Mr. Stan Wilbee (Delta):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on this private members' motion which calls for the government to urgently take steps to ratify the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, and urge other countries to do likewise so the 60 ratifications required for the convention's entry into force can be achieved. The reason given by the hon. member is this would benefit Canadian fisheries.
The fisheries provisions of the Law of the Sea Convention are among its most important provisions. Canada played a key role along with a number of other coastal states in developing the principles that underlie the 200-mile economic zone.
Through state practice all the coastal states now enjoy the benefits of their sovereign rights over all the fish stocks located 200 miles from their coasts. We have these benefits now even though Canada has not yet ratified the convention and it is not yet in force.
I would like to explain why Canadian ratification at this time would not provide an immediate benefit for our Canadian fisheries' interests, while continued active international action can. The 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention was negotiated to be the definitive international legal instrument governing all uses of ocean space. It deals in a comprehensive way with all aspects of maritime jurisdiction, navigation rights, boundary delineation, exploration, exploitation of re-
December 3, 1992
Private Members' Business
sources, environmental protection and conflict resolution.
With the longest coastline in the world and important ocean interests, Canada regards the convention as a major contribution to world security and the sustainable exploitation of ocean space. Canada was one of the most active participants in the negotiations of the convention, and benefits directly from many of its provisions in addition to those related to fishery.
Those benefits include the 12-mile territorial sea; the 200-mile exclusive economic zone including pollution prevention and control over scientific research; protection of Canadian salmon; sovereign rights over resources over the greater part of the continental shelf including sedentary living resources; enhanced jurisdiction for the protection of marine pollution, and especially special measures for Arctic waters. As many of these are widely considered to be demonstrative of customary international law, Canada already enjoys their provisions.
With all these benefits you can well ask why Canada and indeed the rest of the international community has not brought the Law of the Sea Convention into force.
Of the 159 signatories including Canada, why have only 52 of the required 60 countries ratified the convention? Of these 52 countries, why is Iceland the only industrialized country to have done so?
The answer lies in the problems industrialized states have with the convention's deep sea mining regime. It provides that the resources of the deep sea bed outside national jurisdiction under the high seas are the common heritage of mankind. Part of the proceeds from the mining of these resources are to be shared among all countries, especially developing states. This is one of the key elements of the package deal that comprised the Law of the Sea Convention and continues to be supported by Canada and most industrialized countries.
The basic objection, however, is since the 1970s we have come to realize seabed mining will not provide the economic benefits we once thought it would. Changed economic circumstances mean parts of the regime run up against market-oriented, commercial principles and the costs to be borne by the parties to the convention are unclear and potentially onerous. Like other industrialized countries and especially as a potential seabed mining state, Canada recognizes only an economically viable seabed mining regime can benefit the international community.
Furthermore, there are a number of costs related to the implementation of the convention seabed mining provisions, which would be quite onerous and at this stage unnecessary for state parties.
Should Canada ratify without the other industrialized countries we would end up shouldering the majority of these yet to be determined costs. It is a further possible financial consideration that in exchange for coastal state jurisdiction over the continental shelf outside 200 miles, the convention specifies a royalty be paid on mineral or hydrocarbon exploitation in that area. It has not yet been determined whether there are such resources on Canada's continental shelf outside the 200 miles.
You also ask what have we done to overcome these obstacles to the coming into force of a convention with so many obvious benefits to Canada. Canada has been playing a key role in consultations held under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, who is trying at the present time to solve the problems of the seabed mining regime that are preventing the universal acceptability of the convention.
We consider that both the future of the convention and Canadian interests are best served through a universally acceptable convention, rather than by pressuring a convention into force with outdated, unacceptable provisions.
The only thing that will give Canada more than it now has is a universally accepted convention. That is what we are after.
I not think we will have to wait very long for the results of our hard work. The Secretary-General's consultations have now entered their second phase and are showing great promise. There is a possible solution in sight in the next 12 months through proposed modifications to the seabed mining provisions.
The prudent course for Canada is to see the UN Secretary General's initiative through, before making a final decision on ratification.
December 3, 1992
In addition to the above reasons, as this House is aware, Canada has pursued an initiative at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development to help resolve the problems caused by overfishing of straddling stocks off our east coast. The Rio summit has issued a call for a UN conference to put in place agreed rules for the management and conservation of these stocks. While these rules will build on the existing provisions of the convention, this exercise is independent of its entry into force.
Canada already enjoys a good part of the benefits that could be accorded through ratification. Many of the elements of the convention are generally considered to be demonstrative of customary international law by much of the international community. This is particularly true of the parts of the convention dealing with fisheries.
In short, given all these reasons it is better for the present to continue to pursue the resolution of high-seas fisheries problems through the multilateral conference we have succeeded in placing on the international agenda. Through our continued active bilateral and international efforts that are beginning to pay off, consideration of ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention should await the results of the Secretary-General's consultation.
Therefore, this private member's motion is not in the best interest of either Canadian fisheries or Canada's over-all objectives in the Law of the Sea Convention.
Subtopic: INTERNATIONAL LAW OF THE SEA
Sub-subtopic: RATIFICATION OF CONVENTION