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Guiding Principles

Parks Canada contributes at the international, national and local levels to sustaining cultural and natural heritage through a continuing commitment to the following principles. Ensuring commemorative integrity and protecting ecological integrity are always Parks Canada's paramount values in applying these principles as well as the more detailed activity policies.




1. Ecological And Commemorative Integrity

Protecting ecological integrity and ensuring commemorative integrity take precedence in acquiring, managing, and administering heritage places and programs. In every application of policy, this guiding principle is paramount. The integrity of natural and cultural heritage is maintained by striving to ensure that management decisions affecting these special places are made on sound cultural resource management and ecosystem-based management practices.

It is recognized that these places are not islands, but are part of larger ecosystems and cultural landscapes. Therefore, decision-making must be based on an understanding of surrounding environments and their management.

Rigorous adherence to this principle is fundamental to ensuring a continuing contribution to heritage and environmental stewardship.

Heritage areas are designated and managed for their intrinsic and symbolic values, and for the benefit of the public. Fostering appreciation and understanding of commemorative and ecological integrity is the foundation for public use and enjoyment.

The various internal and external factors that contribute to the deterioration of heritage places and ecosystems are carefully analyzed. Protection and presentation are afforded in ways appropriate to the type, significance and sensitivity of the ecosystems and heritage resources involved.

Because protected heritage areas are influenced by surrounding and adjacent land uses, and, in turn, the management of heritage areas influences those surrounding areas, cooperative relationships are sought. The first priority for Parks Canada is always to ensure long-term ecological and commemorative integrity of heritage areas. Using its influence, Parks Canada makes concerted efforts to encourage compatible external activities and to discourage incompatible ones within the greater ecosystem or cultural landscape setting of a heritage area.


2. Leadership And Stewardship

In achieving results relating to protection and presentation of cultural and natural heritage, leadership is established by example, by demonstrating and advocating environmental and heritage ethics and practices, and by assisting and cooperating with others.

A leadership role involves a broader responsibility to the conservation and interpretation community within Canada as well as other countries. Therefore, training and other forms of cooperative assistance are needed to share experiences and expertise.

Stewardship involves both a leadership and a participatory role. However, varying degrees of cooperative action are inherent in all of Parks Canada's heritage activities.

A leadership role may be considered for additional heritage activities or programs where:

  • internationally acknowledged types of areas or programs are involved (e.g., Natural Monuments or Landmarks);
  • appropriate approaches can be developed with provinces, territories and other potential partners; and
  • heritage values are of national or international significance.

Conversely, a participatory role may be considered in heritage conservation initiatives where:

  • types of areas or programs are involved that are not included within international classification systems (e.g., heritage trails);
  • other conservation groups have the lead role; and
  • significant heritage values are involved.

Parks Canada's leadership role includes the responsibility to help promote among various agencies, groups and governments the federal government's long-term goal to preserve and celebrate national heritage and to set aside 12 per cent of Canada as protected space. In this regard, Parks Canada promotes the concept of an integrated family or network of heritage areas and cooperates with provinces and territories in their protected area and heritage strategies.


3. New Protected Heritage Areas

The identification, selection, designation, and establishment of nationally significant natural areas and historic places are based on open, systematic, rigorous, cooperative, and knowledge-based practices.

Significant expressions of the country's natural and cultural heritage are identified, wherever found throughout Canada, for possible inclusion in national systems of heritage places. Nationally significant heritage places are identified in consultation with affected provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, and other parties. Interim protection for an area may be sought until formal protection is attained.

These initiatives are supported by research, data bases, and collaboration with the public and government agencies. A high priority is placed on working with others to ensure that Canada's systems of natural areas and historic places represent the human history and natural diversity of our country.


4. Education And Presentation

The long-term success of efforts to commemorate, protect, and present Canada's natural and cultural heritage depends on the ability of all Canadians to understand and appreciate this heritage, and to personally adopt practices which are sensitive to heritage and the environment. This is encouraged through a variety of communication, interpretation and outreach programs and demonstrated leadership at the local, national and international levels.

It is important that people discover and learn about their heritage and ecosystems and that they contribute to their sustainability. Opportunities are, therefore, provided to understand heritage values, and related management and environmental issues, as well as broader conservation concerns. The sharing of information, including published and unpublished results of research and controlled access to collections, is an important element in encouraging this understanding.

The provision of accurate, comprehensive and timely information is important in fostering awareness, appreciation, appropriate use and understanding and in encouraging public involvement and stewardship. This is achieved through such means as interpretation, communication, outreach, environmental education, citizenship, and public participation programs, as well as through advisory committees.


5. Human - Environment Relationship

People and the environment are inseparable. Protection and presentation of natural and cultural heritage take account of the close relationship between people and the environment.

Though a distinction is often made between places that are of cultural heritage significance and places of natural heritage significance, people and their environment cannot be separated. Therefore, protection and presentation of natural areas recognize the ways in which people have lived within particular environments. Likewise, efforts to protect and present historic places recognize where biophysical factors have been influential in Canada's development and history.


6. Research And Science

Management decisions are based on the best available knowledge, supported by a wide range of research, including a commitment to integrated scientific monitoring.

Parks Canada requires applied and basic research and monitoring activities to make responsible decisions in its management, planning and operating practices, as well as to broaden scientific understanding. Research activities are encouraged and managed to ensure that commemorative and ecological integrity are maintained.

Parks Canada cooperates with, assists, and is assisted by many natural and social science researchers, and specialists in human history. These may include those associated with other federal, provincial and territorial government agencies, universities, interest groups, and the private sector. Local knowledge is also of value to Parks Canada in managing heritage areas.


7. Appropriate Visitor Activities

Opportunities will be provided to visitors that enhance public understanding, appreciation, enjoyment and protection of the national heritage and which are appropriate to the purpose of each park and historic site. Essential and basic services are provided while maintaining ecological and commemorative integrity and recognizing the effects of incremental and cumulative impacts.

Public opportunities are provided for in ways which contribute to heritage protection and national identity objectives, and which build public support for, and awareness of, Canadian heritage.

Parks Canada recognizes the need for control and management of appropriate activities. Public demand alone is not sufficient justification for provision of facilities and services in support of appropriate activities.

Services, facilities and access for the public must directly complement the opportunities provided, be considered essential, take account of limits to growth, and not compromise ecological and commemorative integrity nor the quality of experiences. They must be consistent with approved management plans. Also, they must reflect national standards for environmental and heritage protection and design, as well as high-quality services, the diversity of markets and equity of access considerations for disabled persons and visitors of various income levels.

There are inherent dangers associated with some natural and cultural features and public activities. Therefore, risk management programs involving others are developed by Parks Canada for the safety of visitors. Public safety considerations are built into planning and design processes. Priority is placed on accident prevention, education and information programs designed to protect visitors, in ways consistent with the commemorative and ecological integrity of heritage places. Visitors are encouraged to learn about any risks associated with heritage places and to exercise appropriate self-reliance and responsibility for their own safety in recreational or other activities they choose to undertake.


8. Public Involvement

Public involvement is a cornerstone of policy, planning and management practices to help ensure sound decision-making, build public understanding, and provide opportunities for Canadians to contribute their knowledge, expertise and suggestions.

Canadians are provided with the opportunity to state their views on such major issues as national policies, the establishment of new national parks, the acquisition of national historic sites, and the preparation and review of management plans, before final decisions are made. Special opportunities for public participation are provided to individuals and groups at the local and regional levels, including Aboriginal peoples, who may be more directly affected by Parks Canada initiatives and operations.

For public participation to be effective, certain fundamental practices will be adhered to. These are:

  • the provision of clear, timely, relevant, objective and accurate information;
  • an indication of the areas requiring decisions and relevant policies, legislation and agreements;
  • adequate notice and time for public review;
  • the careful consideration of public input;
  • feedback on the nature of comments received and on Parks Canada response to participants; and
  • respect for all interested publics.


9. Collaboration And Cooperation

Parks Canada works with a broad range of federal, provincial, territorial and municipal government agencies, the private sector, groups, individuals, and Aboriginal interests to achieve mutually compatible goals and objectives. These relationships support regional integration, partnerships, cooperative arrangements, formal agreements, and open dialogue with other interested parties, including adjacent or surrounding districts and communities.

Volunteers, non-profit cooperating associations and their national organization, the Canadian Parks Partnership, adjacent land-owners or tenants, Aboriginal peoples, universities, as well as other research and educational institutions, among others, can all make fundamental contributions to heritage protection and environmental citizenship efforts. The private sector can also play an important role in helping to achieve heritage conservation objectives by delivering environmental and heritage messages, establishing and maintaining compatible business enterprises, and helping to provide appropriate high-quality services in or near parks and historic sites, in a manner consistent with these policies.


10. Accountability

Parks Canada is accountable for the application of, and adherence to, these principles and for the implementation of the activity policies. This accountability will be formally reviewed through State of the Parks reporting.

State of the Parks Reports are prepared periodically for tabling in Parliament. These Reports deal with the state of all heritage places administered by Parks Canada and with progress toward establishing new areas. They help to ensure that threats to heritage places are identified. State of the Environment Reports also monitor progress with respect to protected natural areas in general throughout Canada, and Parks Canada contributes to this effort.


Policy Application

These Principles set out the key elements of policy which apply broadly to Parks Canada's heritage activities. Specific policies for national parks, national historic sites, historic canals, national marine conservation areas and other activities are set out in Part II, "Activity Policies," and Part III, "Cultural Resource Management Policy." These provide more detailed direction for the management of the various heritage places and programs of Parks Canada.

In addition to these policies, further management details may be found within strategic plans, management directives, management plans, business plans, ecosystem management plans, service plans, community plans, and regulations.