Canada Marks Major Milestone in Defining Its Continental Shelf

December 9, 2013 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council, today announced that Canada has filed a submission to define the outer limits of its continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

At the same time, Canada filed preliminary information concerning the outer limits of its continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean. Work to determine the full extent of our continental shelf in the Arctic continues and could include obtaining further data around the North Pole.

“This submission for the Atlantic Ocean is a major step toward delivering on our priority of obtaining international recognition for the full extent of our continental shelf,” said Minister Baird. “Defining our continental shelf is something fundamental for our country and a legacy we leave for Canadians.”

“The North is an essential part of Canada’s collective heritage and its future,” said Minister Aglukkaq. “Our government is committed to helping the North realize its true potential as a healthy, prosperous and secure region within a strong and sovereign Canada.”

The submission for the Atlantic announced today is the result of a decade-long scientific and technical undertaking by experts from the departments of Natural Resources, Fisheries and Oceans, and Foreign Affairs, and fulfills Canada’s legal obligation pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in respect of this area.

“The tremendous effort to define the outer limits of our continental shelf is an investment in Canada’s long-term economic prosperity,” said Minister Oliver. “Legal certainty and international recognition is vital to developing our potentially immense resources.”

“Defining the outer limits of a continental shelf of this size requires significant scientific work,” said Minister Shea. “The Canadian Hydrographic Service and the Geological Survey of Canada have collected a great deal of data in areas that are ice-covered, difficult to access, and that in some instances had not previously been surveyed. While collected for Canada’s submission, this data will also contribute to increasing our scientific knowledge of the Arctic.”

Canada became party to UNCLOS on December 7, 2003. Under the terms of the convention, states parties have 10 years from the date they became party to the convention to file a submission with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. States parties can satisfy the 10-year time frame in the convention by submitting preliminary information indicating an intention to file a submission.

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