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House Standing Committee on Public Accounts (PACP)
Office of the Auditor General
Report 6 – Arctic Waters Surveillance

Table of contents

Opening remarks

Bonjour and good afternoon Mr. Chair and committee members. My name is Annette Gibbons and I am the Deputy Minister at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. My colleague, Commissioner Pelletier and I appreciate the opportunity to appear before this committee on behalf of the department and the Canadian Coast Guard. We are also pleased to be able to attend with our colleagues from other government departments given our shared interests.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada manages Canada’s fisheries and safeguards its waters. The Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for services and programs that contribute to the safety, security and accessibility of Canada’s waterways. We also contribute to our country’s sovereignty and security, including in the North, through our presence in all Canadian waters.

I would like to thank the Auditor General for providing recommendations that respond to safety and security risks, and incidents associated with increased vessel traffic in Arctic waters.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard agree with the audit recommendations. We note that these echo similar recommendations made in the 2014 Auditor General report on Marine Navigation in the Canadian Arctic. We are committed to working with partners to address gaps in Arctic maritime domain awareness, and increase information-sharing.

Arctic surveillance in support of sovereignty and security is a whole of government endeavour which integrates multiple departments’ capabilities.

To support Canada’s presence in the Arctic, we will continue to collaborate with federal and provincial/territorial partners, First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, as well as industry, to provide the assets, programs, tools, and people needed to support Canada’s surveillance, presence and maritime security interests.

We are also committed to developing an Arctic Maritime Security Strategy in collaboration with key security partners to provide risk-based Arctic marine domain awareness solutions.

Strengthening and renewing our fleet

As our physical presence remains so important to maritime domain awareness, strengthening and renewing our fleet is one of the key actions we are taking to support security and sovereignty in the North.

Investments for icebreaking and ice-capable vessels announced through the National Shipbuilding Strategy include: 16 Multi-Purpose Vessels, 6 Program Icebreakers, 2 Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, and 2 Polar Icebreakers.

These new vessels will be a significant contribution to exercising Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic and in supporting Canada’s on-water Arctic science capabilities by performing critical icebreaking services, providing vessel escorts and commercial and fishing harbour ice breakouts, and ensuring the safe transport of vital supplies, goods and people in Canadian waters.

Specifically, the Program Icebreakers will also help provide other essential services to Canadians including search and rescue, environmental response, maritime security, and humanitarian missions.

The Polar Icebreakers will be larger and more powerful than the current Heavy Icebreakers and will enable the Coast Guard to operate in all areas of the Arctic throughout the year with enhanced capabilities to support a variety of tasks, including to support our on-water science program and Northern sovereignty.

In order to maintain services to Canadians while new ships are being built, the Coast Guard has put in place interim measures to mitigate anticipated gaps until the new ships are ready.

These interim measures are twofold. First, we are making important investments to extend the life of our current fleet. Known as Vessel Life Extensions, or VLEs, we safely prolong the life of our fleet to ensure that Coast Guard personnel continue to have the proper equipment to perform their crucial work until new vessels arrive.

And second, we have acquired four interim vessels, so that when an existing vessel is taken out of service for Vessel Life Extension, we have replacement assets to maintain Coast Guard’s operational excellence in service delivery.

Marine Security Operations Centres (MSOCs)

The Canadian Coast Guard remains actively engaged with its domestic partners on Arctic security through its contributions to Canada’s multi-agency Marine Security Operations Centres (MSOCs).

These centres bring together the Canadian Coast Guard, National Defence, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Border Services Agency, Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

As an integrated component of the Government’s security apparatus, MSOCs identify and report on maritime activities that represent a potential threat to the sovereignty, security, and safety of Canada.

The Canadian Coast Guard’s contribution to MSOCs includes its expertise and information on maritime vessel traffic.

With the tremendous number of vessels traveling within a few kilometres of our coastlines, it is imperative for reasons of security and safety that these vessels be identified and monitored.

Our Marine Communications and Traffic Services (or MCTS) Centres monitor and liaise with all marine traffic, and provide crucial information to MSOCs to help ensure the safety and security of Canada’s waterways, including in the Arctic.

In collaboration with our MSOC partners, current efforts are focused on information-sharing and the upcoming MSOC Third Party Review. This review will focus on analyzing current MSOC functions and outputs in order to identify and mitigate gaps in providing maritime domain awareness.

In closing, DFO is keenly aware that maritime domain awareness in Canada’s Arctic is critical to ensuring that we can decisively respond to incidents that threaten Canada’s security, safety, environment and economy.

This is why Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard will continue to work closely with all of its partners to improve safety and security in Arctic waters.

Thank you. We would now welcome your questions.

Issues notes

Audit on surveillance of Arctic waters – findings and recommendations


The Office of the Auditor General of Canada carried out an audit on Marine Navigation in the Canadian Arctic in 2014. At the time of that audit, ship traffic in the Arctic had increased substantially. As expected, it has continued to increase both in terms of the number of vessels travelling in the Arctic and the distances travelled. Vessel traffic declined in 2020 and 2021 due to pandemic measures, but traffic is likely to increase again once these measures are lifted.

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada also carried out an audit on the National Shipbuilding Strategy in 2021. In June 2021, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada notified the Department that they would be conducting an audit on Protecting the North, which later was scoped as the audit on Surveillance of Arctic Waters. The report was published on November 15, 2022. The objective of this audit is to determine whether key federal organizations built the MDA required to respond to safety and security risks and incidents associated with increased vessel traffic in Arctic waters. The entities in the scope of this audit include the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment and Climate Change Canada, National Defence, Public Services and Procurement Canada, and Transport Canada.

The audit concluded that the federal organizations audited had not taken the required action to build maritime domain awareness to adequately respond to safety and security risks that are associated with increasing vessel traffic in Arctic waters, and measures to address any gaps were insufficient. The audit also concluded that delays in services and infrastructure (including ships) puts at risk the needed presence of the respective departments in Arctic waters.

The audit has two recommendations, directed to the respective entities in scope, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard supports Canada’s Arctic priorities in two key ways:

Audit on surveillance of Arctic waters – management action plans


As part of its six-point plan to strengthen transportation security, the National Security Policy (NSP) called for the establishment of MSOCs on both the east and west coasts of Canada where key departments and agencies could work collaboratively. The centres would include representatives from the Department of National Defence (DND), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Transport Canada (TC), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard is the primary contributor to Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) in Canada. The Coast Guard is part of Canada’s multi-agency approach to Arctic safety, security and environmental protection. No single capability can provide effective MDA on its own. MDA leverages different, complementary capabilities to identify, monitor and assess potential threats and hazards. The Coast Guard is involved in the collection, analysis, fusion and dissemination of information to a range of decision-makers.

In January 2021, the ADM MSOC Steering Committee tasked the DG MSOC Committee to advance a third-party review a comprehensive assessment of the MSOCs’ future position in the evolving Canadian maritime and national security landscape In its capacity as Chair of the governance committees, which manage the work of the MSOCs, Coast Guard has awarded a contract to a third party consultant to evaluate past successes and shortcomings, offer insights and recommendations to position the MSOCs for success in the future. The scope of this work supports the ongoing evolution and renewal of the MSOCs and aligns with the upcoming Parliamentary review of the state of Canadian national security efforts under C-59.

In particular, the new tools and technologies Coast Guard is currently trialing includes OCIANA, which is an Artificial  that will help address long-standing MDA gaps and the need to modernise our existing capabilities due to Canada’s evolving national security landscape and change in technology. The Coast Guard has completed and is currently undergoing more trials to determine the best tools and technologies that are needed in order to enact a solution.

Coast Guard is currently trialing new tools and technologies including an Artificial Intelligence platform that rapidly processes satellite data with other datasets such as AIS, Radar, and government data to provide information in near real-time. Similarly, the Coast Guard has trialed and is now looking to purchase Purple Trac – a platform used to assess the geopolitical risk and economic sanctions compliance product.

To demonstrate a few current MDA capabilities – the Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a vessel tracking system that automatically provides updates on a vessel’s position and other relevant ship voyage data to a marine vessel traffic operator. The purpose of the AIS is to enhance the Coast Guard’s ability in identifying and monitoring maritime traffic in order to enhance awareness of vessels approaching and operating in Canadian waters. In addition, the Interdepartmental Maritime Integrated Command, Control and Communication (IMIC3) System is a maritime situational awareness system fitted in certain CCG and Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) vessels and operations centres. IMIC3 is an UNCLASSIFIED, near real-time maritime situational awareness tool which provides and allows contributions to a picture of maritime traffic fused from vessel radar, AIS tracks, and own-ship GPS positioning. Moreover, the Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) is a world-wide satellite-based tracking system utilising a shipboard transmitter to track ships of 300 gross tons or more on international voyages.

The Coast Guard is working to ensure MDA capabilities are up to date and modernised to address longstanding gaps and to align themselves with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which defines MDA as the effective understanding of anything associated with the maritime domain that could affect the security, safety, economy, or environment.

Audit on surveillance of Arctic waters – information sharing


The Coast Guard is the primary contributor to Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) in Canada. No single capability can provide effective MDA on its own. MDA requires a cooperative and coordinated effort among federal departments and agencies, allied nations, other levels of government and key stakeholders.

MSOCs are secure facilities where core federal partners are co-located for information sharing, analysis and decision making in an environment that supports activity at the appropriate security clearance levels. The MSOCs are intelligence fusion centres with a primary function of collecting, analysing and sharing information in support of maritime security related operations conducted by departments in relation to their respective mandates.

Although various information sharing barriers have been identified over the years – the MSOC program is still successful when performing day-to-day duties and especially when an urgent Government of Canada response is needed. This is evident in cases such as the amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA) due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. To illustrate, MSOC Partners, along with select key Government of Canada departments collaborated to consolidate efforts to ensure information was shared readily in order to produce a National Marine Enforcement Plan as well as a Maritime Security Situational Report on the status of the SEMA. Within the MSOCs and amongst core partners, there was a noticeable increased effort to create and share information specific to the situation at hand. This example clearly depicts a coordinated MSOC effort to a Government of Canada response.

In January 2021, the ADM Steering Committee tasked the DG Committee with developing a scoping statement and way forward on a third-party review to perform a comprehensive assessment of the MSOCs’ future position in the evolving Canadian maritime and national security settings. The different MSOC Governance committees successfully collaborated in coming up with, and refining through feedback and recommendations, parameters of the review. To date, a Request for Proposal and Statement of Work have been completed and posted. In addition, the technical and financial evaluations were completed, and DFO procurement was able to award the contract to Deloitte, which was formally signed into place in December 2022.

The review is being referred to as a ‘renewal’ effort, as the main focus will be to identify where the MSOCs currently are, and subsequently, look forward to where the MSOCs should or could be based on various fluctuating and forecasted elements of the security landscape. In order to effectively differentiate from a more traditional understanding of the word review, the word renewal will be used more frequently and interchangeably with the word review in the below documentation. Renewal will refer to the overall desired outcome of positioning the MSOCs into success in order to determine what needs to be done now in order to make sure the MSOCs can accomplish their mission and continue to evolve with the ever changing maritime safety and security landscape.

Progress update on the 2021 National Shipbuilding Strategy audit


In 2021, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) completed an Audit of the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS), which delivered three recommendations, of which one was directed towards the Coast Guard: “Recommendation 2.36 The Canadian Coast Guard, National Defence, and Public Services and Procurement Canada should implement mechanisms to:

In response, the 2021 Management Action Plan (MAP) identified four actions that the Coast Guard would take:

The 2022 OAG Audit on the Surveillance of Arctic Waters delivered two recommendations:

Coast Guard capability and interim measures


The Coast Guard is often the only federal presence in the Arctic and delivers key services in the remote region.

The Coast Guard is committed to maintaining service levels as the existing icebreaker fleet is aging and replacements assets have yet to be delivered.

To minimize service interruptions for clients, the Agency has put in place a number of interim measures.

The Coast Guard assesses its assets on a national basis and having interim commercial vessels in the fleet provides an added flexibility to redeploy assets as needed to meet service

Use of Indigenous knowledge in search and rescue operations


The Government of Canada is committed to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous peoples through a renewed, nation-to-nation, government-to-government, and Inuit-Crown relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership as the foundation for transformative change.

Through OPP, the Coast Guard established the Risk-based Analysis of Maritime Search and Rescue Delivery (RAMSARD) project which conducts cyclical reviews of its SAR areas. RAMSARD is a risk assessment process which collects and analyses data, and engages stakeholders, partners and communities to identify risk, and produce reports with findings and mitigation measures. The RAMSARD process provides a structured method for identifying, evaluating and documenting: maritime risks in a consistent manner across the SAR system; current maritime SAR response capability and capacity in terms of efficiency and effectiveness in mitigating maritime risks; and alternative search and rescue resource configurations.

The Coast Guard funds the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary who have undertaken an expansion of their Arctic presence since 2015 and now operate Auxiliary units in more than 30 Arctic communities. These volunteer units are trained, equipped and insured to respond to maritime search and rescue incidents in their local waters.

Through OPP renewal, the Coastal Marine Response Network, will establish and broaden networks of emergency responders. The Coastal Marine Response Network includes:

Arctic region engagement with partners


The creation of the Arctic Region as a stand-alone operating region is an indicator of the Department’s commitment to doing business differently in the North. This means collaborating with Inuit, First Nations, and Métis governments, organizations and communities to discuss shared priorities and regional program and service enhancements in order to best serve the peoples of the North.

Starting in 2018, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Canadian Coast Guard (Coast Guard) conducted extensive engagement sessions with Inuit, First Nations and Métis governments and organizations, Northern communities, and provincial and territorial governments on the implementation and boundaries of the new Arctic regions. Northern priorities were identified during this engagement, which were formally adopted by the department’s Management Board for the Arctic Region, including: Increase capacity, service delivery and presence of DFO and CCG programs and services in the North; Include Indigenous Knowledge in decision making; Policy making needs to be led from the North by Northerners; Remove employment barriers and create job opportunities in Northern communities; Co-develop climate change adaptation strategies; and, address infrastructure gaps.

Recently, the Coast Guard gathered input from these same partners on an Arctic Strategy to guide the future of its operations for the next ten years. This strategy will be published in spring 2023.

Indigenous Engagement

The Inuit Nunangat DFO-Coast Guard Arctic Region Committee was established with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the four Inuit Land Claim Organizations in November 2021 and meets quarterly to discuss shared priorities in Inuit Nunangat.

Regional governance frameworks are in development with Makivvik Corporation, Nunatsiavut Government, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Mushkegowuk Council, Cree Nation Government, the Manitoba Métis Federation, and Dene Nation.

A community notification protocol has been developed whereby public notices are sent to community contacts to share information regarding nearby Coast Guard operations in order to limit impacts, and they also offer the communities an opportunity to respond with any concerns.

Arctic Region engages with communities through training and exercising, particularly with the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary. There are 33 Auxiliary units with 458 members and 47 vessels in the Arctic. This past season, Search and Rescue (SAR) provided oversight of Auxiliary training to 14 Arctic communities and delivered Small Craft Training to many others. Coast Guard also regularly trains with the Auxiliary to maintain operational readiness and to allow crews to share knowledge and build working relationships with each other.

Since 2017 the Oceans Protection Plan and the Indigenous Community Boats Volunteer Program has awarded over $6.7 million to Arctic communities in support of 24 community boats. The Arctic Region has provided training to 18 communities to date.

The Environmental Response program is also enhancing local response capacity. Over the past year, Arctic Region has created the first-ever, Nunavut-based Coast Guard ER team. This has included the successful hiring of 5 Response Specialists in Iqaluit, NU – four of whom are Inuit – and the establishment of the 24/7 ER Duty Officer. Communities have participated in preparedness and planning efforts, consisting of equipment familiarization training and exercises.

International Engagement

The Arctic Council remains an important multilateral forum for Arctic affairs despite the temporary pause of its work due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Limited resumption of the Arctic Council has occurred, but only where activities can be undertaken without the participation of the Russian government and its representatives. The Coast Guard chairs two Arctic Council subsidiary groups, the Emergency Preparedness, Prevention, and Response Working Group (EPPR) and the Marine Environmental Response Expert Group (MER EG). In October 2020 and April 2021, the policy-oriented EPPR collaborated with the operations-oriented Arctic Coast Guard Forum (ACGF) to conduct joint exercises.

The ACGF strengthens multilateral cooperation and coordination of Coast Guard activities between eight member states within the Arctic maritime domain. The member states leverage collective resources to help support and develop safe, secure, and environmentally responsible maritime activities and support operations driven collaboration in the Arctic. Coast Guard also demonstrated leadership in the ACGF as the chair of the Combined Operations Working Group. In light of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the Coast Guard paused its participation in the ACGF. Collaboration continues with like-minded partners in the Arctic on joint issues of concerns as there remains great value in constructive cooperation on Arctic maritime search and rescue (SAR) and environmental response issues.

While ACGF activity remains on pause, the seven like-minded Arctic states continue to determine a way forward, considering that Norway will be taking over as chair of the Arctic Council and the ACGF in April 2023.

The Coast Guard is hosting a SAR to Marine Environmental Response (MER) exercise in the eastern Arctic during August 2023, which will see international partners working together to enhance interoperability and allow for lessons learned and best practices to be exchanged in order to enhance maritime response in the Arctic.

Bilaterally, the Coast Guard has significant relationships with the USCG, the Danish Joint Arctic Command (JACO), the Norwegian Coast Guard (NoCG), and the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA). The Coast Guard exercises regularly with the USCG and JACO, notably through Operation Nanook.

The Coast Guard and USCG participate in an annual CAN-US Summit, with host duties rotating annually. In 2022 the Coast Guard hosted the Summit with a focus on the Atlantic Region.

The Coast Guard participates in the Canada-US Arctic Dialogue, led by the US Department of State and Global Affairs Canada. This initiative aims to establish an annual comprehensive Canada-US Arctic Dialogue to serve as the primary bilateral forum for Arctic policy and program coordination. The initiative is intended to support and enhance bilateral discussions between both heads of state, and the foreign and defence ministers, to foster collaboration.

The Coast Guard has international cooperation plans with JACO, the NCA, and the NoCG. These cooperation plans deepen bilateral engagement and fostering closer coordination between the organizations through information sharing and regular working level meetings. The scope of the engagement includes: Arctic operations; search and rescue and environmental response; training and exercises; vessel traffic and marine transportation; marine safety and fisheries enforcement.

The Coast Guard also engages and collaborates internationally through meetings and exercising with the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), as well as participating in meetings and exercises with the Arctic and North Atlantic Security and Emergency Preparedness Network (ARCSAR) and Advancing Collaboration in Canada-U.S. Arctic Regional Security (ACCUSARS). The Coast Guard Arctic SAR leads the Coast Guard relationship within ARCSAR, ACCUSARS, and AECO.

There are also several key examples of recent Coast Guard-USCG operational collaboration that have occurred over the past two years underlining the strength of the relationship between Canada and the US vis-à-vis the North American Arctic. This includes the signing of the recently revised Arctic Annex of the Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan in June 2022; the Beaufort Sea exercise in July 2022, which tested remote sensing technology to support environmental response; as well as a PASSEX between the USCGC Stratton and the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier. In general, PASSEXs are defined as a determined period of sailing alongside another service’s/nation’s vessel, while conducting various types of operations such as communications, small vessel exercises, and in some cases air operations. Finally, in 2021, during the USCGC Healy’s transit of the Northwest Passage, Arctic Region’s SAR team held a joint exercise in Resolute Bay, NU, which also involved the CCGS Amundsen.

Industry Engagement

Commercial operators and industry partners participate with the Coast Guard in the Canadian Marine Advisory Council, the Arctic Marine Advisory Board, and the National Marine Advisory Board's bi-annual meetings as well as Arctic deployment working group meetings to coordinate icebreaking support for vessels transporting vital cargo as part of the northern sealift and resupply effort.

Academic Engagement

The Coast Guard is working with Dr. Jackie Dawson (University of Ottawa) and Dr. Feiyue Wang, (University of Manitoba) on the TransArctic Research project, which aims to achieve safe and sustainable marine shipping in the Canadian Arctic by co-developing new knowledge to inform policy and to co-develop new transformational technologies that are appropriate and accessible to Indigenous peoples, ship operators, and other decision-makers in order to detect, reduce and mitigate marine transportation-related hazards.

Arctic Region has hosted two workshops with Dr. Jessica Shadian and Arctic360, a Canadian think tank that focuses on bringing together the public and private sectors alongside Indigenous development corporations and Northern Governments to address infrastructure and related economic development priorities for the North American Arctic.

Various Canadian academics were also consulted on the development of the Arctic Strategy, which will be published spring 2023 and provides a ten-year vision for Coast Guard in the Arctic.

OPP 2.0

Under OPP2.0, Arctic Region will be working with local communities to enhance incident response capacity in the Arctic over the next four years through:

  1. training and exercising, including renewed funding support for the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary;
  2. supporting communities’ participation in the Auxiliary through the purchase of equipment and vessels via the Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer Program;
  3. the creation of Coastal Marine Response Network and Teams (CMRT);
  4. the expansion of the Arctic Marine Response Station in Rankin Inlet; and,
  5. 29 community caches of Environmental Response equipment.

Arctic Region also engages with local communities via training, exercising, and equipment familiarization for the SAR and Emergency Response programs.

OPP 2.0 is also significantly enhancing Environmental Response with new capabilities and capacities including CMRT, Integrated Marine Response Planning; enhancing the Vessels of Concern program; and the new Hazardous and Noxious Substances Initiative.

The Arctic Region will also establish up to four Arctic pooling locations and sponsor participants from these locations to vessels (addressing a key barrier to recruiting Northern Fleet employees).

Question period cards

Canadian Coast Guard


What are the roles and responsibilities of the Canadian Coast Guard?



The Canadian Coast Guard (Coast Guard) turned 60 on January 26, 2022 and, throughout its rich history, the Coast Guard has remained a symbol of service and safety on the water from coast to coast to coast.

On an average day, the Coast Guard:

The Coast Guard owns and operates the federal government’s civilian fleet which currently consists of 121 vessels ranging from large ice-breakers to smaller air cushion vehicles and 22 helicopters.

The organization provides critical maritime services to Canadians over approximately 5.3 million kilometers of ocean and inland waters. Some of these services include:

The Agency provides direct, front-line services year-round - it is mission-ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week and operates in most weather conditions.

The Coast Guard is an economic enabler, facilitating the safe and efficient flow of $251 billion in marine trade, the handling of more than 342 million tonnes of critical goods, and supporting tens of thousands of jobs across the country annually. In 2020, marine transportation carried nearly $103 billion (or 20%) of Canada’s exports to world markets and brought $122 billion (or 23%) of Canada’s imports by value. Combined, 21.1% of all Canadian trade is transported by water.

Our mandate is stated in the Oceans Act and the Canada Shipping Act. The Oceans Act gives the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans responsibility for providing:

The Canada Shipping Act gives the Minister powers, responsibilities and obligations concerning:

The Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, which came into force on July 30, 2019, gives Coast Guard new authorities and provides strict liability to hold vessels owners accountable, and to ensure hazards posed by vessels in Canadian waters are appropriately addressed.

Coast Guard Environmental Response


The Canadian Coast Guard’s response to the MV Europe oil spill in English Bay, British Columbia.


If pressed on oil spilled in English Bay


The Coast Guard Environmental Response (ER) program is the operational arm of the Government of Canada responsible for ensuring an appropriate response to ship-source and mystery-source marine pollution incidents in Canadian waters.

The scope of the Coast Guard’s response is not limited to oil spills, but covers the more broadly defined “Marine Pollution Incidents”, as written in the Canada Shipping Act. This includes hazardous and noxious substances spills, or spills of substances that would degrade or alter the quality of waters to an extent that is detrimental to their use by humans.

The ER program provides a system (policies, procedures, personnel, and equipment) to command responses to marine pollution incidents occurring in Canadian waters with an objective to minimize the risk to public safety, environmental, and economic impacts.

The ER program provides oversight of the polluter’s actions, spill preparedness (equipment, planning, training, exercising) and spill response (pollution assessment, mitigation, containment and collection) as well as spill incident management. The ER program integrates science and local Indigenous knowledge into preparedness, response, planning and incident management activities.

Determination of the lead agency for spills in Canada is based on the source, not location of the spill.

The Coast Guard is responsible for ship-source spills, mystery-source spills, and spills at oil handling facilities during loading and unloading of vessels.

In the event that the polluter is unknown, unwilling, or unable to respond to their pollution event, the Coast Guard will ensure an appropriate response is achieved by contracting resources or responding themselves.

There are trained ER personnel in all Coast Guard regions with staffed facilities shore-side with pollution countermeasures equipment. There are approximately 80 response equipment depot sites strategically located across Canada and on Coast Guard vessels. Heavier equipment such as pollution response vessels, skimmers and sweep systems are at the Coast Guard bases across Canada.

In addition, an industry funded pollution response capacity exists whereby shipowners pay for the cost of preparedness for the environmental risk posed by their operations. This funding supports the capacity of the Response Organizations. This preparedness is established and maintained by certified Response Organizations who can be contracted by polluters to provide oil spill response services in the event of a marine pollution incident.

Canada has adopted the "polluter pay principle" in legislation and requires polluters to pay for the cost of cleanup and pollution damage. The Coast Guard’s costs with respect to the response may also be recovered from the polluter.

On January 21, 2023, a commercial flight detected a pollution discharge emanating from the China Shipping Container Lines-owned container vessel M/V Europe in English Bay, Vancouver, B.C..

Coast Guard personnel were tasked to conduct an assessment and confirmed a discharge of oil emanating from the M/V Europe.

Coast Guard activated the Greater Vancouver Integrated Response Plan, established an Incident Command Post and engaged the polluter, First Nations, federal, provincial and municipal partners in Unified Command to manage the incident and develop incident objectives.

The vessel’s owner contracted Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, the Transport Canada certified Response Organization on the West Coast, to conduct on-water response operations to contain the oil spill and recover any pollution outside of the containment area. Coast Guard deployed personnel on-scene to monitor recovery operations and to lead the coordination of the spill response with all partners.

On January 22, 2023, Transport Canada boarded the vessel to conduct inspections.

All recoverable oil was removed from the containment area around the vessel.

Subsequent surveillance flights detected no oil pollution within five nautical miles of the incident area and no less than 60 litres of oil was detected as discharged from the vessel.

Transport Canada concluded its inspection of the vessel and deemed it no longer a pollution threat, however the vessel has been detained until it rectifies several deficiencies found during TC’s inspection.

The polluter claimed that the cause of the discharge was related to oily water that was collected on a hatch cover in the cargo hold during a fire drill, which did not go through and oily-water separator. TC is investigating this claim.

The vessel will be allowed to berth at Vancouver and unload its cargo, but may not leave Canada until its deficiencies have been addressed.

On January 23, 2023, the Coast Guard led shoreline assessments with its partners to determine if any recovery activities are required.

Pursuant to the Marine Liability Act, the polluter is liable for all costs related to response and pollution damage, including the Coast Guard’s response costs.

Fleet Renewal


How much is the Coast Guard’s Fleet Renewal costing and when will they become operational?


If pressed on icebreakers


Renewal of the Coast Guard fleet is underway. Funded replacement plans are currently in place for the large vessel fleet, including:

Construction work is currently underway on the OOSV following cut steel in March 2021. Ancillary contract work is ongoing on the MPV project at Vancouver Shipyards (VSY) following the August 2020 contract award. Additionally, Ancillary contract work is ongoing on Polar-VSY (contract awarded July 2021) to finalize the design and prepare for construction engineering.

Work on the Program Icebreakers and the other Polar Icebreaker is expected to begin following the addition of Chantier Davie to the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS), which is expected by early 2023. Detailed costing for these projects will be released once negotiations and contract awards for engineering and construction have occurred with the shipyard.

Media attention has occurred over the last several years detailing the increasing costs and ongoing delays with the procurement of the Coast Guard’s large vessel fleet. The Coast Guard has been working closely with shipyards and internal stakeholders to manage and address ongoing issues.

The Coast Guard is also renewing its small fleet. Twenty three new small vessels have already been delivered, including two new Channel Survey and Sounding Vessels and twelve new Search and Rescue Lifeboats that have joined the fleet in the past few years. An additional eight Search and Rescue Lifeboats will be constructed at Hike Metal Products, in Wheatley, Ontario and Chantier Naval Forillon, in Gaspé, Quebec and design work is ongoing on a new Near-Shore Fishery Research Vessel.

The Coast Guard has completed the renewal of its helicopter fleet with delivery of sixteen new light-lift helicopters and seven new medium-lift helicopters. Coast Guard acquired the 16th light helicopter in September 2021.

The Coast Guard is putting in place interim measures and investing in vessel life extension work to ensure continued delivery of critical services until new ships are delivered. This includes:


On May 22nd, 2019, the Prime Minister announced a renewal of the Coast Guard fleet with up to 18 new large ships built in Canadian shipyards, helping the Coast Guard continue to deliver its important services, and creating good, middle class jobs across the country.

On August 2, 2019, the Government of Canada announced that six new PIB would be constructed for the Canadian Coast Guard. The government also announced its intention to expand the NSS with the addition of the third Canadian Shipyard to build the PIB.

On May 6, 2021, Canada announced the procurement of two Polar Icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard. One will be built at Vancouver Shipyards (the Polar Icebreaker had previously been removed from VSY’s UA and replaced with the 16 MPV) and the other is expected to be constructed at Chantier Davie, once it qualifies to become the third shipyard under the NSS.

FOPO Report 6: Marine Cargo Container Spills


How will the Canadian Coast Guard respond to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, Marine Cargo Container Spills Report?


If pressed on Zim Kingston


Zim Kingston

October 21, 2021, the Zim Kingston reported having lost 40 containers when encountering adverse weather and heavy swells, approximately 38 nautical miles west of the entrance to the Juan de Fuca Strait, off the coast of Vancouver Island, BC. The ship later reported that 109 containers had been lost; two of which contained hazardous chemicals that were prone to combustion when exposed to water.

On October 23, 2021, damaged cargo still on board the ship caught fire. Sixteen (16) crew members were evacuated by the Canadian Coast Guard and 5 crew members stayed abord to fight the fire. The owner of the vessel contracted two commercial tugs to assist in firefighting activities. Since it was known that two more containers containing hazardous chemicals that were prone to combustion remained in the damaged cargo, fire suppression and cooling of the remaining cargo tactics were used to reduce the risk of fire or explosion. The Canadian Coast Guard’s Atlantic Raven was tasked to support fire suppression and towing operations.

The 109 containers went overboard in the Cape Flattery. Containers drifted north and 4 containers beached at 4 locations on the northwest tip of Vancouver Island.

The containers were mostly general cargo (toys, games, sports equipment, furniture, electrical machinery, general household goods, footwear/clothing, photography/optical equipment and vehicle parts).

Two of the containers that fell overboard were known to contain hazardous materials – non marine polluting.

While the Canadian Coast Guard managed the overall response to the Zim Kingston incident, including the cargo debris cleanup, the owner of the vessel took a proactive role throughout the response and hired a salvage contractor to track and remove the beached containers. They also hired private industry, nonprofit organizations and First Nations to support beach cleanup operations.

Sonar scans to locate the sunken containers have been conducted by the ship owner at Constance Bank anchorage and at Cape Flattery. No containers were found at Constance Bank. Results were inconclusive in identifying container-sized objects at Cape Flattery. The Canadian Coast Guard continues to work with the ship’s representative to remediate reports of possible Zim Kingston debris.

Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans Report on Marine Cargo Container Spills

The Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (the committee) agreed to undertake a study of the effects of “cargo container spills on Canada’s marine environment with regard to

  1. the environmental impacts of cargo container spills;
  2. improving response times and efficacy to cargo spills;
  3. addressing jurisdictional gaps to improve collaboration with volunteer, charitable organizations, provincial and territorial agencies, municipalities, and Indigenous communities during spill responses;
  4. improving polluter responsibility and financial accountability.”

From March 2022 to June 2022, the Committee held six interviews on the subject of Marine Cargo Container Spills with government officials and industry, Indigenous community, and non-profit organizations representatives.

As a result of those interviews, the Committee has made twenty-nine (29) recommendations directed at the Government of Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), and Transport Canada.

The scope of recommendations encompasses establishing marine debris monitoring and cleanup capacity; investing in research and monitoring to understand the impacts of polystyrene and other plastics; establishing marine cargo spill response capacity; expanding container ship regulations; building regulations for ships’ manifest information; establishing Hazardous and Noxious Substance spill response; establishing marine firefighting capacity; expanding emergency towing capacity; examining alternate funding mechanisms beyond the polluter-pays mechanism; championing the ban on the use of polystyrene foam in international fora; and collaborating with Indigenous communities to ensure they are active partners in marine cargo clean-up efforts.

The 29 recommendations include 5 on environmental impacts; 15 on incident response; 8 on cross jurisdiction collaboration; and, 1 on polluter responsibility and financial accountability.

The majority of recommendations were directed to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Transport Canada. Input on a number of recommendations was also required from Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canada Border Services Agency (manifests) and Innovation Science and Economic Development (cellular and broadband for coastal communities).

Budget 2022 announced the intention to propose amendments to the Canada Shipping Act 2001 to enable the proactive management of marine emergencies and to cover more types of pollution. Amendments to Canada Shipping Act 2001 would address a number of the Standing Committee’s recommendations.

Oceans Protection Plan renewal, launched in 2022, also includes new funding to enhance Hazardous and Noxious Substances preparedness and response and improving overall coordination for all marine spills.

The Government of Canada submitted its responses to the 29 recommendations to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans on February 1, 2023.

Tabling of the Auditor General of Canada fall 2022 reports


What is the Government doing to ensure safety and security in Arctic waters associated with increased vessel traffic?


If pressed


The Office of the Auditor General of Canada carried out an audit on Marine Navigation in the Canadian Arctic in 2014. At the time of that audit, ship traffic in the Arctic had increased substantially. As expected, it has continued to increase both in terms of the number of vessels travelling in the Arctic and the distances travelled. Vessel traffic declined in 2020 and 2021 due to pandemic measures, but traffic is likely to increase again once these measures are lifted.

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada also carried out an audit on the National Shipbuilding Strategy in 2021.

In June 2021, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada notified the Department that they would be conducting an audit on Protecting the North, which later was scoped as the audit on Surveillance of Arctic Waters. The work for this audit will be published in the Fall 2022 Reports of the Auditor General of Canada.

The objective of this audit is to determine whether key federal organizations built the maritime domain awareness required to respond to safety and security risks and incidents associated with increased vessel traffic in Arctic waters.

The entities in the scope of this audit include the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment and Climate Change Canada, National Defence, Public Services and Procurement Canada, and Transport Canada.

The audit concluded that the federal organizations audited had not taken required action to build maritime domain awareness to adequately respond to safety and security risks that are associated with increasing vessel traffic in Arctic waters, and measure to address any gaps were insufficient. The audit also concluded that delays in services and infrastructure (including ships) puts at risk the needed presence of the respective departments in Arctic waters.

The audit has two recommendations, directed to the respective entities in scope, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard.

The Department agrees with the audit recommendations and is taking action to address them, as outlined the Management Action Plan that identifies the timelines to address the recommendations, as part of the Department’s commitment to continuous improvement and accountability to Canadians.

The Department, however, has stated that the audit report, particularly the second recommendation pertaining improvements to address delays in the delivery of equipment used for maritime surveillance in the Arctic, was previously recommended in the Auditor General’s audit of the National Shipbuilding Strategy. While improvements in this area are imperative, the actions to do so are duplicative of what has been committed in the Management Action Plan for the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

Search and Rescue Incidents at the North Pole


Members of the House Committee on National Defence expressed concern over the need to cooperate with the Russian Federation to respond to a search and rescue incident at the North Pole.


If pressed


Aeronautical and Maritime SAR in the North Pole is governed by the 2011 Arctic SAR Agreement. By international convention, the North Pole includes the intersection of SAR responsibilities for five Arctic states: Canada, US, Denmark, Norway and Russia.

On March 3, 2022, Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the U.S. issued a joint statement condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and temporarily suspending Arctic Council cooperation, including working group chairs, secretariats, and governance structures.

The Arctic Coast Guard Forum, established in 2015, is an independent, informal, operationally-driven organization, not bound by treaty to foster safe, secure, and environmentally responsible maritime activity in the Arctic.

On March 11th, 2022, an update was posted to the Coast Guard’s webpage dedicated to the ACGF, indicating publicly the Coast Guard would be pausing activities in the ACGF: Arctic Coast Guard Forum (

A SAR event at the North Pole, an area where all Arctic partners areas of responsibility converge, could require support from all Arctic nations.

Canada led two international exercises related to SAR at the North Pole in 2021. These verified that all Arctic nations could be required to support if a major marine incident occurred.

The Coast Guard continues to work with local Indigenous communities, industry and our like-minded international partners to improve SAR preparedness and response in the Canadian Arctic.

Annex 1: Question and Answers

Science at Sea Program - Challenges of Coast Guard fisheries vessels

Can the Canadian Coast Guard maintain its capacity and ensure the continuity of datasets between the old and new fisheries vessels?Footnote 1


What is the Canadian Coast Guard (Coast Guard) doing to ensure that performance measurement properly assesses the needs of Icebreaking clients and Arctic Stakeholders? Ref: 6.53 of 2022 OAG Report; 3.39-3.50 of 2014 OAG Report

How is the Coast Guard working to ensure the icebreaking demands are met in the Arctic over the next 20 years taking into account the current Fleet Renewal initiatives? Ref 6.54 of 2022 OAG Report

Fleet Renewal

How many ships does the Canadian Coast Guard (Coast Guard) currently have, and how many operate in the Arctic?

How many ships does the Coast Guard plan to procure, and how many will operate in the Arctic?

Will the future fleet improve Canada’s Arctic capabilities?

When are the new vessels expected to be delivered?

Why is it taking so long to get the new ships?

What is Canada doing to try to improve ship delivery timelines?

NSS Interim Measures

What happens if new ships are not delivered on time?

When is CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent planned to retire and how will it impact the Arctic?

The OAG recommended putting in place contingency plans if vessels are delayed. Has the Coast Guard done this?

NSS and Arctic Waters Surveillance Audit – delays in the delivery of equipment

How will the Coast Guard address delays in the delivery of equipment to replace and improve the key federal capabilities used for maritime surveillance in the Canadian Arctic, that the OAG pointed out in her Arctic Surveillance Audit?

Safety Considerations of Crew – vessel life extensions

How is the Canadian Coast Guard taking into account the safety of crew in regard to extending the life of vessels?

Collaboration between federal departments responsible for marine domain awareness

What are the areas of responsibility for each Maritime Security Operations Center (MSOC) partner?

Coast Guard:


How are MSOC Partners collaborating to address maritime domain awareness gaps identified in the OAG Report?

How are MSOC partners collaborating to address the information sharing constrains identified in the OAG Report?

CCG collaboration with coastal Indigenous communities regarding arctic marine domain awareness

How is the Canadian Coast Guard (Coast Guard) collaborating with coastal Indigenous communities in the Arctic regarding Marine Domain Awareness (MDA)?

Arctic Waters Charting

What are modern standards for charting as it pertains to the Arctic?

What Safety and Security Risks are there to Canadian Coast Guard (Coast Guard) Programs as a result of sparse Arctic charting?

How does the Coast Guard Support Improved Arctic Charting?

Nanisivik Naval Facility

How is the Canadian Coast Guard going to leverage the future Nanisivik Naval Facility?

Lack of constabulary authority within the CCG

What constabulary (law enforcement) mandate does the Canadian Coast Guard (Coast Guard) have in the Arctic?

How does the Coast Guard assist other federal agencies with their law enforcement mandates in the Arctic?

Increase in the number of permanent CCG stations in the Arctic

Are there plans to increase the number of SAR stations in the Arctic?

How many Arctic SAR stations are in the Arctic?

Outside of the Coast Guard stations, what other Coast Guard capacity is there in the Arctic?

Use of Canadian Rangers in regards to search and rescue operations

An article published in the Hill Times on December 5, 2022 titled “Canadian Rangers should have the maritime mission” suggested that the maritime role of the Canadian Rangers should be expanded to include first response to maritime SAR incidents in the Arctic. Is there a plan to get the Rangers to do maritime SAR?

What’s the difference between the Rangers and the Coast Guard Auxiliary?

Search and rescue in Labrador

Is there a plan to increase SAR coverage in Labrador?

Is there a move to increase SAR presence for offshore fisheries off Labrador?

Will you be having another Fed-Prov SAR review for NL?

Use of Indigenous knowledge in search and rescue operations

What actions has the Canadian Coast Guard (Coast Guard) taken to improve the use of Indigenous knowledge in search and rescue operations?

Are Indigenous crews employed in search and rescue?

What about Indigenous hiring in Arctic Region overall?

Marine Cargo Container Spills Report

How will the Canadian Coast Guard (Coast Guard) respond to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, Marine Cargo Container Spills Report?

Annex 2: Scenario Note

Date and Time
Monday, February 13, 2023 from 11a.m. to 1p.m.

Room 225-A, West Block

Logistic Information

Officials have been invited to appear at the House Standing Committee on Public Accounts to discuss the Office of the Auditor General, Report 6 – Arctic Waters Surveillance. In the invite, the Committee Clerk noted the Committee Chair’s desire for in-person attendance for NCR-based witnesses. It has been confirmed with the Clerk that you and the Commissioner will appear in person.


Government of Canada officials have been invited to appear at the House Standing Committee on Public Accounts (PACP) to discuss the Office of the Auditor General’s (OAG) Audit on Arctic Waters Surveillance. The meeting will take place in a hybrid format, virtually and in person on February 13, 2023. It is anticipated that senior officials from the Office of the Auditor General as well as senior officials from Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Transport Canada (TC); National Defence (DND) and Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) will be appearing. The meeting invite indicates that senior officials from attending organizations will each provide opening remarks (five minute duration) followed by responses to rounds of questions from Committee members.

The OAG audit focuses on whether key federal organizations built the maritime domain awareness needed to respond to safety and security risks and incidents associated with increasing vessel traffic in Arctic waters. The audit focused on domestic activities and not on the international collaborative aspects of maritime surveillance. The audit indicates that the federal Government has not taken action to address long-standing gaps affecting its surveillance of Canada’s Arctic waters. According to the audit, the long-standing issues include:

  1. incomplete surveillance, insufficient data about vessel traffic in Canada’s Arctic waters;
  2. poor means of sharing information on maritime traffic; and
  3. outdated equipment.

The audit indicates that the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada risk losing presence in Arctic waters as their aging icebreakers and patrol aircraft are near the end of their service lives and are likely to be retired before a new fleet can be launched.

Potential witnesses to appear

The Committee invited senior Departmental officials to appear and provide testimony in relation to this study. The clerk has indicated that the meeting will be one panel for two hours.


Structure of the Committee

The Committee is composed of twelve members (additional information on each member can be found in the Committee Member Biographies document) including:

Rounds of questioning

Annex 3: Tip Sheet in Support of Officials Appearing at the House Standing Committee on Public Accounts

Introduction: Meeting preparation

The following areas are intended to be helpful preparatory tips for DFO officials invited to appear before a parliamentary committee:

1. Understand your role and responsibilities as an individual:

2. Understand the current political context in which you are testifying:

3. Consider your key messages/bottom lines in advance:

4. Develop anticipated Questions and Answers in advance:

**The Q&As should align with the mandate/approach of the Department and must respect confidentiality**

5. Your delivery:

6. Resources:

Annex 4: Resources

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