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World Heritage: Canada




Name of country: CANADA

List drawn up by:
Parks Canada Agency
30 Victoria Street
Gatineau (Quebec) J8X 0B3

Date: March 2004




NUNAVUT 82 ° N – 70 ° W


Encompassing the northernmost lands in Canada, only 720 km from the North Pole, Quttinirpaaq National Park of Canada (37 775 km2) covers the northern portion of Ellesmere Island. The park consists of sedimentary mountains, ice caps, glaciers, ice shelves and fiords. The park borders on the Arctic Ocean and rises to Mount Barbeau (a nunatak), at 2 616 m the highest mountain in eastern North America. Much of the park, including the Hazen Plateau, is a polar desert receiving less than 2.5 cm of annual precipitation. Some areas of highly productive sedge grasslands occur, which support a range of Arctic wildlife including muskox, arctic hare, wolves and the endangered Peary caribou. Lake Hazen is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the circumpolar region, and has attracted great scientific interest as a thermal oasis in a polar desert. Unique physical features are the ancient deposits of 80 m-thick freshwater ice shelves that extend several kilometres out over the Arctic Ocean. The major valleys of the park are central to one of the routes by which early Aboriginal peoples moved from the Canadian Arctic to Greenland. The route contains three major axes of contact during the early Palaeo-Eskimo period (4500-3000 years ago). All pre-contact cultural groups known to have occupied High Arctic Canada, including Independence I (4500-3000 years ago) and Independence II (ca. 3000-2500 years ago), Late Dorset (ca. 1300-800 years ago) and Thule (ca. 900-300 years ago), are represented by archaeological sites in the park. The park has one of the highest concentrations of pre-contact sites surveyed in the High Arctic, including sites associated with the earliest documented human inhabitants of this remote region.


Criteria met:

(iii) Quttinirpaaq is an exceptional testimony to the earliest and successive human occupations of the Canadian Eastern High Arctic by the early Palaeo-Eskimo and subsequent cultural traditions;

(vii) It has exceptional natural scenic beauty and superlative natural phenomena with mountains, polar desert and a thermal oasis;

(viii) Geological processes connected with high latitude glaciation and ice shelves represent outstanding examples of major stages of the earth’s history;

(x) It contains a diversity of species, with a wide range of arctic species, including endangered Peary caribou.

Assurances of authenticity and/or integrity:

Quttinirpaaq National Park of Canada is managed by Parks Canada in cooperation with Nunavut representatives, in accordance with provisions set out in the Nunavut land claims settlement legilation. There’s approval of a park management plan.

Comparison with other similar properties:

No other World Heritage Site exists in the Arctic Desert and Icecap Biogeographical Province. Only Wrangel Island protected reserve (Ostrov Vrangelya) in Russia and Svalbard national parks in Norway are comparable in terms of size and features, but they do not contain high mountains, lakes or the glacial features found in Quttinirpaaq. The park is distinctive for the occurrence of the freshwater ice shelves and for the thermal oasis found at Lake Hazen. Although Peary caribou are found in the High Western Arctic, Quttinirpaaq acts as a stronghold of the species. The Ilulissat ice fiord in Greenland has similar glacial features, but does not have the variety of landscapes, vegetation or wildlife. Because of its extreme northerly location, there are few comparable properties in terms of cultural values. Greenland is the only other island in such a northerly location, but its interior is covered by an ice cap and therefore does not have evidence of interior human occupation.