Address by Minister Cannon at the News Conference for the Arctic Ocean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

No. 2010/15 - Chelsea, Quebec - March 29, 2010

Check Against Delivery

The Arctic Ocean region is on the verge of significant and fundamental change. International interest in the region has never been greater.

Today we discussed the emerging issues we all face in the region.

By virtue of our sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in large parts of the Arctic Ocean, we are in a unique position to address new opportunities and challenges in the region.

We are committed to doing so within the extensive international legal framework applying to the Arctic Ocean.

As Arctic Ocean coastal states, we have unique roles and responsibilities for the stewardship of the Arctic Ocean.

It is important for us as representatives of those states to address issues within our sphere of responsibility.

Our citizens and northern inhabitants expect us to continue to show leadership, and that is what we are doing.

We clearly understand the potential of the North—a vast, magnificent treasure we hold in trust for future generations.

We are not reacting to change but shaping it.

Our leadership in the Arctic Ocean involves consultation, collaboration and, in some cases, the settlement of disputes with our neighbours.

As coastal states, we are cooperating in the scientific and technical work needed to delineate the outer limits of our respective continental shelves.

Though this work is challenging because it is carried out in a unique ice-covered environment, we are doing the same type of work and following the same process as other coastal states around the world.

All five Arctic Ocean coastal states are committed to the extensive existing international legal framework on which this work is based and to the orderly resolution of any possible overlapping claims.

As access to the region increases due to climatic changes, there are new potential public safety challenges—such as search and rescue, emergency preparedness and disaster management.

In many cases, it will be the Arctic Ocean coastal states that will be both the first ones affected and the best placed to respond.

We are working through the Arctic Council toward a legally binding search and rescue agreement for the Arctic. The Arctic Council is the central forum for international cooperation on Arctic issues.

We are also working through the International Maritime Organization on a mandatory regime that will make shipping in our Arctic waters safer.

Perhaps one fifth of the world’s remaining petroleum reserves lie in the Arctic, largely within the jurisdiction of Arctic Ocean coastal states.

The natural resource potential of the Arctic Ocean is immense.

Managed sustainably, these resources can contribute to our regional economic and social development, including for indigenous peoples, for generations to come.

Environmental protection is a priority.

We are committed to implementing the Arctic Council’s Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines to ensure that development protects the Arctic marine environment.

While large-scale commercial fishing in most of the Arctic is not imminent, Arctic Ocean coastal states have a unique interest and role to play in the conservation and management of fish stocks in the region.

In this regard, there already exists a comprehensive legal framework that applies to the Arctic Ocean.

We agree that more research into fish stocks and their ecosystems will help us to better understand what is happening with these stocks and how we should respond.

Our actions need to be based on the best available knowledge—both science and traditional knowledge.

That is why we have invested very heavily in polar science, including the International Polar Year. We want a strong legacy of continuing benefits.

Science has direct, tangible benefits.

Hydrography, for instance, provides us with essential information for safe navigation by giving us a better understanding of the features of oceans and their coasts.

We all agree on the value of creating an Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission.

Many states and institutions that have historically not paid attention to the Arctic Ocean are now turning their attention northward.

Some have offered uninformed advice about the governance of our peoples, our lands and our waters, and demonstrated a lack of sensitivity to the interests and perspectives of Arctic states and peoples.

Let me be perfectly clear: our government has never wavered from the principle that we will always defend the interests and perspectives of the people of the Arctic, and this is a principle that I believe my colleagues share.

That is why we act firmly and clearly.

Our leadership is based on a spirit of openness, consultation and collaboration.

We are taking action and showing leadership consistent with our roles as sovereign nations and coastal states in this important region.

Thank you.