April 6, 1957 (22nd Parliament, 5th Session)


Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)


Mr. St. Laurent (Quebec East):

These stories were apparently based on a recent United States navy press release. When arrangements were being made for the construction of the distant early warning line Canada and the United States agreed that the United States should be responsible for the sea supply of the D.E.W. line while it was being built.
It was realized that because of the amount of material involved and the urgency of the operation, a large number of special vessels
would be required which Canada was not in a position to supply. At the time this agreement was reached, however, the United States was informed that once the line was in operation Canada might wish to assume responsibility for the annual resupply. Arrangements have already been completed for the Northern Transportation Company to resupply the western portion of the D.E.W. line beginning in the summer of 1958. Discussions are under way to determine if the Department of Transport can assume the responsibility for supplying the eastern portion of the line in connection with their other responsibilities in the Arctic.
As a result of the agreement I just mentioned the United States navy has been sending two convoys into the Canadian Arctic for the past two summers. One of these has emanated from Seattle and the other from New York or Boston. These convoys have had the task of supplying all the United States installations in the north, including those in Alaska and Greenland as well as in Canada. This may be one reason why the number of ships involved seems to be large. Actually only a portion of each convoy enters Canadian waters. The operation this summer will be similar in both size and organization to that of the past two summers.
As in other years Canada will be well represented on both convoys. During the past two summers there have been both official government representatives as well as technical observers working with the commander of each task force. H.M.C.S. Labrador has provided icebreaker support for the eastern task force and the Royal Canadian Air Force has carried out a series of ice reconnaissances. Similar arrangements will be in effect again this summer.
Canada has always been consulted when the plans for the convoys were being made each year. This year, for instance, representatives of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force attended a series of meetings held in Seattle on February 5 to make arrangements for the sea supply of the western Arctic, and a senior Canadian naval officer attended a meeting in Washington on March 25 when the details of the eastern Arctic convoy were being worked out. Incidentally, each year the United States navy has been required to apply for a waiver of the
Inquiries of the Ministry provisions of the Canada Shipping Act, since the cargo ships they charter operate in Canadian coastal waters.
The suggestion that this summer's task force is being organized to discover a northwest passage rather than supply the D.E.W. line and other United States installations is, I am afraid, the fruit of a rather active imagination. During the past two summers a great deal of hydrographic work has been done jointly by Canadian and United States agencies in connection with the sea supply of the D.E.W. line, and except for the area around Boothia peninsula the task is now almost complete. Plans have been made to finish the work during the coming summer by having both Canadian and United States vessels work at the problem from opposite sides. H.M.C.S. Labrador will proceed from the Atlantic to the vicinity of Prince Regent inlet and carry out survey work there, while the United States navy icebreaker Storis and two other United States coastguard survey ships will carry out similar work on the western side of Boothia peninsula. H.M.C.S. Labrador will be surveying Bellot strait which provides a channel between the eastern and western Arctic, and if it is found that water and ice conditions are suitable the three United States navy vessels may attempt to pass through Bellot strait and accompany the Labrador south to the Atlantic.
Useful hydrographic information will undoubtedly be collected during this joint project by the United States and Canadian navies, and it will be interesting to see if larger ships can pass through Bellot strait. We already know that small ships can navigate the strait because the Royal Canadian Mounted Police vessel St. Roch completed the passage in 1942.
If larger vessels can navigate this route it will provide a useful alternative for ships carrying supplies to the area, but it will probably always remain a second choice since ice conditions in the vicinity are known to be difficult in most years. Any ship wishing to pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific or vice versa would probably follow the route farther north through Lancaster and Viscount Melville sounds, which H.M.C.S. Labrador used in 1955.

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