QP – Satellite Licensing Framework

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P. – Minister of Foreign Affairs

March 7, 2017

Satellite Licensing Framework

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Welcome, minister. I wrote you a letter outlining an issue with the operation of a remote sensing satellite ground station in Inuvik.

As a quick explanation, because of our unique geography, our northern territories are a great destination for remote-sensing infrastructure. We have attracted interest in this world-class facility from leading edge commercial agencies, Norway, USA, Germany and the European Space Agency. But they are expressing frustration, and Canadian companies are expressing continued frustration with Canada’s licensing process.

Your department issues licenses for these companies to operate in Canada and access data from satellites. The licensing process is — respectfully — slow, complex, the legislation is probably outdated. There are real frustrations, which we fear will risk foreign investment going to other more receptive jurisdictions in this fast-moving technological field.

I wonder if you could tell me, please, if you’re aware of the satellite industry’s frustrations, and are you intending to address this issue?

Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P, Minister of Foreign Affairs: Thank you for the question. I am very much aware of this issue. I am aware of the role that global affairs play in licensing and I’m aware of the Senate’s focus on it.

It would obviously be inappropriate for me to comment on specific licensing applications, so I won’t do that, but let me say that I am a big believer that we need to get rid of unnecessary red tape. That doesn’t help anybody. Actually, speaking about the Canada-U.S. relationship, one of the most effective areas of cooperation we have with the United States is a joint Canada- U.S. group that works on bringing our regulations together and not having duplicate of regulations. It’s something that I’m very focused on. I think we can always do a better job at cutting red tape at home.

I also very much agree with your point, senator, that this is a fast-moving sector where a lot of innovation is happening and where, by virtue both of our technological prowess and our geography, there is a real opportunity for Canada to play a leading role. When it comes to stand-alone foreign applications, to have a presence in this area, there are obviously particular national interest concerns that need to be carefully taken into account.

I am sure everyone in this chamber would agree with that, but let me just conclude by saying I am very aware of the issue in general. I’m aware of the specific cases to which you have alluded. I am aware of the desire by many parties to get things going.