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Canada Ratified United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

NEWS RELEASE: November 6, 2003 (4:30 p.m. EST) No. 171

The Government of Canada today announced that Canada is ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham will sign Canada's instrument of ratification on November 6, 2003, and it will be deposited with the UN Secretary-General immediately thereafter.

UNCLOS is the culmination of decades of international negotiations. It provides the framework for international oceans law, governing many aspects of oceans affairs, from fisheries and navigation to marine pollution and scientific research.

"By ratifying UNCLOS, we are affirming our belief in the application of the rule of law to our oceans," said Minister Graham. "UNCLOS ratification will provide a strong foundation for Canada to continue its collaborative and innovative approach to oceans issues."

Ratification of the Convention will allow Canada to enjoy the benefits of UNCLOS, including acquisition of the means to delimit the outer edge of its continental shelf. Canada is also gaining a voice in UNCLOS institutions, such as the International Seabed Authority. Canada will now be able to speak on oceans issues on an equal footing with its peers and participate in decisions of importance to Canada.

"UNCLOS will strengthen international cooperation in the sustainable development of natural resources in a way that balances our common economic, social and environmental goals," said Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Robert Thibault. "Canada is committed to marine conservation, partnership and greater scientific understanding of Canada's oceans."

"Ratification of UNCLOS opens the door for Canada to secure international recognition of the full extent of our vast continental shelf, which is one of the world's richest in seabed resources," said Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal. "Canada is committed to the sustainable development of our natural resources, contributing to their economic importance and to a strong society and communities."

Canada will also ratify the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Part XI deals with the mineral resources of the deep seabed. At the time of ratification, Canada will also file a declaration with the UN Secretary-General regarding its choice of dispute settlement forums for disputes arising under the Convention.

UNCLOS entered into force in 1994 and is one of the world's most widely accepted treaties. Canada's ratification brings the number of parties to 144.

Backgrounder

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the defining document of international oceans law. It has been in force since November 16, 1994. Its 157 signatories and 144 parties (now with Canada) include all major developed countries.

The Convention is the "constitution" of the oceans and governs many aspects of oceans affairs, ranging from fisheries and navigation to marine pollution and scientific research. It also has provisions on binding, compulsory dispute settlement procedures, and sets out the means by which a state is to delimit the outer edge of its continental shelf. Canada has one of the largest continental shelves in the world.

UNCLOS has been supplemented by two implementing agreements. The 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea contains provisions on deep seabed mining. Canada will also ratify Part XI of the Agreement at the same time it ratifies UNCLOS. The Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of December 10, 1982, relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, more commonly known as the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFA), elaborates on the subject matter suggested by its title. Canada became a party to UNFA on August 3, 1999. Canada views both of these agreements as necessary additions to the 1982 Convention.
Ratification of UNCLOS will allow Canada to enjoy the benefits provided under the Convention. Canada will now speak on an equal footing with its peers regarding oceans issues. It will also be able to play a role in UNCLOS institutions making decisions of relevance to Canada, such as the International Seabed Authority. In addition, Canadian candidates will be eligible for positions with other UNCLOS bodies, such as the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

At the time of ratification, Canada will also file a declaration with the UN Secretary-General regarding its choice of dispute settlement forums for disputes arising under the Convention. Canada has chosen to submit disputes either to arbitration or to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

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