Arctic SovereigntyPublished on 14 February 2014 Blog by Senator Charlie Watt
For many Canadians, the work of a Senator is a mystery. So, I would like to take the opportunity to showcase some of the work I am involved in beyond the regular committee meetings and Senate sittings.
In particular, I have an interest in the Arctic, and Canada’s claim to the Arctic through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) limits of the continental shelf. My Senate Liberal colleagues have been very supportive of my interest in this area as the outcome of this process will have very real implications for the Inuit and for Canada.
Research work to date has included: a legal opinion by Hutchins Legal Inc. on the subject of Inuit rights to the Arctic. We have commissioned an Inuit historic use of Arctic sea ice by Dr. Claudio Aporta of Dalhousie University (completed January 2014), and later this month we also look forward to another legal opinion from Hutchins Legal Inc. on the subject of Canada’s December 2013 submission to the UNCLOS.
These reports have already made an impact here and at the United Nations. Last spring, I had the privilege of hosting an Inuit elders Conference on the subject of Arctic Sovereignty (February 2013) and a combined Inuit youth and elders Conference on Arctic Sovereignty (April 2013). Then in May of last year, Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough presented our concerns to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Forum accepted our concerns and adopted them into their final report (September 2013). We know this is just the beginning as we have also shared our concerns with the Chairperson of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Chief Wilton Littlechild and look forward to further initiatives on this file.
I want to thank my colleagues for standing with Canada’s Inuit as we remind the world of Indigenous rights. By asserting Inuit historic use of Arctic land and sea ice and water we are strengthening Canada’s claim to the regions beyond the 200 mile limit and reasserting Inuit rights within the region.
As Canada’s only Inuk Senator, I will use my position to strengthen Canadian knowledge of the Inuit and the challenges faced by my people.
Nakurmiik (thank you)
Senator Charlie Watt