Canada's Transport Minister, John Baird, introduced legislation in the House of Commons on Jan. 28 to enhance Canada's sovereignty over Arctic waters and protect them from pollution. This coverage will give Canada greater and more effective control over marine activity in the Canadian Arctic while enhancing environmental protection in Canada's North. This marks an important step forward in the federal government's integrated Northern Strategy.
"Our government is taking action to promote economic development while demanding environmental responsibility in Canada's North," said Minister Baird. "Our government will do all we can to protect Canada's Arctic heritage and sovereignty. Measures introduced today will help support the safe and environmentally sound movement of ships in Canada's Arctic waters."
The amendment will extend the application of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act by amending the definition of "arctic waters" from 100 to 200 nautical miles, to help ensure that ships do not pollute Canadian waters.
"With this new initiative, we are proud to advance our Northern Strategy while helping to ensure a sustainable and comprehensive approach to Arctic shipping," added Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, MP for Nunavut, who seconded the bill.
The measures complement Arctic initiatives already put in place under the Health of the Oceans component of the National Water Strategy. Initiatives include outfitting Arctic surveillance aircraft to track polluters and co–leading an international Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment to better anticipate marine shipping uses and activities as well as the impacts of changing marine traffic.
Canada is one of only two Arctic states with specific domestic requirements for shipping operations in Arctic waters that are significantly stricter than international standards set out by the International Maritime Organization. The main legislative component of these requirements is under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act and its regulations, administered by Transport Canada.