Hon. Jack Davis (Minister of the Environment):
Mr. Speaker, as most hon. members know, an international conference aimed at the elimination of pollution from ships is now under way in London, England. I would like, briefly, to outline the stand that Canada is taking at this United Nations sponsored conference and to describe some of the principles we would like to see incorporated in a convention which will be binding on flag states and coastal states alike.
Modern society depends, to an increasing extent, on ocean transport of oil and other cargoes. Mobility is important, but so is the preservation of our marine environment. We must, therefore, see to it that vessels carrying substances which are harmful to marine life or which can reduce the value of ocean-front property must be built and operated in a safe and sensible way.
I am confident, Mr. Speaker, that the world's ocean shipping can meet these requirements without incurring exceptional costs. New ships can be built and operated with a greater margin of safety without adding more than a few percentage points to the over-all cost involved in moving goods from one port to another.
An international convention which will not only preserve mobility on the world's oceans but also protect our marine environment has four major attributes: it must be universal in its application; it must include strict standards for the construction and operation of ships; it must be enforceable; and it must be capable of amendment so as to take into account the latest advances in maritime technology.
Construction standards are very important. Canada supports the resolution, for example, that all tankers built after January 1, 1975, should include provision for segregated ballast and double hulls wherever possible. Hon. members should bear in mind that most of the large oil tankers needed during the rest of this century will be built between now and 1985. Hence our concern about the implementation of new construction standards at the earliest possible date.
We believe that the existing convention dealing with pollution from ships should be expanded to cover all suffocating and toxic substances. It should include light oils
as well as heavy oils, "white" oils as well as "black" oils. Our research indicates that the more highly processed petroleum products are often more poisonous than crude oil. This is why we want to see them included in the new rules dealing with pollution from ships.
Our experience with the 1954 convention shows us that exclusive reliance on enforcement by ship owning or flag states simply does not work. If the new convention is to have teeth, it must prevent pollution everywhere. It must prevent violations of the convention wherever they occur. It must enable us to apprehend the offending vessel as soon as it enters the port of any nation which is a signatory to the convention.
This idea is now being referred to as the "port state" concept. Canada is its author. The United States now supports us. We are hopeful that most other countries attending the IMCO Conference in London will endorse its inclusion in the convention as well.
Evidence of a wilful discharge or spill has been hard to collect. We are, therefore, urging that the old "parts per million" stipulation in the 1954 convention be abandoned. In our opinion, it should be replaced by an evidentiary rule whereby the word of a responsible officer will be regarded as sufficient to secure a conviction. Sighting of a sheen of oil on water will be enough. Sworn evidence to this effect will constitute proof of a violation unless probative evidence is presented to the contrary.
A prosecution, following our reasoning, would then take place as soon as the offending vessel entered the port of any signatory country and at any time within three years of the violation having been apprehended anywhere in the world.
We also believe that compulsory arbitration is necessary in order to ensure that all states fulfil their obligations under the new convention, thereby guarding against arbitrary or unjust enforcement actions.
I referred earlier, Mr. Speaker, to the universal application of the convention. It will set a basic standard for all shipping everywhere in the world. This is not to say, however, that two nations or a group of neighbouring nations could not set even higher standards in waters washing their shores. We could set higher standards in the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Canada's west coast, for example. We could do the same in the Bay of Fundy as the result of another joint agreement with the United States.
Incidentally, this provision will also help us to gain international recognition for our Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would like to report that, in respect of most of these matters, we are in general agreement with the United States. Where we differ is in respect of warships, which the United States wishes to have exempted from the convention, and in respect of the
Pollution From Ships
distance seaward in which unilateral or one-nation enforcement of the convention would be operative. The United States, unlike Canada, wants to limit this provision in the convention to the territorial sea, which, in its case, is three miles. We would like to see unilateral provisions extended seaward to include all the waters which fall under the jurisdiction of the coastal state. This would, of course, include our more extensive fisheries zones.
Subtopic: ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic: STATEMENT BY MINISTER ON CANADIAN POSITION AT INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CONTROL OF POLLUTION FROM SHIPS