Statement made on 08 June 2010 by Senator Charlie Watt
[Editor's Note: Senator Watt spoke in Inuktitut — translation follows.]
Hon. Charlie Watt:
Honourable senators, in the aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, this World Oceans Day provides Canadians with an essential opportunity to reflect. Today, I want to address the state of Canada's Arctic waters, particularly the issue of contamination and pollution. Offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration are of grave concern to Canadians, as are other pollutants currently dumped into our Arctic waters.
Over the past couple of weeks, calls have been renewed for a moratorium on drilling in the Beaufort Sea. Environmental risks and measures must be properly addressed and assessed and plans put in place to address oil spills.
For years, I have been on the record as a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans saying that the Arctic — the land of the Inuit — does not have the ability to deal with a major oil spill in our waters. The equipment simply does not exist for clean-up. To sanction this type of industry is not responsible.
Those of us who live near and rely on Arctic waters do not have confidence in the federal government's management of contaminating spills in our waters. Its track record is not good. The perspective of Inuit traditional knowledge must be heard and respected by the scientific community.
Last week, Canadian Press released the results of an investigation into the National Enforcement Management Information System and Intelligence System. This is solid information kept by Environment Canada. It appears this information has been hidden from us, and Environment Canada is not living up to its mandate to protect the environment and its inhabitants.
The database, as outlined, details the spill of millions of litres of harmful contaminants in our Arctic waters, including sewage and jet fuel. One of the most frequent offenders or polluters of Arctic waters is the Government of Canada. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Coast Guard are listed as offenders.
Honourable senators, the greatest spills, in terms of pure volume, are sewage related. Issues with proper infrastructure in this regard are chronic in the North. Petroleum products account for nearly two thirds of all northern spills. From January 2004 to November of last year, the Environment Canada database lists 75 diesel spills across the North, which flowed into the Arctic Ocean. That is followed by 28 sewage spills, 26 spills of unspecified or unknown contaminants, and 25 jet-fuel spills.
We need to be concerned about these threats to Canadian Arctic waters. I suggest that, while the federal government of Canada is reviewing its Arctic environmental protection rules and regulations, it also look at how it is polluting the Arctic Ocean, and examine ways to address these problems. I also suggest more transparency on the spills happening in our waters.
The Canadian Press reports that it took two years and a complaint to the Information Commissioner to pry this information from Environment Canada under the Access to Information Act. This is not acceptable. Information about spills and contamination of our waters should be transparent and accessible to all Canadians.