Copyright © 2019 Senator Dennis Patterson.

Statement – Quebec Offshore Initiative

December 10, 2015

Honourable Senators, on October 8, 2015, in a push to further the maritime strategy that is part of Quebec’s northern economic plan, Plan Nord, Quebec Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, Jean-Marc Fournier, publicly called for an “urgent” extension of Quebec’s northern border.

Quebec’s Plan Nord includes building ports and other related marine infrastructure to support economic development initiatives in Northern Canada.

However, the northern boundary of Quebec, as drawn out by Ottawa in the Quebec Boundaries Extension Act of 1912, ends at the high water mark and does not extend into the waters and islands just off-shore. The same goes for the borders of Manitoba and Ontario; these islands and waters just past their provincial boundaries currently belong to Nunavut.

Further, the federal statute which established the new territory of Nunavut, the Nunavut Act, 1993, in my opinion describes Nunavut as including the offshore within the boundary in the following terms:

3. There is hereby established a territory of Canada, to be known as  Nunavut,         consisting of

*   (a) all that part of Canada north of the sixtieth parallel of north latitude and east of the boundary described in Schedule I that is not within Quebec or Newfoundland and Labrador; and

*   (b) the islands in Hudson Bay, James Bay and Ungava Bay that are not within Manitoba, Ontario or Quebec.

*   1993, c. 28, s. 3;

*    2015, c. 3, s. 172

Quebec has asked for the federal government’s assistance in extending their provincial boundary into the offshore.

Colleagues, I understand that the Government of Quebec believes that having jurisdiction in the offshore will simplify the construction of Plan Nord infrastructure on the coast.  I welcome infrastructure investment anywhere in the Arctic.

Infrastructure is notably lacking.  However, I want to stress that there are other parties whose interests would be affected by this initiative. And there are larger interests at stake.

First, this would directly impact Nunavut’s island community, Sanikiluaq, which is located on the Belcher Islands in Hudson’s Bay.   In a Member’s Statement made on October 21, 2015, Sanikiluaq’s MLA in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly, Allan Rumbolt, stated: “The question of which jurisdiction Sanikiluaq should be in has been addressed a number of times in the past. The community has historical links with the Northwest Territories and now Nunavut, as well as family ties with Quebec. However, no matter what decision may be taken in the future, it is critical that the people of Sanikiluaq be fully consulted in the matter and have their say.”

I would like to echo Mr. Rumbolt’s statement and add to it.  Not only do I believe that the residents of Sanikiluaq should be consulted, but I believe the Governments of Canada and Quebec must consult with and involve all parties who have a common interest in the clarification of offshore boundaries in Hudson’s Bay.

We must firstly be aware of our obligation to respectful consultations with the Indigenous residents of the Arctic, whose marine economies and occupancy have helped Canada establish its own sovereignty over these waters. In the Quebec offshore, these Indigenous residents include the Inuit of Nunavut, the Inuit of Nunavik in Northern Quebec, the Cree of Quebec and the Inuit of Nunatsiavut (Labrador). The Governments of Nunavut and Newfoundland and Labrador are also interested parties who represent the residents who are most affected by offshore activities, and who should have their voices heard.

Canada’s Arctic has Canada’s longest coastline – longer than its east and west coastlines combined.  The Inuvialuit of the NWT, the Inuit of  Nunavut, Quebec and Labrador and the Cree of Quebec have already negotiated offshore agreements with Canada. Imagine the potential of a forum where all interested Indigenous peoples and governments could work together in common cause and co-operation to oversee the protection and development of our Arctic offshore.

I believe that these discussions, provided they involve all interested parties, could and should lead to inclusive and clearly defined offshore management regimes for all marine regions in the Canadian Arctic, which could give a greater say to the indigenous residents of the region and the duly elected governments of those regions, along with Canada, in how their offshore resources should be developed. It is only in this spirit of respect for the shared common interests of the indigenous residents, the adjacent provincial/territorial governments, and Canada, that this important issue will be resolved in the interests of proper stewardship of Canada’s longest coast.