Canada marks major milestone in defining its continental shelf in Arctic Ocean

From: Global Affairs Canada

May 23, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario – Global Affairs Canada

After more than a decade’s worth of scientific and legal work to determine the limits of Canada’s undersea landmass in the Arctic, Canada today filed a 2,100‑page submission with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf at United Nations headquarters in New York.

This marks the first step in the process set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to obtain international recognition for the outer limits of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, which will confirm Canada’s rights over this area. Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, made the submission today on behalf of the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

This is a critical step to fully define the map of Canada.

“Canada is committed to furthering its leadership in the Arctic. Defining our continental shelf is vital to ensuring our sovereignty and to serving the interests of all people, including Indigenous peoples, in the Arctic. Today’s submission is a major step toward securing legal and international recognition of the outer limits of Canada’s continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean.”

– Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs

“International recognition of the outer limits of Canada’s extended continental shelf is vital to ensuring our sovereignty and protecting our national interests. We are proud to support Canada’s Arctic Ocean submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, supported by science and evidence, reaffirming our government’s commitment to furthering Canada’s leadership in the Arctic.”

– Hon. Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Natural Resources

“Canada is a proud ocean nation. The filing of the Arctic Ocean continental shelf submission is a major milestone in delivering on the government’s priority to define the outer limits of Canada’s continental shelf. Today we are taking a major step forward in ensuring Canada’s Arctic sovereignty.”

– Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Quick facts

  • Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, coastal states have sovereign rights over the natural resources of the seabed and subsoil of their continental shelf. Canada’s continental shelf submission covers 1.2 million square kilometres of seabed and subsoil in the Arctic Ocean, and includes the North Pole.

  • Since 2006, Canada has undertaken 17 Arctic research expeditions, often in collaboration with Arctic Ocean coastal state partners, to collect the data necessary to determine the outer limits of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean.

  • Canada’s submission on the outer limits of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean is based on the scientific and legal provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It does not represent a political boundary. As it is based on science, the submission overlaps in some areas with the submissions of other Arctic Ocean coastal states. All Arctic Ocean coastal states have committed to resolving continental shelf overlaps in a peaceful and orderly manner in accordance with international law.

  • In 2003, Canada became party to the Convention and embarked on a project to define the outer limits of its continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean.

  • In 2013, Canada filed a partial submission with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in respect of its continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean.

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