Posted on 05 May 2009
Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans calls for a stronger Coast Guard to assert Canada’s presence in the North
Ottawa (May 5, 2009) – Canada faces a number of actual and potential challenges to its sovereignty and sovereign rights in the Arctic in the coming years and a stronger Coast Guard is needed to protect Canadian interests says a new study by the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, entitled “Rising to the Arctic Challenge: Report on the Canadian Coast Guard.”
“Canada will need to strengthen its Coast Guard by adding capabilities and equipment to cope with future demands,” says Senator William Rompkey, Chair of the Senate committee. “More thought must be given to its future role in projecting Canada’s sovereignty in the region.”
The committee recognizes that while the Arctic is an essential aspect of the Canadian national identity, it is first and foremost the homeland of Inuit – whose presence and continued use and stewardship of its resources anchor Canada’s sovereignty claims. The report calls on the Coast Guard to recruit Inuit whenever possible.
As sea ice recedes, the circumpolar region is becoming more accessible to commercial shipping, tourism and resource exploration activities, exposing Canada to increased maritime border problems with circumpolar neighbours and marine pollution threats. Canadian sovereignty concerns over the right to control shipping in the Northwest Passage exemplify the challenges raised in the report.
The purchase of new, “made-in-Canada” heavy ice-breakers capable of operating year-round in the Arctic Archipelago and on the extended continental shelf is one of 14 recommendations made by the committee. The Canadian Coast Guard provides aid to navigation, pollution control, Search and Rescue, and other services in the Arctic.
“Bolstering the capacity of the Coast Guard in the Arctic is necessary to safeguard the values, environment, security and economic interests of Canadians,” says Senator Ethel Cochrane, Deputy Chair of the Senate committee.
According to the findings of the committee, Canada needs to play an increased leadership role in international cooperation in the Arctic. The report suggests leadership can be demonstrated on issues relating to continental shelf claims and ensuring development of common codes for Arctic Ocean vessel activity which meet Canadian standards. Additionally, the report recommends all foreign ships that enter Canada’s Arctic waters should be required to register with Canada’s current voluntary vessel traffic system, NORDREG.
More domestic coordination is also recommended in the report. The committee calls for the creation of an Arctic Strategy Advisory Committee, led by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, to monitor and to advise in the development and implementation of an effective and integrated strategy for the North.
The “Rising to the Arctic Challenge” report is based on evidence presented to the committee during hearings held in Ottawa and in Nunavut.
A full list of report recommendations made by the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans can be found below.
For more information, please contact:
LIST OF 14 RECOMMENDATIONS
The committee recommends that Canada uphold its position that the waters of the Northwest Passage are its internal waters, and that Canada should be prepared to defend any legal challenge.
The committee recommends that 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 Canada’s northern residents, and making the waterway a safe and efficient shipping route.
The committee recommends that the Government of Canada consider Goose Bay, Labrador, as a sub-Arctic staging area for the coordination and support of Coast Guard, fisheries, search and rescue, surveillance and other Arctic activities.
The committee recommends that the Nunavut Marine Council (Part 4, Article 15.4.1 of the 2003 Nunavut Land Claims Agreement) be created as a forum for priority setting and planning, and as a practical means to enhance Canada’s sovereignty in marine areas.
The committee recommends that Canada assume a leadership role in promoting international cooperation on: (a) issues relating to continental shelf claims; and (b) the development of a mandatory common code relating to the construction, manning and equipment of all vessels operating in the Arctic Ocean equal to Canada’s domestic standards.
The committee recommends that Canada demonstrate its commitment to international co-operation within the Arctic Council by re-establishing the position of Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs (which was eliminated in 2006).
The committee recommends that the Department of National Defence make the Canadian Rangers an integral part of the Canadian reserves and provide them with marine capability.
The committee recommends that the Government of Canada establish an Arctic Strategy Advisory Committee, lead by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, to monitor and to advise in the development and implementation of an effective and integrated strategy for the North. The new Arctic Strategy Advisory Committee should comprise representatives from the federal government departments and agencies with a mandate in the Arctic, with particular emphasis on the Coast Guard, the various Aboriginal/Inuit groups in the region, and the three territorial governments.
The committee recommends that Inuit, with their unique knowledge of the region, be recruited for the Coast Guard whenever possible.
The committee recommends that the Coast Guard, as the expert agency on the maritime situation facing Canada in the Arctic, formulate and implement a long-term strategic vision to guide it for the future.
The committee recommends that NORDREG, Canada’s current voluntary vessel traffic system in the Arctic, be made compulsory. All foreign ships that enter Canada’s Arctic waters should be required to register with NORDREG, regardless of vessel size.
The committee recommends that the federal government amend the definition of Arctic waters in the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to include the waters beyond the Arctic Archipelago to the 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, which is the case with other Canadian legislation, such as the Oceans Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
The committee recommends that Canada develop a long-term plan for the acquisition of new multi-purpose heavy icebreakers made in Canada and capable of operating year-round in its Arctic Archipelago and on the continental shelf as part of an integrated approach to vessel procurement recognizing the complementarity of Coast Guard and naval vessels.
The committee recommends the deployment of multi-mission polar icebreakers operated by the Coast Guard as a cost-effective solution to Canada’s surveillance and sovereignty patrol needs in the Arctic.