Our Arctic Challenge – this area is considered by many to be Canada’s last frontier, a vast archipelago, sparsely populated, beautiful and majestic, pristine and naturally isolated. A prominent feature of the arctic is the ever changing sea ice. Climate Change is impacting ice formation and weather and sea conditions. Both the North East and North West Passages are likely to see increased traffic in the future.
A key priority of Canada’s Northern Strategy is protecting our environmental heritage. This priority is a shared responsibility across many federal departments. This sensitive eco-system requires having in place a National Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime that addresses Canada’s unique northern needs.
Canada’s far north is experiencing significant impacts of climate change affecting both the people people who live there and the environment. This change is coupled with a new era of oil and gas exploration in the deeper waters of the Beaufort Sea. However, drilling is not currently expected before 2014.
Arctic Cruise Tourism is increasing in many areas of the Arctic. During the year 2010, some 128,000 passenger participated on Arctic Cruise ships. Only 2,000 of these passengers were in Canadian arctic waters, however, the trend is increasing. This is a lucrative industry which over time will benefit Nunavut and other parts of our Arctic. Most Arctic shipping traffic brings food and goods as well as seasonal transfers of oil products to arctic communities. At present there is no crude oil tanker traffic in Canadian Arctic waters.
During 2010, two vessels were involved in incidents in the north. The cruise ship Clipper Adventurer grounded in Coronation Gulf with 128 passengers onboard. Further east the tanker Nanny, loaded with diesel fuel went aground near Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. These incidents highlight the need for ensuring that Canada maintains an adequate compensation regime for oil spills including that available under international Conventions.