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

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 149, Issue 158

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

She said: Honourable senators, I rise today to voice my support for Bill C-61, the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area act. The goal of this bill is to provide formal and legal protection to about 10,000 square kilometres of Lake Superior for the benefit of future generations. Passing this bill will result in the establishment of the world's largest freshwater protected area dedicated to conservation.

In addressing Bill C-61, it is important to remind ourselves that Canada is a marine nation. We are bounded by three of the great oceans of the world — the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Arctic — and much of our southern border is bounded by the world's largest freshwater lake system, the Great Lakes.

Canada has the largest coastline in the world: 243,000 kilometres, in fact, and another 9,500 kilometres along the Great Lakes. Approximately 7 million Canadians live along these impressive coastlines, participating in ocean-related activities that contribute significantly to our national economy. Containing some of the world's richest fishing grounds, marine mammal and marine bird populations of global importance and spectacular seascapes of wave-battered coasts, our marine environment forms part of the very essence of what it means to be Canadian.

By establishing marine-protected areas, we can help the oceans to further provide us with the environmental, social, cultural and economic services we value. As the Prime Minister demonstrated when he announced the National Conservation Plan in 2014, Canada is committed — both nationally and internationally — to protecting its extraordinary marine and Great Lakes environments for the benefit of present and future generations.

We have allocated over $56 million directly to marine-protected areas related efforts through the Health of the Oceans Initiatives and the National Conservation Plan. Our government has also added over 19,000 square kilometres of protected marine waters, representing over 31 per cent of the waters currently protected through the designation of three marine national wildlife areas in Nunavut under the Canada Wildlife Act and marine-protected areas under the Oceans Act in British Columbia, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories.

As our first marine-protected area announcement since taking office in 2006, our government signed the agreement to establish Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, which we seek to formally designate with this bill, adding another 10,000 square kilometres to our ever-expanding marine-protected areas network.

Finally, our government has announced, funded and supported work on additional marine-protected area initiatives across the nation. Should all of these proposals come to light, Canada could see our protected waters increased by almost 90,000 square kilometres within the next few years, more than doubling the surface area we currently protect.

National marine conservation areas are places meant to encourage public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of Canada's marine heritage. Much like our national parks, the establishment of national marine conservation areas signals to Canadians and international visitors alike that these areas are the best Canada has to offer — world-class destinations for those who wish to experience first-hand our unique marine, natural and cultural heritage. They also provide opportunities to diversify the economies of more remote coastal communities.

In conclusion, honourable senators, the establishment of Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area is another example of this government's commitment to the protection of Canada's precious marine and Great Lakes waters, and I encourage all honourable senators to support the passage of Bill C-61.