The two years that followed publication of the State of Protected Heritage Areas 1999 Report have been a time of expansion, achievement and learning. Research conducted with our university partners and others has enhanced our ability to manage, protect and preserve Canada’s system of national parks.
The proclamation of the Canada National Parks Act on October 20, 2000 was a significant achievement. It established a framework for the management of Canada’s national parks, and confirmed that maintaining their ecological integrity is the first priority for Parks Canada. The Act also formally recognized in legislation seven existing national parks and one national park reserve.
While outside the timeframes of this report, it is also noteworthy that another significant legislative initiative – the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act – has also recently been passed by Parliament.* This Act formalizes the vision established by the 1986 National Marine Conservation Areas Policy and the 1995 Sea to Sea to Sea system plan, while establishing an appropriate and effective role for Parks Canada in protecting Canada’s marine environment.
Another milestone was the publication of Unimpaired for Future Generations?: Conserving Ecological Integrity With Canada’s National Parks. This final report of the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada’s National Parks concluded that the national parks of Canada are under serious threat from stresses that originate both inside and outside park borders, and that immediate action is required to prevent deterioration of ecological integrity throughout the national parks system.
Our response to the report includes the proclamation of the Canada National Parks Act, the delivery of an ecological integrity training program for Parks Canada staff, revised management planning procedures, and the development of a science strategy outlining our research priorities.
While Parks Canada is focused on improving ecological integrity in our national parks, it also remains committed to welcoming visitors and providing them with a learning experience. As Canadians learn about and appreciate our natural environment, we are convinced they will become engaged in helping us ensure its protection and health for future generations. The risks to our protected heritage areas remain challenging but, as this report highlights, we are making progress and there are success stories to tell.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage committed $24 million over three years to create a Canadian Register of Historic Places, and to establish standards and guidelines for the conservation of historic places in Canada, as part of the new Historic Places Initiative launched in June 2001. To deliver on these initiatives, a Historic Places Program Branch was established within Parks Canada in the fall of 2001.
During 1999-2001, 59 sites, people and events were designated to have special historic or cultural significance to Canadians. Nineteen of these designations relate directly to the three strategic priorities identified by the Minister in 2000.
Over the next ten years, Parks Canada is committed to evaluating the commemorative integrity of the national historic sites it administers. Through this work, we will acquire a comprehensive understanding of the full site system, including the condition of site resources, the effective communication of messages at sites, and site management practices. Ensuring the commemorative integrity of our national historic sites is critical to their long-term viability. Unlike ecosystems, national historic sites cannot regenerate and serious challenges exist at many sites today.
The establishment of National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada will be a priority for Parks Canada in coming years. With the proclamation of the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act in 2001, we are well-positioned to implement the Sea to Sea to Sea system plan published in 1995. Progress is being made toward the creation of conservation areas in Lake Superior, the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, and the southern Gulf Islands also of British Columbia. As is the case with national parks, however, extensive consultations with all stakeholders will be required to establish new marine conservation areas. The process can be protracted and sometimes challenging. Communications will be another key priority. With the publication of Engaging Canadians, Parks Canada’s strategy for external communications, we gained in September 2001, a new and powerful tool to inform, influence and educate Canadians about Canada’s protected heritage areas.
Since 1999, management plans for six rivers – the Rideau, Thames, St. Marys, Detroit and Humber in Ontario, and the Main in Newfoundland and Labrador – have been completed, making possible their designation as Canadian Heritage Rivers. There are currently 38 rivers in the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.
Parks Canada is also responsible for the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, the administration of the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act, and the National Program for the Grave Sites of Canadian Prime Ministers. These programs enhance our ability to protect and preserve Canada’s rich cultural and historical heritage for the benefit, enjoyment and education of Canadians.
The period covered by this report saw important progress made in understanding and managing the challenges and threats facing Canada’s protected heritage areas. We have not done these things alone. Our success in protecting and presenting Canada’s national cultural and natural treasures depends critically on the support and cooperation of a network of partners and stakeholders including other levels of government, Aboriginal people and ethno cultural communities, local and regional businesses and community interests, the tourism industry, the educational community and mass media producers. We look forward to continued cooperation and support in moving toward our common goal of protecting and presenting these treasures for future generations.
Chief Executive Officer
Parks Canada Agency
*Although this report is focused on key activities and results in 2000 and 2001, some exceptions have been made so that key accomplishments related to the National Marine Conservation Areas program, could be highlighted in this report.