Conservative government.
For instance, I could talk about the cabinet's trip to Inuvik last August. The entire cabinet, the as well, took time to visit my riding. They certainly excited the population there with the thought that there were going to be announcements of some significance.
What we did see coming from that trip to Inuvik and the trip to Tuktoyaktuk by the was the announcement of the name of an icebreaker that was going to be built a number of years later.
People in Tuktoyaktuk live on the Arctic coast and are experiencing the ravages of climate change on their own community and the degradation of the community washing away into the sea. They were hoping for a little more. They were hoping to hear about a land connection to Inuvik, tying them into a highway system that would allow them some additional economic development and perhaps make life easier for them there on the coast. They did not get it. The made a very simple release that really had no content to it.
When he spoke in Inuvik, the announced that the government was going to make the registration of ships in Arctic waters mandatory, something that we in the New Democratic Party have been requesting for the last two years. It was a good thing to do that, but it certainly was not what the people in the north were looking for.
Is the bill in front of us now what the people of Canada are looking for in terms of Arctic waters protection? It does extend the boundaries, and that is a good thing, but does it create any more protection for the Arctic, or is it simply another gesture on the part of the Conservative Party toward our deepening interest in the Arctic?
Canadian Arctic waters are changing fast. The condition of the sea that is now not covered with ice in the Beaufort area up through the Arctic Islands is getting worse. Larger, more severe storms are hitting the area. There are more hazards to navigation now than in years past, when the Arctic ice was over the water for longer periods of time. The permanent ice pack was further south from the pole. These things have changed, and now massive weather disturbances in the area are causing extreme problems.
This legislation deals with Arctic transportation in difficult and changing times. We are allowed to do this under the United Nations law of the sea convention. It is part of a practice that I am sure the rest of the world would be happy to see us do. However, once again, in the bill we do not see any indication of where we are going with respect to our ability to protect the Arctic.
We are also currently having disputes about much of our Arctic waters. What is the impact of this legislation going to be on our current dispute with the United States over a large chunk of the Beaufort Sea? Who is going to be responsible for those waters? Where is the diplomatic effort to solve this issue, which has been in place since 1983? Where is the effort to come to a conclusion with the United States about the delineation of the line between Alaska and the Yukon?
Increasing the size of the area under protection in the Arctic is meaningless unless there is an increased effort on enforcement. However, enforcement is difficult in the Arctic. It is expensive. It requires an effort that I do not see our government ready to put in yet.
However, there is a pathway to protect the Arctic waters, and it is through international diplomacy. I had the chance to travel to Ilulissat last year, and to see the foreign ministers of the major Arctic nations agreeing to a treaty on the UN law of the sea applying to the boundaries between countries. The one foreign minister who was not at this gathering was the minister from Canada. He was replaced by the .
We are not taking an active role in diplomacy. We are not putting diplomacy up front. Our is putting an aggressive, confrontational attitude out front, rather than using international cooperation and diplomacy as the way to solve some of the issues facing us.
We need compliance on international treaties. We need a working relationship of the highest order between the Arctic nations to accomplish our goals in protecting our Arctic environment. There is no question of that. That should be the number one element in the Canadian strategy in dealing with the Arctic.
We need Arctic search and rescue. The other countries are talking about Arctic search and rescue. There are even agreements being formed between the U.S. and Russia to protect the Bering Strait so that they can work cooperatively to deal with the problems that are inherent in shipping in hazardous waters. We should be doing the same thing with the United States. In fact, at a lower level in our system, we have no choice but to do that. We need the effort at the top end, through the highest officials in this country, to stress the importance of international diplomacy.
When it comes to protecting the Arctic, mandatory registration of shipping is not all we need. We also need to accept the International Maritime Organization's regulations for shipping in Arctic waters. We need to make it an international fact that ships traversing the Arctic waters all have the same level of regulation relative to the kinds of hulls they use and the kinds of equipment they use to protect the environment and themselves. We need to ensure that the ships that are increasingly going to be entering the Arctic have the correct and best technology available for this type of work. We need those types of international agreements as well.
The Arctic is not a place where defence and aggressive military action are going to solve our problems. We are not going to solve our problems with the United States over the Northwest Passage and the Beaufort Sea by getting into military confrontations. There is only one way to deal with these problems with the United States, and that is through diplomacy and the actions of our government in concert with the U.S. government in coming up with agreements. Those are the only directions in which there is any hope for getting ourselves solid on those issues.
An international report on shipping is coming out very shortly on the use of Arctic waters. It has been co-authored by a number of countries. We are expecting it in the next year.
This document can be the basis of building an understanding among Arctic nations about how to deal with Arctic waters, how to protect Arctic waters, and what to expect with the development of fishing, mineral exploration, oil and gas, and tourism. The increase in cruise ship passages in Arctic waters is astounding.
All these things are coming together, and the international community is working on them right now. What Canada has to do is take back the lead on international diplomacy and work with these countries to come up with solutions that can deliver us an Arctic policy that, in conjunction with the rest of the world, will protect the Arctic and will make our 200-mile environmental protection act a working document.
The government has many ideas about the Arctic. Unfortunately, some of them are simply ideas that come out of someone's head, rather than out of the consensus-building process that is needed for Arctic conditions. An example is Arctic research. Canada has just announced that a major research facility will be built in Nunavut, which is contrary to what Arctic researchers are after.
A group of Arctic researchers was commissioned by the federal government to make a report on where the research centre should be and what it should encompass. They came back and said that we do not need a report on that; we need a report on the Arctic research initiatives that are required. In other words, we do not need facilities; we need a plan for Arctic research that will allow our scientists to deliver the information we need to protect the Arctic and to understand the changes that are going on there, and that should be the first priority of the government, not building facilities.
Right now we have facilities for researchers in our territories. They are reasonably well used, but they are used in a different sense from what the government is looking for. These facilities are used by researchers as home bases to extend their research out into the Arctic region. The idea of a fixed centre for Arctic research is anathema to most researchers, who are looking for linkages throughout the Arctic for the type of research they do.
By missing consultations, by coming out with policies that set directions without examining what is actually required, and by putting forward ideas that are like building monuments to our sovereignty rather than by looking for the solutions we require for our sovereignty, we are failing Canadians.
I think of the Colossus at Rhodes. Perhaps the Conservatives would like to build a colossus on the Northwest Passage to indicate our ownership of that area. Perhaps it is in their minds that somehow the grandiose gesture is more important than the practical work of government, making international arrangements and directing scientists into research in the areas that are required, but those types of things have a greater potential future for our country.
There is another issue. Right now in the Arctic we are expanding the use of the Beaufort Sea. We have opened up some fairly major drilling areas offshore, and these are going ahead. Interestingly enough, probably the major catastrophic pollution issue that we are likely to encounter in the Arctic is the potential for large oil spills in our Arctic waters, and we do not have the capacity to deal with that. Probably one of the things that should be foremost on the government's agenda right now would be to come up with the technology required to deal with oil spills in Arctic waters.
Wherever there is more than 35% ice in the water, the science of cleaning up oil spills is very limited. We need to have a program that will allow this to happen. This is more likely to protect our environment than any bill we pass here, any Arctic research centre we set up in a single location. This is the sort of effort we need right now to protect our Arctic.
When the drilling sites were sold, when companies were given the opportunity to move into the Beaufort Sea, this lack was pointed out to the government. We have not seen a response yet on this item. We need to see that response.
Our capacity is limited. We do not have the human resource capacity and the technological capacity to protect the Arctic environment. We do not have the capacity to do the research to understand what is likely to happen in the Arctic. We are not going to get that with facilities. What we need is a clear plan for Arctic research, followed up by dollars invested in Canadian scientists across the country who want to perform the research there.
We also need to work with the international community so that we are not doubling up our research. We need to create the linkages between the countries that will allow the research to flourish and so that every Arctic country will understand how to deal with the Arctic conditions.
When it comes to defending Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, we need to stand up for the environment. That is a good direction to take. It is important that we protect the environment not only in the 100-mile area off our coast but in the 200-mile area off the coast. It is also very important, when we think of the Arctic ice melting all the way to the North Pole, to consider how we are going to protect the environment right up to the North Pole. We cannot do that without international agreements. We cannot do that without an international understanding of the issues. We need to see that kind of approach from the government. It is that simple.
Capacity is important, as well. It is not good enough simply to put this bill forward without some understanding as to how we are going to make people comply with it, how we are going to enforce the regulation that is in place, how we are going to ensure that we have the answers to fix what happens to the environment when accidents occur, and most likely they will.
I hope that over the next while we will look at these issues. This bill has merit. It is important. However, the government needs to say more about this issue than it has already. The government needs to come forward with a more detailed plan for the protection of our Arctic waters. When it does that, we will have a solution that all Canadians will subscribe to and support.
I would say to our hard-working minister, let us put some hard-working thought into what we are doing here and we will come up with great answers for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to be in the House today to speak to this legislation.
Initially, I want to point out that I and the members of my party will be supporting this particular legislation. It is my view that it is good public policy and in the national interest. It certainly will be supported.
As the previous speaker indicated, it is a very short piece of legislation. I believe he mentioned there are only 13 lines and it basically extends our responsibility in the Arctic by close to 500 square kilometres, which we can see is an enormous body of land.
It is in line with international policy and with the parameters of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which this country ratified in 2003. It certainly will be supported by other countries, unless there is an absolute conflict in our continental sea bids.
We have heard in the debate that it is part of a so-called northern package or northern strategy, but as the member for has very eloquently described to the House, these initiatives are only talk from Ottawa. We really have not seen any action at all in the north and that is a big concern in this particular legislation. It is great, but there are no provisions for any resources, funding, plans, programs, initiatives or in what manner the government is going to do what it says it is going to do in the legislation.
It all sounds good. We all agree with it. All Canadians agree with it. Announcements have been made and re-made, some of them three or four times, but parliamentarians, Canadians and, most importantly, the people who live in the three northern territories would like to see a lot more or in some cases a little more concrete action than what has been done before. The most recent talk has been about ships, the military presence, fishing ports, and economic development but again, we have not really seen too much yet.
A sidebar on this issue goes back to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. That convention was ratified by Canada in 2003 and by 2013 Canada has to present a submission to the United Nations dealing with this whole boundary issue, which is a mapping of our entire continental shelf.
The year 2013 sounds like a long way in the future but, do not forget, there are only a few months to work on it. I hope that it is being done and we will be ready to make our submission come year 2013 because this is vitally important for Canada's sovereignty. That is a little sidebar in this debate.
Part of this package, for want of a better word, is the construction of an icebreaker. It has been named the Diefenbaker. There was a discussion in the House as to who would be in the House when the Diefenbaker was launched. We hear a lot of big announcements about ships but four months later we see a little story on page seven of one of the papers saying that they have been cancelled because of the cost or whatever reason.
There have been many announcements over the last two or three years about Coast Guard ships, icebreakers and military frigates, but I am not aware of any of them having been started or purchased. I do not have an awful lot of confidence in the Diefenbaker. I do not expect to be here, though you may be, Mr. Speaker, as you are a younger member of Parliament. I would like to see a lot more concrete action as to when this ship is going to be built and launched.
I am not from the north, but I try to follow these fisheries issues as closely as I can. There was an announcement that a deep water port was going to be built somewhere on Baffin Island and there were going to be some repairs and improvements. I will correct myself. It was not repairs and improvements but the actual construction of a port. A lot of the places like Pond Inlet do not have ports at all. The announcement was about a deep water port.
I believe there is a strong fisheries industry in the Arctic. Right now it is mainly being prosecuted by foreigners and other Canadian interests from the southern provinces, Newfoundland in particular. The catches I believe are landed in Greenland for packaging and processing for shipment to the southern markets. That all should be done on Canadian soil. I believe there is a strong argument for a deep water port. There was an announcement the officials were looking at Pangnirtung, but again that is another announcement I hope does come about. The area has tremendous potential and some of the methodologies used by the local ice fishermen are certainly very environmentally sensitive. I am hoping, as part of this northern strategy or development, that this will be looked at. Again, it is time to stop talking and let us get on and do something.
The area which is most effected by the climate change problem is the northern territory of Canada. With the visit last week of President Obama I become very cynical. The government was elected in January 2006 and going back in history we can say we have not done enough, that other countries and China are not doing enough, but that is not the point. We have an obligation to do what we can.
The government was elected over three years ago and in the first year and a half the Conservative minister of the time was saying that she would come forward with a made in Canada approach. Of course, as members know, there was really nothing done at all. There was no made in Canada approach. There is no approach. After a year and a half, that minister had to be replaced by another minister whose approach was that we are going to regulate against the biggest and largest emitters. But of course, that was not done either and nothing happened.
Last week the latest version is that we are going to commence a dialogue with our southern partner the United States of America to deal with this whole climate change issue. That is good. Americans have not done a lot, but they probably have done more than we have. The reason we have not done anything is because the government of the United States has not done anything. Excuse me, why was that not told to the House over the last three years? Why were we not informed of that fact? Here we are three or four years later and we are going to start a dialogue. We cannot fault President Obama because he has only been elected for a couple of weeks, but again the Canadian public is becoming cynical. I hope this is an area where the envelope has moved to a certain extent.
This part of Canada and the whole world really suffers because of climate change and the permafrost melting. It is something we are looking to and shaking our heads hoping that the government will do something in the not too distant future.
In conclusion, this is good legislation and good public policy. I hope it receives the support of the House. I do not think the committee will spend a lot of time on it. Again, it is pretty meaningless if it is not accompanied by real concrete action, a plan as to how these environmental issues are going to be enforced. What are the resources being designated to this effort from a northern basis? What is the strategy? What departments are responsible for this initiative? How are the prosecutors going to prosecute?
These are very important issues. I hope in the days and months ahead we can move forward on this issue and some of the other issues that people in northern Canada are watching very closely, and I should add are very disappointed.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise here today to speak to Bill , which would extend the protection of Arctic waters from 100 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles.
I think this is an important issue. The whole Arctic question is crucial. That is why we are debating it here today in the House. It is not simply a question of sovereignty, as some might believe. Of course, this part of the north is more and more important to many people, including the Russians, Danish, Canadians and, of course, Americans.
Basically, everyone wants to lay claim to it and is taking steps to do just that. It is not only a question of sovereignty. It is also a new door opening up, a door to the northwest that will have a considerable impact on a number of issues: environmental issues, international issues, economic issues linked to shipping, for example, and military issues. As we know, at the end of the cold war, various radars were installed in the north. We had to keep an eye out, much as we did for the Russian threat during the second world war. However, energy concerns are also becoming more and more important.
Why is that? The purpose of this bill is to amend the 1970 legislation. What does that act say and how does it define arctic waters? The arctic waters are “waters adjacent to the mainland and islands of the Canadian arctic...within the area enclosed by the sixtieth parallel—. In 2009, Bill seeks to clarify the definition of arctic waters and to define them as Canada's internal waters and the waters of the territorial sea of Canada and the exclusive economic zone of Canada. Therefore this part of the world would no longer be considered as international waters but rather internal waters.
Why are we being asked to redefine this part of the world? In part because of the effects of global warming. In recent years, mainly since 1960, the area of permanent pack ice has decreased by 14%. Since 1978, it has decreased by 6%. The pack ice has thinned by 42% since 1958. A study by the University of Alberta indicates that the thickness of the permanent pack ice has decreased by 50% over seven years.
This shows that the fight against climate change is going to require, as the said earlier, greater adaptation. This also shows that here, in Canada, we must adopt a real policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Today's debate shows that climate change is, to a large extent, related to human activity. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has shown, this change in our behaviour, particularly during the post-industrial era when we went from a coal revolution to an oil revolution, has had the effect of significantly increasing greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, with the consequences that we are now witnessing in the north.
The government must understand that it cannot simply put in place a policy of adapting to climate change and give up the fight against this new scourge. Just recently, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, reminded us that we have to act to fight climate change and that we must absolutely have a real policy. In the meantime, it is obvious that the impact in the north will be very significant. This is why, for the first time as of August 2008, we have a new passage called the Northwest Passage, a broader opening of the Northwest Passage and of the Northeast Passage. It is anticipated that this shipping passage in the far north will become permanent in 2040. Shipping traffic will inevitably increase considerably in the coming years.
However, as Bill suggests, this new Northwest Passage will not involve only economic issues, but also energy issues. What does this mean? It means that access to natural resources in that region will be made increasingly easier. I am thinking for instance of the oil and gas resources located under the ice. According to a study by the U.S. Ecological Survey, it is estimated that the fifth largest undiscovered oil and gas reserve in the world is under the Arctic ice. No less than 90 billion barrels of oil may be hidden under the ice pack in the north. It could meet the world demand for oil over the next three years, at a rate of 86 million barrels per day. What we have under this melting ice pack is a natural resource, an important oil resource that is the equivalent of the total reserves of Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Mexico put together. Natural resources, and more specifically oil and gas resources, are synonymous with development and exploration. We are talking about 90 billion barrels of oil and 47,260 billion cubic metres of natural gas. One third of all known world reserves of gas are under the Arctic ice. What does this mean? It means that in the coming years we will see promoters interested in developing this natural resource. It is no surprise that the presence of natural resources always triggers development, exploration and economic development activities.
Thus, in recent months and particularly in 2007, this route between Europe and Asia has allowed companies like Exxon to successfully bid $50 million to begin exploration in the Beaufort Sea and, in 2008, allowed BP to bid for an operating interest in the Beaufort Sea. For what purpose? To be able to explore for oil in that area and develop this resource.
Where there is oil, there is development, which means more marine traffic and therefore more tankers. The government has to realize that there are risks and an environmental threat directly associated with this Northwest Passage which will see an increasing number of tankers in northern waters. I am not against Canada claiming greater sovereignty over the north. But let us not be blind to the reality that Canada seeks to retain ownership of these natural resources to maintain this oil dependency and continue exploiting resources and fossil fuels that pollute, instead of turning to renewable energy.
The government ought to be embarrassed to put forward this bill on the pretext of preventing Arctic waters from being polluted. It should be embarrassed because Canada's record with respect to environmental protection in the north is rather disappointing. As I said earlier, the north has always been a territory much used by military organizations in particular. We will recall that, during World War II, more than 60 radar installations were built at 27 sites north of the 69th parallel to assess the Soviet threat. These radar stations later changed hands. Those under U.S. authority were transferred to Canada in the mid-1950s, in exchange for $100 million worth of military equipment and a commitment to decontaminate these northern sites.
What is the situation today? In 1995, the Liberal government of the day introduced a decontamination program that was supposed to ensure that the soil in these areas would be decontaminated. However, a few years later—and this is where we see that the Liberal's environment record is no better than the Conservative's record—the internal auditor at Canada's Department of National Defence released an evaluation of these sites. And what did the internal auditor say? He said that the overall cost of the decontamination program had increased significantly, from $322 million to $583 million. To quote the internal auditor: “Delayed application of government contracting policy...increased cost and raised questions regarding the openness and fairness of some contracting decisions—” That is an obvious lack of environmental responsibility on behalf of the Canadian government regarding territories north of the 69th parallel.
Today we have a government that would like more sovereignty in the north and that is introducing Bill , an act to amend the Artic waters pollution prevention Act, and saying that it is making pollution prevention in the north a priority. We do not believe it, and we are not the only ones who do not believe it. According to the Director of the UQAM research group on military industry, Yves Bélanger, the Department of National Defence should test the land as soon as possible to see if the work was as badly botched as the project management was. If so, he said, everything needs to be done again.
That is what the experts and the internal defence department auditor think of the management of these sites.
There is, therefore, an environmental issue here. There is an energy issue, as I said, because there are a lot of natural resources, one-third of the world’s proven gas reserves. There is also an economic issue, related among other things to the sea passage. There is an opportunity here for the big shipowners of the world to save time and kilometres. Ultimately, that means a cost reduction for them. China increasingly wants to use marine transport and big containers to ship its goods. The distance between Tokyo and London by what is called the Arctic route that is expected to develop is 14,000 kilometres, while the southern route, that is the current route between Tokyo and London, is 21,000 kilometres. It will be shorter to use the new Northwest Passage than the present route. It will mean a reduction in costs.
Is there not an obvious danger, however, in having more and more ships going through this passage, which has a rich marine life and its own unique biodiversity and is an unknown, virgin stretch of water with priceless aquatic life that we still have no way of assessing? For us to push ahead today with economic development without knowing the repercussions on biodiversity is a direct contravention of two internationally acknowledged principles: the prudence principle and the precautionary principle.
We are in favour of Canada extending its sovereignty. I am not the only one, though, talking about the dangers and threats posed by an increase in marine traffic. The Arctic Council, consisting of the five member states, Iceland, Sweden and Finland, has also expressed its grave concern about the exploitation of the natural resources and the shipping traffic.
This discussion cannot be held without the participation of the Inuit populations that will be affected. I am thinking among other things of the fishing areas that could be disturbed over the next few years by the arrival of many more ships, whether tankers or container ships.
I was reading an article recently by the Nunavut environment minister, if I am not mistaken, who said that the various partners in this affair had behaved with the old-fashioned paternalism.
In conclusion, I believe that these discussions and debates should take into account the effects on the local area and the energy, military and environmental implications. It is essential that they include the collaboration of the first nations.
Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of tradition, I would like to thank the people of my riding, . This is my first speech in the House since Parliament resumed, and this is the sixth time they have sent me back here. I want to thank them most sincerely for putting their faith in me, and I promise that I will continue to be effective at defending their interests.
The people of Saint-Jean also want me to defend Quebec's interests. Whenever Conservative Party members sing the same old tune about how we are useless here, we have to have faith in the people's intelligence. They re-elected a majority of Bloc Québécois members because they are satisfied with the members' work and they think that having us in opposition is better than having a bunch of government members who do not dare open their mouths. Why should we not react somewhat aggressively when told that we are useless? But I digress. I just wanted to thank my voters.
When I was given the opportunity to talk about Bill , I was pleased to take part in the debate. Let me tell you why. I have been my party's defence critic since 2000. Before that, I was Indian affairs and northern development critic. Naturally, I went to the far north a number of times. I would like to tell you a funny story. Before leaving for the far north, I was still in Saint-Jean, and I asked my assistants what I should wear up there. They told me to dress as I would in Montreal. So I headed off with a suit and a little raincoat.
When I got off the plane, the thermometer said it was -30oC. I had to find a store where I could buy some more appropriate clothing in a hurry. I did not look at all like a northerner. I looked like a southerner in the far north for the first time—which is what I was. So I went around the town of Iqaluit, where I met people and asked them what their lives were like, if things were still as tough as they used to be. I saw that there was a huge problem with the price of food. People there pay twice as much for their food and they earn half as much as people here. It is no wonder they have trouble making ends meet.
It was very important for me to discover the far north. I discovered it the hard way. We noted that there was a certain degree of solidarity in the Inuit villages. I also noticed that there was a municipal form of government. It was not like Indian Affairs or aboriginal nations that operate based on a tribal council. Inuit villages were governed like municipalities. I was invited by the mayor of Iqaluit to speak with the mayor and councillors. I learned a great deal about the dangers facing the far north.
Many dangers threaten the far north. People are just now becoming interested in it because, as usual, the financial aspect takes priority and people realize there are riches to be had there. No one cared about it before. There was, however, one circumpolar meeting held every year or two, at which “nordicity”, that was the term used at the time, was explored. Now, we go even further than “nordicity”. How is it that the passage continues to open up and that we will soon be able to go through it all year round? This has not only economic, but also environmental repercussions. My hon. colleagues have talked about this. As Canadians and Quebeckers, we absolutely must try to regulate that.
I would also remind the House that there are now new territories in the far north. I had the opportunity to attend the creation of Nunavut in 2000. As part of the ceremony, there was a toast with a small glass of northern water. This gave me a new perspective on things because, normally, when we toast, it is not with water, but with something that looks similar but tastes much stronger. That ritual was intended to express the purity of the far north. Thus, I attended the creation of Nunavut.
I also became very involved in Nunavik, in Quebec. One must not think that today's debate is uniquely Canadian. It is also a Quebec debate. I would even say it is an international debate. In 2000, I began attending Canada-NATO meetings.
I have just come back from a meeting in Brussels where the far north was a hot topic. We are not the only ones who are realizing that commercial vessel traffic will be revolutionized by the opening of the Northwest Passage. The whole world knows it. In a minute I will talk about the different distances and tell you how many kilometres shipowners will save by sending their ships through the Northwest Passage. They can save tens of thousands of kilometres, which is huge.
As the national defence critic, I have visited the far north, mainly because many things in the far north have to do with the military. The Bloc has some concerns on that front. We do not want to see the Arctic militarized. We would like this to be negotiated, and we would like international legislation to be applied.
The answer is certainly not to build warships to stake our claim in the far north. I have a great deal of respect for the Canadian navy, but if we ever tangled with the American or Russian navy, it would not be long before Canada's navy was at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. This is really not the answer. We have to find another way. We even think that the coast guard is likely better placed to patrol and assert Canada's sovereignty.
The issue of the military in the far north is still important. Now, for this government, it is clear that this is coming. The government is making no effort to try to address this fundamental issue. It is all well and good for the far north to open to vessel traffic for economic reasons, but this affects not only the people, but the Arctic flora and fauna. For example, there is now a higher rate of drowning among polar bears. They were used to swimming from one island to another, but the islands are farther apart now because the water level has risen. That also has an impact on the whole Inuit food chain, which is something we must never forget.
What is the government doing to address this issue? It is facing facts, realizing that the passage is opening and wondering how to go about defending our national interests. Consequently, there is a problem, and in my opinion, this problem should be solved in another way. We need to think about what greenhouse gas restrictions we should be adopting so as to keep the Arctic intact and not despoil it.
We cannot let economic concerns override environmental concerns. More and more people admit this and understand that if we push the economic side of things and ignore the environmental aspect, future generations will inherit a tainted and squandered planet. Even if they were billionaires, they would not be happy living on this planet if we let things go.
We have to ask ourselves these questions. Why is the government not trying to fix the greenhouse gas issue? Why is it not trying to fix it with absolute measures instead of intensity measures? The government is saying that it will ensure that for every barrel of oil produced, there will be a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases. However, if oil companies are allowed to produce 10 times the barrels, we will not make any progress and things will be worse.
The Bloc Québécois is defending the issue of greenhouse gases and absolute measures. That is how the issue will be resolved and greenhouse gases will be reduced instead of increasing. Nothing will be fixed by simply saying that greenhouse gases will be reduced by 20% for each barrel of oil produced, when 10 times as many barrels will be produced. The problem will still be there. That is the environmental aspect.
Let us come back to the military aspect, which must also be considered. I have been to the DEW line. It is a line of radar stations that stretches from Labrador to Alaska, passing through the Yukon and the rest. There are perhaps 70 radar stations, established to study the far north and watch for a Russian bomber attack.
At one time, this line was extremely important. In the 1950s the Americans and the Canadians agreed to build that network. At the time only bomber planes could carry atomic weapons into the U.S. territory, or anywhere in America, Canada or Mexico. A network was needed to watch for these aircraft. Now, this line is somewhat obsolete, because there is no defence against intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Americans claim to have one, but that remains to be seen. There is no question that if they were the target of a massive attack, they could not stop them all. But at the time, it was important. I went to Hall Beach in the Arctic, on the DEW line. I chartered a plane and I visited about ten radar stations. I saw the environmental catastrophe that was created there in the 1950s and that has still not been dealt with. I think my colleague referred to it earlier, when he said that the federal government had increased its contribution for the cleanup from $300 million to $500 million, but it will have to increase it again, because at Hall Beach it is truly a catastrophe. I am not talking about a catastrophe merely because it is ugly, but because it is polluting and it is even contaminating the whole Inuit food chain. Whales are suffering and have many diseases. Birds, seals, all the Arctic flora and fauna are being contaminated, because there was a lack of control at the time.
Back then, they would use a barrel of contaminants and if that barrel was half empty, they would empty it on the spot and leave it there. We now realize it was a terrible mistake. There are health problems, not only affecting the flora and fauna, but also the Inuit themselves who traditionally feed on these animals, on this wildlife. So, there is a major problem with the DEW line and I think it is far from over. We will have to invest a lot more money to correct the situation. Sometimes I wonder if it is not too late.
I also travelled to Alert, which is the Canadian Forces' northernmost base. We can understand that there is a reasonable military presence. However, if the Conservative government's strategy is to arm ourselves even more heavily, I think we will have a problem, as I explained earlier.
From a military perspective, if one wants to take possession of a territory or establish sovereignty over that territory, human presence is always important. I think the far north is the subject of many studies. People want to know how to behave and affirm their presence. Many tactics are being considered right now.
Our Russian friends left a titanium case containing a Russian flag on the bottom of the ocean. That was kind of an old-fashioned approach. Long ago, nations planted flags to assert sovereignty over a territory. The Russians deposited a titanium case on the bottom of the ocean to lay their claim.
The debate is ongoing. Where do Canada's boundary waters lie? I think that when a country claims a given territory, as Canada has the Arctic, it has to implement a series of legislative measures or laws to secure that claim. That is what Bill C-3 does. It enlarges the protected area from 100 kilometres to 200. I think that is a good idea.
That being said, there is no doubt the Americans consider Arctic waters to be international waters. Along with the Americans and the Russians, the Danes also want in on the act. A lot of northern countries are looking closely at what they can claim. That is why I am saying that we should rely on governance and diplomacy to resolve the fundamental issue. We need scientific studies, and we need international courts, such as the court in the Hague, to rule in case of dispute. As I said before, we cannot let this turn into a power struggle between nations or war in the far north. That would certainly be senseless.
That is why we have the Rangers, the Canadian Forces' arm in the far north. They patrol the region. I am planning to go on patrol with them. I might not cover as much ground as them because they are in great shape, and they are used to walking long distances and camping. I do not mind camping. I am sure they know how to make igloos, but I do not think they camp in them. I am looking forward to going with them because patrolling territory is a form of sovereignty assertion. That is why planes fly over the area. The Coast Guard has a presence in the far north. All of these elements support the government's claim to the Arctic. Our military presence is important, but it must not go too far. As I said, our military would not be able to hold off an American aircraft carrier or destroyer for long. Their military is much bigger than ours.
Why not look at other surveillance options as well? In terms of defence, satellites are being developed as an option. Thus, we could ensure accurate surveillance of vast areas in the far north. NORAD is using its satellites for that purpose. They now monitor shipping traffic and can guide their ships on their routes to some extent. They can communicate with them to say, “You are not on your planned route. You must stay on your planned sea route.” Thus, satellites are gaining in importance.
Drones are another possibility. We do not need to use ships and we do not have to pay exorbitant amounts for fuel to patrol the far north. Some types of drones can patrol the area and provide appropriate surveillance.
I had promised earlier that I would talk about distances. I have seen some very impressive distances. The route that will be used will save thousands and thousands of kilometres. For example, travelling from London to Yokohama, via Panama, is a trip of 23,300 kilometres. Using the Northwest Passage, the distance is 15,930 kilometres. If the trip is 10,000 kilometres shorter, shipowners and all marine traffic will save a lot of money. I believe that is the main focus. There is not enough concern about the environment. We ask ourselves how to save money. That is humanity's downfall. Greed often wins over concern for the environment. This has to be regulated.
That is why, as other members have said, the Bloc Québécois will support the bill that is before us. As I mentioned earlier, it is a claim over a territory. If we can extend the protection zone to fight pollution, this legislation will show that we care about that region. Quebeckers also care about the north. Incidentally, the Inuits and the Quebec government have signed excellent agreements for the Nunavik. I think that, as Quebeckers, we too must monitor that part of the far north that is located on our territory. New intentions and interests are surfacing among the parties involved. There are people looking at the impact that this will have on their daily lives. Will all that is going on in the far north and all that has happened in the past have an impact on the food chain? How do we try to settle the issue once and for all?
Again, we will support Bill . It is unfortunate that the government will not take the bull by the horns and say: “As for greenhouse gases, we will deal with this issue to save the far north.” However, should this become inevitable, we will have provided the solutions that we can see. We must not militarize the region. We must reach agreements at international forums to ensure that the far north is accessible to all and that Canada gets its fair share in that region and in the circumpolar regions.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me some measure of pleasure to speak to Bill . The bill would increase the environmental protection of the Canadian Arctic, which is consistent with the New Democrats' position on Arctic sovereignty.
Specifically, the bill would extend the geographic application of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to the outer limit of the exclusive economic zone of Canada north of the 60th parallel. The NDP's position has been and remains that Canada needs to increase its claim to the waters of the Arctic islands and beyond through the increased enforcement of environmental protection laws. This bill would expand the area covered by the Canadian environmental protection law, which is stronger than that afforded under international law.
Other nations may dispute the increase of this protection. However, support of Canada's position is expected to be strong in the international community. I would also note that Canada's action is consistent with article 234 of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.
We also have had occasion to discuss the bill with notable Canadian experts in the field, in particular, Mr. Michael Byers, who is an internationally renowned expert in Arctic sovereignty issues. Dr. Byers has examined this bill and recommends that it be passed as is.
The bill specifically amends the definition of Arctic waters from 100 to 200 nautical miles to help ensure that ships do not pollute Canadian waters. That is an important step.
The bill raises the very critical issues in our country of the Arctic, our claim to sovereignty over the Arctic and the importance of that region to Canada's history, heritage and development. Also, and not tangentially in any respect, it raises the issue of the critical importance of the environment and the pressing need to get control of the greenhouse gas emissions in this country. I will be talking a little bit about that in a few moments.
I will read from the government's press release in which it announced this amendment. One thing that does concern me is a quote by where he says:
|| Our government is taking action to promote economic development while demanding environmental responsibility in Canada's North.
What concerns me is the reference to promoting economic development. Canadians are concerned that the Arctic not be used and exploited for its natural resources. Rather, Canadians want this area protected in pristine condition and not to be used as just another area of exploitation by international oil and gas companies.
Global warming is nowhere more evident than in our Arctic. I think it is common knowledge among all members of the House, and certainly on the conscience of Canadians, that our polar bears are experiencing habitat threat of grave concern. If we talk to the indigenous peoples who populate all of the regions of the Arctic, they will tell us and have told us that there are serious climate change issues going on in the Arctic and that these are harbingers that ought to be of grave concern.
The fact that global warming is causing a retraction in the iceberg and ice floe levels in the Arctic does not give us an opportunity to rush in and start developing oil and gas deposits and exploit mineral deposits. Rather, this should cause us great pause. It should force us to look at the underlying cause of this problem, which is that greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change that is of grave peril, not only to Canada and our people but to the entire world.
I am happy to hear that the government now speaks in terms of protecting the environment, which is a good thing and it should be applauded. However, intention is everything and if the intention to preserve our Arctic is simply to allow more economic exploitation as opposed to protecting the environment, then I believe the bill and the government will be misguided.
I want to speak a little about the environment and about other steps the government has either taken or failed to take, steps that are actually imperilling our climate and our environment in the Arctic region.
I noticed in the last budget that the government cancelled the eco-rebate for alternative clean energy production. This was a program that delivered one cent per kilowatt hour to producers of new green energy. What did the government do? It cancelled the program.
The government cancelled or failed to renew the ecoauto rebate program for hybrid and electric cars. This was an incredibly successful and very effective program whereby Canadian consumers could purchase hybrid cars and cars that are more energy-efficient, which has an incredibly positive effect on our environment. What did the government do? It failed to renew the program.
The New Democratic Party campaigned very hard on the environment in the last federal election. One of the major planks of our platform was the immediate implementation of a hard cap and trade system.
I know that in 2002 the was calling the Kyoto accord a socialist plot. I am happy to see that he is a recent convert to what scientists around the globe have been telling us for years, which is that we need to get control of greenhouse gas emissions now.
I am still not sure that the understands exactly how important this is, because he is still speaking in terms of intensity emissions as a substitute for hard caps. Those are two very different concepts, with very compelling and different results. It is only by having hard caps on the emissions of greenhouse gases in this world that we are actually going to have a hope of controlling rising temperatures and climate change.
I noticed in the budget that the government has defined “clean energy” to include coal-fired and nuclear facilities. I think that is why the government is investing so much money into carbon capture and storage, the so-called carbon sequestration programs. It is because it still believes we can use dirty oil and coal and can continue to burn these fossil fuels, if only we can find a way to take the carbon dioxide that is emitted and somehow control it. I think this is misguided.
I note that of the approximately $2 billion allocated in the budget to so-called green programs, half of that, $1 billion, is going to carbon capture and trade systems and experiments and to subsidies to the nuclear industry.
It is very telling that the budget allocates less than 1% of the total stimulus package to the investment in clean energy production. This is to be contrasted with the United States, where the American stimulus package is spending four times the per capita investment amount in clean energy production.
These things are important because one cannot speak about the Arctic, about the need to preserve and protect that vital piece of Canada, without talking inevitably about protecting the environment.
I also want to talk a little about sovereignty. I will applaud the government for any moves and measures it takes that will allow Canada to assert our national autonomy over this area. Of course other countries are rapaciously circling the area and have similar designs on getting their hands on minerals and oil and gas deposits in that region in order to exploit those resources instead of protecting this vital part of our planet.
I note that Denmark and Greenland have been reported to be intending to exploit certain islands in the area, specifically the vast icefields. Greenland intends to harvest these icebergs and sell them to a world that is as thirsty for water as it is for oil.
The Danish government for its part is pouring millions of dollars into a comprehensive map showing the geological features of the Arctic Ocean, and its map runs from a shelf that is underneath its country all the way along so that it can claim part of the North Pole itself.
I do not have to remind members of the House that both the United States and Russia are countries that seem to be holding similar designs on this area. Therefore, it is vitally important that our government take all the measures it can to assert and retain our sovereignty in the area.
We cannot get too bold on this because Canadian companies and Canadian politicians have similar designs. They view the Arctic as just another economic area to be exploited, as opposed to a national environmental treasure that plays a vital role in the globe's climate system.
I note that EnCana, a Canadian company, has a current strategy to sell off its holdings in dangerous parts of the world and focus instead on developing sources of natural gas in North America, primarily under the sea floor near Davis Strait. The first and biggest licensee of resources in this area is EnCana Corporation, a transnational company with a head office in Calgary, Alberta.
I do want to caution all members of the House to make sure that the intentions behind the bill match the reality.
There are other concerns we ought to keep in mind when we are talking about the Arctic, such as the cultural aspects of the people who live in the north. We must always remember that this is not a vast unpopulated area. Rather, the Arctic is populated by many people with thousands of years of ties to these lands. We must pay attention to ensure that their needs, their aspirations, their ways of life are protected and preserved. We cannot turn back the clock on the erosion of the indigenous people's way of life once we have altered it irremediably.
In terms of the historical importance of the Arctic, and my hon. colleague from the Arctic spoke to this earlier, it is important that we pay attention to economic development and the social welfare of the people of that region.
New Democrats believe that this area of our country is in urgent need of financial support, particularly from the federal government. These people require schools, community centres and assistance with health care. I am hopeful that the will see to it that the appalling treatment of indigenous people, particularly in the north, and the ignoring of their health needs that has gone on for decades, and arguably centuries, is addressed by the government.
I would be happy to see a bill introduced by the government that would spend money and invest funds in the protection and enhancement of the health of the people of the Arctic. This is not just about ensuring that ships can travel untrammelled in the Arctic, but it is important for us to take a moment and ensure that the people of the Arctic are able to travel with equal freedom. In order to do that--