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Second Reading of Bill C-61 - Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 149, Issue 156

Hon. Lynn Beyak moved second reading of Bill C-61, An Act to amend the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act.

She said: Honourable senators, it is my privilege to rise in this chamber to speak in support of the Lake Superior national marine conservation area act.

Bill C-61 brings to a close almost two decades of work to make this new protected area a reality by formally protecting 10,000 square kilometres of Canada's spectacular Lake Superior under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act. At the same time, Bill C-61 opens the door to realizing the environmental, economic and social benefits that many north shore communities along Lake Superior, from Thunder Bay to Terrace Bay, have envisioned throughout the establishment process.

Bill C-61 fulfills a number of commitments made by our government. First, in October 2007, the Prime Minister announced the creation of Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area when Canada and Ontario signed an agreement detailing the actions required to protect this area.

Second, in the 2013 Speech from the Throne, our government announced a new national conservation plan to protect our nation's rich national heritage by increasing protected areas with a focus on stronger marine and coastal conservation.

Finally, in Budget 2015, the government committed to further expanding our protected areas network by taking the final steps to establish Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area Bill, Bill C-61. It sets the stage for the legal and formal protection of the largest fresh water marine protected area in the world dedicated to conservation.

Honourable colleagues, from sea to sea to sea, Canada's landscapes and seascapes are important to its peoples. The immense grandeur of this country can take our breath away and nowhere is that truer than on Lake Superior, the great sweet water sea.

In passing the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, Parliament confirmed the need to recognize that the marine environment is fundamental to the social, cultural and economic well-being of people living in coastal communities. To ensure that such communities, indeed all Canadians, would continue to benefit from our marine environments, Parliament also affirmed a need to establish a system of national marine conservation areas that are representative of 29 distinct marine regions in the Atlantic, the Arctic and Pacific Oceans and the Great Lakes.

Honourable senators, with its rugged and scenic shoreline, deep cold waters, numerous islands, inlets, shoals and large shallow productive bays, Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area will more than adequately represent the diversity of the Lake Superior marine region. Bald eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey and great blue herons all call this home in the summer. Lake herring, walleye, yellow perch, lake whitefish, lake trout and brook trout are found in different parts of the area, attracting birds and fishermen alike. Cultural resources include archaeological sites such as Aboriginal pictographs and grave sites, as well as numerous shipwrecks. Many of these sites have deep spiritual meaning for local First Nations and Metis.

Honourable senators, there are almost as many ways to enjoy Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area as there are waves on our beautiful lake. You can hike, fish, swim, camp, kayak or simply wander along a quiet trail. As we complete the establishment phase and foster important partnerships with northern communities, the tourism sector and Aboriginal peoples, we look forward to increased visitation and strengthened local economies in this very special place.

In 1997, Canada and Ontario launched a feasibility assessment to explore the merits of a national marine conservation area on Lake Superior. A regional committee of local communities, First Nations and stakeholders guided the process for several years, holding numerous open houses and public consultations. In 2000, this led to a unanimous endorsement by the committee recommending governments proceed with the establishment of a national marine conservation area based on strong public support for the proposal and for Parks Canada's vision for that area.

All this work set the stage for the conclusion of an establishment agreement between the Governments of Canada and Ontario in October 2007, signed on the shores of Lake Superior in the community of Nipigon. This agreement was necessary because the lake bed and islands of the marine conservation area are administered by the province and are to be transferred to Canada for protection for all time under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act.

When he announced the creation of this new national marine conservation area, the Prime Minister stated:

Everyone agrees we need to preserve our natural environment and our government is taking action to preserve and protect Canada's environment, including Lake Superior's north shore, for future generations of Canadians to enjoy.

The Prime Minister also announced a related agreement with the Northern Superior First Nations. This agreement led the way for Parks Canada to work with the First Nations to develop an effective plan for protecting and interpreting the Aboriginal cultural heritage of the area.

As the Prime Minister said on that special day in October 2007, this is an outstanding example of federal, provincial and First Nations cooperation. It's also a testament to over 10 years of effective teamwork by local Parks Canada staff, municipal officials, commercial-fishing interests, recreational boaters and others.

Several years of work finalizing details of a boundary survey of this 10,000-square-kilometre area to enable transfer of the lake bed and islands, as well as completing agreements with First Nations and the Metis, bring us to this final step of formal establishment of the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act.

Honourable senators, let me briefly explain the bill. A condition precedent to Ontario transferring the lake bed and islands to Canada is the need to confirm through an amendment to the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act that Ontario will continue to be responsible for the administration and management of water-taking and water transfer within Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area and any future marine conservation area created in the Great Lakes. Simply put, Ontario will continue to provide water-taking permits to north-shore municipalities.

By agreeing to this approach, we are not creating any new regulatory authorities for these activities. The five existing permits remove only a miniscule amount of Lake Superior's waters, and I can assure you that these provisions do not open up current federal and provincial prohibitions against bulk water transfers from the Great Lakes.

Once these water-taking provisions are confirmed in the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, Ontario will transfer the lake bed and islands to Canada for protection and administration as Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area.

Honourable senators, in passing Bill C-61, this chamber will be passing a bill and expressing a vote of confidence in the talented and dedicated people and organizations who worked over the last several decades to make this new protected area a reality. Our legacy to them and to future generations is a protected ecological and cultural treasure on Lake Superior, and I ask my honourable colleagues to support Bill C-61.