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Establishment of National Parks and National Park Reserves of Canada

The National Parks System Plan
(1997) guides completion of the national parks system. The system plan divides Canada into 39 distinct "National Park Natural Regions" based on physiography (the appearance of the land) and vegetation. The goal is to represent each of the natural regions with a national park.

Parks Canada plans to represent 34 of the 39 terrestrial regions with a national park or national park reserve1 by March 2008. The current level of funding is insufficient to meet this target. Parks Canada will continue negotiations and conclude as many agreements as possible within approved funding levels.

Performance Expectation
34 of 39 terrestrial regions represented by March 2008

There are five steps in park establishment:

Step 1 is the identification of potential park areas within a natural region;
Step 2 is the selection of a park area proposal;
Step 3 is a detailed feasibility assessment of a particular park proposal;
Step 4 is the negotiation of a park establishment agreement; and
Step 5 is the designation of the park or reserve under the Canada National Parks Act.

Figure 1 shows the complete system of natural regions as well as the existing national parks, national park reserves and regions with interim protection (i.e., a region with lands withdrawn from other uses pending the negotiation and signing of a new park agreement) and areas of interest (i.e., an area that is representative of the natural region and has been selected for a new park feasibility study). Thirty-five of the current 41 national parks and national park reserves are protected under the Canada National Parks Act (Step 5) while six operating parks and reserves are not yet proclaimed under the Act.

Figure 2 summarizes the progress on completing the national parks system in the 14 regions that were not represented at the start of the reporting period. Between April 2002 and March 2004, a new national park, Ukkusiksalik National Park of Canada, and a new national park reserve, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada, were established and the number of regions represented in the system grew from 25 to 27 (69% of the regions). Together, these new national parks add 20,592 km2 to the national parks system so that it now covers almost 265,000 km2 or 2.7% of Canada's total land mass.

Figure 1: Natural Regions and National Parks of Canada

Figure 1: Natural Regions and National Parks of Canada

Figure 2: Progress on Establishing National Parks In 14 Unrepresented Regions (2002-2004)

Figure 2: Progress on Establishing National Parks In 14 Unrepresented Regions (2002-2004)


Current Step and Progress

2: Strait of Georgia
Southern Gulf Islands

Step 4: Negotiations
Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada was established in May 2003 as the result of an agreement between Canada and British Columbia, and at year-end, the park consisted of 34.4 km2 over 15 islands. This agreement includes provisions to acquire more land within a core area of the southern Gulf Islands. Canada's 40th national park protects nationally significant landscapes and endangered species within one of Canada's most biologically diverse and developed regions.

3: Interior Dry Plateau
South Okanagan – Lower Similkameen

Step 3: Canada - BC MOU signed / Feasibility Study
During 2002-2004 period, subsequent to examining options for selecting a proposal, the South Okanagan – Lower Similkameen area was selected as the candidate site to represent Natural Region 3. Work commenced on a study to assess the feasibility of this proposed national park following the signing of the Canada – BC Memorandum of Understanding. In October 2003, initial discussions with stakeholders were held to explain the process of assessing the feasibility of a national park reserve and to confirm the next steps in the feasibility study stage.

7: Northern Interior Plateaux & Mountains
Wolf Lake

Step 2: Park Proposal Selection
Under the action plan to create ten new national parks, Parks Canada is to confirm a candidate site in this natural region, and then commence a feasibility study. Parks Canada has maintained a long-standing interest in the Wolf Lake area as a possible national park. Until there is support for a feasibility study by the territorial government and community representatives, a study will not commence. Work in this region has been at the site selection stage for several years.

14: Manitoba Lowlands
Manitoba Lowlands Proposal

Step 4: Canada - Manitoba MOU / Consultations
In March 2004, the governments of Canada and Manitoba signed a Memorandum of Understanding that committed both governments to negotiate a national park establishment agreement by May 2005, and that identified the steps to achieve this goal, and the issues to be addressed in an agreement. It includes a boundary proposal to improve the representation of the natural region, and better sustain the ecological integrity of the proposed national park. Under the MOU, both governments will consult the public, including affected Aboriginal and local communities, on the boundary proposal. Issues related to a final park boundary and community consultations have prevented Parks Canada and Manitoba from concluding a park establishment agreement for several years.

16: Central Tundra

Step 4: Negotiations
Ukkusiksalik National Park of Canada was established in August 2003 as Canada's 41st national park with the signing of an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement between the Government of Canada, the Kivalliq Inuit Association and the Government of Nunavut. This national park was first identified as a candidate site in 1978, but work was delayed at the request of numerous local communities until Canada and the Inuit had concluded a land claims agreement, which was reached in 1993. The park protects virtually an entire Arctic watershed and a wide range of wildlife.

17: Northwestern Boreal Uplands
(East Arm of Great Slave Lake proposal)

Step 3: Feasibility Study
During 2002-2004, discussions continued between Parks Canada and community leaders on national park proposal for the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. Canada and the Northwest Territories Métis Nation also agreed to a protocol on the exchange of information on the proposal, which formalized the Métis Nation's involvement in the consultation process. The Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation hosted Parks Canada's CEO and several staff at their annual spiritual gathering at the mouth of the Lockhart River in August 2003. The open exchange of ideas and visions for the area led to much progress on this proposal, which had been stalled for more than 30 years. The community will examine first-hand how other First Nations are working with Parks Canada in co-operative relationships that emphasize government's respect for traditional activities while providing enduring employment and other economic benefits.

21: East Coast Boreal Region
Mealy Mountains proposal

Step 3: Feasibility Study
Interest in the possibility of establishing a national park in the Mealy Mountains area remains high and representatives of a variety of stakeholders have formally organized as a steering committee to conduct this study with Parks Canada. A first round of public consultations was undertaken, including presentations and public involvement sessions, with local communities, aboriginal groups, municipal councils and other stakeholders. Data was gathered for mapping natural resources and land use. Parks Canada participated in the environmental assessment process for the proposed Trans Labrador Highway. The feasibility study for this national park proposal has been underway for the last three years.

24: Northern Labrador Mountains
Torngat Mountains proposal – W*

Step 4: Negotiations
Negotiators for Parks Canada and the Labrador Inuit Association initialled a Park Impacts and Benefits Agreement for the proposed Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve. Discussions also began with Makivik Corporation, representing the Nunavik Inuit of northern Quebec, to develop a consultation process with them. Parks Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador continued negotiations on a Land Transfer Agreement. Negotiations for this park proposal have progressed over the 2001 to 2004 period as part of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement process.

38: Western High Arctic
Bathurst Island proposal – W*

Step 3: Feasibility Study
In 2002-2004, consensus was achieved by affected federal government departments on a boundary proposal for a new national park at northern Bathurst Island, following careful consideration of all relevant criteria, including ecological information, caribou habitat, and a proposal put forward by the Mining Association of Canada and the Canadian Nature Federation. Subsequently, meetings were held with the community of Resolute, the regional Inuit association, and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs extending the land withdrawal, due to expire in October 2004, under the Territorial Lands Act. With the feasibility study complete, Parks Canada expects to open negotiations with the Inuit.

During 2002-2004, there was no progress in four regions (20, 22, 23, 25) due to a lack of local or provincial support to advance national park proposals. Region 28 is considered low priority; the Agency is not focusing resources on this area. Furthermore, there is no funding under the government's action plan for achieving a national park in these regions.

* Withdrawal of lands

Figure 3, shows the status of four regions (18, 27, 29, and 34) represented by operating national parks not currently proclaimed under the Canada National Parks Act. There was no change in the 2002 to 2004 period.

Figure 3: Status of Four Operating National Parks Not Proclaimed in Canada National Parks Act (2002-2004)



34 and 27

Gros Morne and Wapusk National Parks of Canada are listed in Schedule 1 of the Act but have not yet been proclaimed, pending agreement on the regulations to manage traditional renewable resource harvesting activities. During 2002-2004, regulations for Gros Morne were nearing completion. Regulations for Wapusk are more complex and will take longer to complete.

18 and 29

Pukaskwa and Bruce Peninsula National Parks of Canada were not included in the Canada National Parks Act due to unresolved Aboriginal issues that continue to be the subject of discussions. The status of these national parks did not change during 2002-2004.

National Park Completion and Extension

Parks Canada is seeking to potentially expand the size of three national parks. It is also involved in an ongoing process of completing three existing national parks through land acquisition within agreed-upon boundaries. Acquiring additional land either inside or outside current park boundaries can serve to both complete the representation of a natural region and enhance the ecological integrity of a national park. Parks Canada plans to complete the park expansions by March 2008, but land acquisition within the three established parks is dependent on willing sellers and will continue well beyond 2008.

Progress on proposals to expand three existing national parks is summarized in Figure 4.

Parks Canada has been advancing land acquisition within the boundaries of Bruce Peninsula National Park of Canada, in Ontario, and Grasslands National Park of Canada, in Saskatchewan, for some years in accordance with signed park establishment agreements. Figure 5 shows the percentage of land within each park that has already been acquired. During 2002-2004, 186 hectares were added to Bruce Peninsula National Park of Canada (32.5% complete). No lands were acquired in Grasslands National Park of Canada (48% complete).

Performance Expectation
Expand three national parks and increase the percentage of land holdings in three unfinished national parks by March 2008.

As noted above, the newly established Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada (Region 2) was established with a base of 33.3 km2 spread over 15 islands. Land acquisition related to this park will be reported on in future reports.

Figure 4: Progress on Proposals to Expand Three Existing National Parks



8: Mackenzie Mountains –W*

Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada
Negotiations between Parks Canada and Dehcho First Nation on a Memorandum of Understanding that puts in place a process to develop, assess and consult on an enlarged boundary for the national park reserve concluded in February 2003, with the memorandum being signed by the Dehcho First Nation and Canada in August 2003. An interim land withdrawal, including most of the lands considered for an expanded park, is in place pending final decisions with respect to lands in the Dehcho region. As well, Parks Canada and the Sahtu Dene and Metis held discussions related to that part of the Nahanni watershed that falls within their region.

15: Tundra Hills

Tuktut Nogait National Park of Canada – Sahtu sector
Parks Canada and the Sahtu Dene and Metis are close to concluding an Impact and Benefit Plan to expand Tuktut Nogait National Park of Canada into the Sahtu Settlement Region. This will add another 1,850 km2 to the park.

5: Rocky Mountains

Flathead Valley proposal – expansion of Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada
During 2002-2004, Parks Canada worked with the Government of British Columbia to assess a proposal to protect a rugged landscape in the Flathead Valley in a national park reserve, immediately west of Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada. Protection of this area would enhance the ecological integrity of the existing national park and complete the missing corner of the International Peace Park. However, during negotiation of the 2003 Canada – British Columbia MOU, the provincial government did not support a feasibility study and therefore no work was done. Should the province agree, Canada remains interested in proceeding with this study.

* Withdrawal of lands

Figure 5: Percentage of Land Acquired in Two National Parks of Canada

Figure 5: Percentage of Land Acquired in Two National Parks of Canada


1 A national park reserve is an area managed as a national park but where the lands are subject to one or more land claims by Aboriginal people that have been accepted for negotiation by Canada.


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