Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans – June/August 2008
Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans Report
the Canadian Coast Guard, Icebreakers, and Arctic Sovereignty
In June 2008, the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans issued its Fourth Report on the current
state of the Canadian Coast Guard and its readiness to ensure Canada's Arctic sovereignty. This
interim report has been summarized in a news release (below). Recommendations include: affirming
the Northwest Passage as a Canadian internal waterway (with a stronger, year-round presence), develop a
strategic vision for the CCG – including recruit- ing Inuit, building new polar class
icebreakers, having a common standard for all vessels using Arctic waters, and completing needed harbour facilities
in Nunavut (seven port locations were identified).
In late August, the Prime Minister responded with a backgrounder entitled
Extending the Jurisdiction of Canadian Environment and Shipping Laws in the Arctic. Among the amendments
proposed for the next Parliament are an extension of the Arctic waters regulatory zone from 100 nm to 200 nm
(allowing the enforcement of the anti-pollution provisions under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act),
as well as extending the Northern Canada Traffic Regulation System (or NORDREG ) reporting zone to 200 nm, and
making reporting to NORDREG mandatory. (The planned building of a new heavy polar class icebreaker - CCGS John G. Diefenbaker - was not
mentioned in the report ).
The Senate News Release is reproduced below, the PM Backgrounder at the bottom.
Standing Senate Committee News Release – The Canadian Coast Guard needs to
prepared, mandated, and funded to meet future challenges in the Arctic
OTTAWA, 23 June 2008 – In a report on the role of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) in the Arctic
tabled today by the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, Senators are telling the federal
government that the CCG needs to be better prepared, mandated and funded to meet future challenges
in a rapidly changing Arctic.
An essential aspect of the Canadian identity, the Arctic, is first and foremost the home land of Inuit who have been
using the region and its resources for thousands of years. They and those who have joined them, anchor our claim to
that vast expanse.
"As the ice thins, oil and gas exploration rise, and shipping increases, a strong Canad- ian Coast Guard presence in
the Arctic will become ever more critical" said Senator Bill Rompkey, Chair of the Committee. "It ensures
shipping safety, environmental protect- ion, Search-and-Rescue, and re-supply for northern communities.
The Coast Guard is an important element of Canada's projection of sovereignty in the Arctic, and its most
visible federal marine presence".
The committee's report, "The Coast Guard in Canada's Arctic", asserts that Canada needs to
set the strategy and vision now for future needs. To start with, the [ CCG ] requires
a long-term plan to acquire heavy icebreakers that can operate year-round on multi-mission duties including
surveillance and sovereignty patrol needs. And Canada needs a mandatory reporting and monitoring system for domestic
and foreign vessels in the Arctic, as we already have on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
The committee heard from Aboriginal leaders, government officials, academics, scient- ists, researchers, and a
number of individuals. "We have been told that the develop- ment of sea and
land-based services and infrastructure will be needed to ensure safe navigation in the Northwest Passage and
to buttress Canada’s sovereignty."
"Above all, better Arctic port infrastructure will be required," said Senator Ethel Coch- rane, Deputy Chair [Note:
a commercial port is planned for ].
The Committee recommends:
1. Canada uphold its position that the waters of the Northwest Passage are its internal
should be prepared to defend any legal challenge.
2. Canada develop a much stronger year-round, national presence and enforcement
capability to show
the world that Canada is serious about controlling the Northwest
Passage, protecting Canadian
interests and its people, and making the waterway a
safe and efficient shipping route.
3. There be a uniform, common code relating to the construction, manning and equip-
ment of all
vessels operating in the Arctic.
4. Inuit, with their unique knowledge of the region, be recruited for the Coast Guard
5. The Coast Guard formulate a long-term strategic vision to guide it into the future.
a quarter of experienced marine personnel expected to retire in the next
five to seven years,
staffing issues will present a challenge.
6. NORDREG, Canada's current voluntary vessel traffic system in the Arctic, be made
[Adopted for proposed amendments, see PM's Backgrounder below.]
7. Canada develop a long-term plan for the acquisition of new multi-purpose heavy
in Canada capable of operating year-round in its Arctic Archipel-
ago and on the continental
8. Deployment of multi-mission polar [class] icebreakers operated by the Coast Guard
cost-effective solution to Canada’s surveillance and sovereignty patrol needs
9. The Government of Canada move forward to implement, in collaboration with the
Government of Nunavut, a comprehensive harbour development plan, as recomm-
ended by the DFO [Fisheries and Oceans]-Nunavut Harbours Working Committee
in its 2005
Nunavut Small Craft Harbours Report.
Please note that this interim report – an account of work in progress – is based on evi- dence gathered
in Ottawa from 5 February 2008 to 15 May 2008, before the Committee conducted public hearings and fact-finding
in Nunavut during the first week of June 2008. Its findings will be conveyed more fully in a final
Backgrounder (Office of the
Extending the Jurisdiction of Canadian Environment and Shipping Laws in the
27 August 2008 Ottawa, Ontario
On August 27, 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the Government of Canada
would be extending the jurisdiction at which it enforces Canadian environ- mental laws and shipping regulations
in the Canadian Arctic. In particular, the Prime Minister announced [the] intention to
introduce new legislation extending the enforce- ment zone of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act (AWPPA) in
the next sitting of Parliament.
In addition the Prime Minister announced [ ... ] new regulations extending the range at which Arctic bound ships
must report to Canadian authorities through the NORDREG reporting system. [ According to the Marine Communication Traffic Services Centre
in Iqaluit, about 99 per cent of vessels in Arctic waters report to NORDREG voluntarily.]
About the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
First drafted in 1970, the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act provides much more stringent rules to protect
maritime and coastal regions from dumping and other forms of pollution than what is required in international
The Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act prohibits the deposit of waste in Arctic waters
from either land or ship sources. It also requires that Arctic waters adjacent to the mainland and
islands of the Canadian Arctic are to be navigated only in a manner that respects Canada's
Inuit and other Northern communities as well as Canada's res- ponsibility to preserve the
fragile ecological balance that now exists in the water, ice and land areas of the Canadian
NORDREG is the Arctic marine traffic system [which] keeps track of all traffic north of 60°,
as well as within Ungava Bay and the southern part of Hudson Bay. NORDREG has reporting
requirements that are similar to [ the] mandatory reporting provisions in southern Canadian waters. A ship
300 tons or more is required to report 24 hours prior to entering the NORDREG zone. The ship is also to report
immediately before crossing the NORDREG zone boundary when entering, upon arrival at the berth, and 1-2 hours
before departure from ... berth. The NORDREG zone almost mirrors the regulatory zone of the AWPPA.
The proposed amendments announced by Prime Minister Harper include:
Extension of regulatory zone defined as "arctic waters" under the AWPPA from its
current limit of
100 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles. This will extend the range at
which Canada can enforce the
anti-pollution provisions in the act.
Similarly extending the NORDREG reporting zone to a 200 nautical mile limit.
Moving from the "encouraged" reporting provisions under the current NORDREG
system to a mandatory
reporting system for all incoming shipping traffic.