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Canada announces extension of jurisdiction over Arctic waters
Updated: 2008-08-28 06:32

OTTAWA -- Canada will extend its jurisdiction in the Arctic by doubling the range at which Canadian environmental laws and shipping regulations will be enforced, from 100 nautical miles offshore to 200, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Wednesday.

"Whether it is the thawing of the Northwest Passage or the suspected resource riches under the Arctic seabed, more and more countries are taking an interest in the waterways of the Canadian Arctic," said the Prime Minister in Tuktoyaktuk, an Inuvialuit hamlet located in Northwest Territories.

"We will be sending a clear message to the world that our environmental standards and sovereignty are not up for debate -- if you are in Canada's Arctic you will be playing by Canada's rules," he was quoted as saying in a press release.

The Prime Minister announced that his government will be introducing changes to the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act when the parliament resumes in fall. Currently the Act allows the Canadian Government to regulate all shipping in zones up to 100 nautical miles from the nearest Canadian land in order to guard against pollution of the region's marine and coastal environments. Under the proposed new law, this jurisdiction will be extended to 200 nautical miles.

In addition, Harper announced that his government will establish new regulations under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 that will require mandatory reporting from all ships destined for Arctic waters within the same 200 nautical mile limit.

"As an environmental matter, as a security matter and as an economic matter we are making it perfectly clear that not only do we claim jurisdiction over the Canadian Arctic, we are also going to put the full resources of the Government of Canada behind enforcing that jurisdiction," said the Prime Minister.  

"We are acting today to protect our environment, improve the security of our waterways and ensure that all Northern residents - and, in particular, the Inuit - have a strong say in the future of our Arctic for generations to come."

Harper arrived in the north Tuesday for a three day visit, his fourth trip after he came to power two years ago. Meanwhile, the Canadian military started military exercises Monday in the Arctic to exert sovereignty and prepare for operations, as global interest increases at the region.