Table of contents

Raison d’être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do

Raison d’être

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is responsible for the Parks Canada Agency. Parks Canada protects and presents nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, and fosters public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity of these places for present and future generations. Canada’s national urban park, national parks, national historic sites, heritage canals and national marine conservation areas, of which Parks Canada is the proud steward, offer Canadians opportunities to visit, experience and personally connect with Canada’s rich natural and cultural heritage in ways that are meaningful to them. In carrying out its responsibilities, Parks Canada works in collaboration with the public, other federal departments, provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples and stakeholders.

Mandate and role

On behalf of the people of Canada, we protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity of these places for present and future generations.

For more information on the Agency’s organizational mandate letter commitments, see the Minister’s mandate letter.

Operating context

An overview of Parks Canada’s network

  • 47 national parks
  • 5 national marine conservation areas
  • 1 national urban park
  • 171 national historic sites
  • 7 townsite communities in national parks

Parks Canada has operations across Canada. With responsibility for the management and administration of 47 national parks, Rouge National Urban Park, five national marine conservation areas and 171 national historic sites, including nine historic canals, Parks Canada employees and resources are active in hundreds of communities and remote locations from coast to coast to coast.

National parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas represent the very best of Canada, including the history, culture and living legacy of Indigenous peoples. The Government of Canada is committed to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous peoples through a renewed, nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown and government-to-government relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. Parks Canada demonstrates leadership both nationally and internationally in its relations with Indigenous partners, working with hundreds of Indigenous communities across the country in the management of Parks Canada’s heritage places. There are currently over 30 formal collaborative arrangements between Parks Canada and Indigenous partners. Of those places, 19 have cooperative management structures where Indigenous peoples influence decision-making. The Agency is committed to reconciliation and will continue to engage and consult with Indigenous partners to ensure a greater number of places have arrangements where Indigenous partners have a decision-making role in the management of heritage places.

A Nature Legacy for Canada

In Budget 2018, the Government of Canada made an historic investment of $1.3 billion in nature conservation, known as A Nature Legacy for Canada.

Through this significant investment Parks Canada received $221 million over 5 years to support the implementation of Nature Legacy. Allocated funds are being used to accelerate the modernization of Parks Canada’s approach to conservation.

Environmental forces

Parks Canada’s heritage places may be vulnerable to environmental forces including changes to:

  • climate (e.g., increasing temperatures, changing precipitations, extreme weather events)
  • physical environment (e.g., air quality, water quality, ocean acidification, sea level rise, glacier retreat, habitat loss and fragmentation)
  • biodiversity (e.g., ecosystem processes, increased number of species at risk, hyper abundant species and invasive species)

The support and collaboration of Indigenous governments, organizations and communities, as well as provincial and territorial governments, are essential to Parks Canada’s ability to establish or expand national parks and national marine conservation areas. The requirement to balance protection and ecologically sustainable use of national marine conservation areas involves a much broader stakeholder perspective to consider. Bringing all of these elements together and moving forward in a harmonious and positive way requires time and respectful discourse.

Climate change and other environmental forces challenge the integrity of ecosystems and the condition of Parks Canada’s cultural resources and contemporary infrastructure. Shoreline erosion at national historic sites, the arrival of invasive species at national parks, impacts on biodiversity and the shrinking populations of species unable to adapt to variations in the ecosystems are a few examples of the effects of climate change. The increasing severity and frequency of disturbances such as storms, floods and avalanches also impact Parks Canada infrastructure, such as highways and bridges.

Parks Canada must protect its natural and cultural heritage places while encouraging visitation to ensure that these special places remain relevant in the hearts and minds of Canadians. As a world leader in conservation and in preserving the ecological integrity and cultural resources of its places for future generations, Parks Canada works to better manage visitation at locations that experience higher visitation rates, while continuing to ensure high quality visitor experiences. To lessen impact, Parks Canada encourages visitors to seek out lesser-known parks and historic sites, enjoy little known hidden gems and explore shoulder season experiences in spring and fall.

Tourism is an important economic generator for Canada. Parks Canada is the guardian of some of Canada’s most iconic natural and cultural treasures and contributes to the country’s world-class tourism offer. With Indigenous partners, the Agency offers authentic Indigenous tourism experiences which enable visitors to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the cultural connection Indigenous peoples have to these places.

Using technology to improve visitor services

Parks Canada uses technology in a variety of ways to improve visitor services:

  • reaching Canadians where they live and work through digital channels (web, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter);
  • ensuring digital services for trip planning, purchasing admission and reserving accommodation; and,
  • influencing visitation patterns: sharing visitor safety information and trail maps, promoting Canada’s heritage and conservation at the right time and with the right message.

Since 2012, visitation to Parks Canada places has rebounded following a decade of decline. Leading up to and during this period of growth, the Agency made a significant investment to attract larger and more diverse audiences. With free admission offered during the Canada 150 celebrations, visitation reached a record high in 2017–18 with 27.2 million visitors. As a result visitation continues to increase compared to its baseline level of 24.7 million visitors in 2016–17 having reached 25.1 million visitors in 2018–19. Since 2017, marketing and outreach initiatives have been leveraged through a variety of communication channels, including a hidden gems campaign, to influence visitation patterns, to promote less-frequented destinations and to help better distribute visitation across the Parks Canada network.

There are seven townsite communities in national parks, all located in western Canada. These townsites represent unique opportunities to demonstrate the overriding values of ecological integrity, environmental citizenship and sustainable development. They provide visitors with opportunities to learn and develop personal connections to natural and cultural heritage from the comfort of a community, and provide a launching pad for deeper ventures into national parks. They support ecological integrity by consolidating use and development to relatively small areas. National park townsite communities manage development in accordance with community plans and legislation; respecting their cultural and historical aspects and the ecological integrity of the surrounding park. In Banff and Jasper, commercial development limits are also used to manage growth along with eligible residency and fixed boundaries.

Canada’s population is evolving. It is expected to become more culturally diverse over the next two decades as Canada continues to rely increasingly on immigration to support population growth and to offset natural declines.

Demographic shifts

Demographic shifts have generated new audiences that require placing greater emphasis on:

  • reaching Canadians where they live and work;
  • integrating diverse cultures and histories into historical content; and,
  • ensuring the Parks Canada service offer is inclusive and accessible for all Canadians.

With demographic changes and the rise of digital communications, the ways in which we tell stories and absorb information are being transformed. In the coming years, Parks Canada’s service offer will continue to be influenced by an increasingly diverse population with varying needs and interests. As well, new national accessibility legislation, which aims to promote equality and participation for people of varying abilities, will also influence Parks Canada’s programs and services.

As the federal lead for cultural heritage places conservation, Parks Canada administers federal heritage designation and built heritage conservation programs on behalf of the Government of Canada. Federal custodian departments, Crown corporations, provinces and territories, Indigenous peoples, and the broader heritage community play a major role in preserving Canada’s heritage places. The protection of cultural heritage places by the federal government is a complex endeavour that requires a coherent and robust system for the identification and conservation of Canada’s nationally significant heritage places.

Both the November 2018 Auditor General’s report and the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development’s December 2017 report highlighted the need to better protect federal heritage properties and to strengthen heritage conservation and protection across Canada. The recommendations include the integration of Indigenous perspectives, better policy and legislative measures, and financial incentives. Parks Canada is working towards addressing the findings from these reports.

Tracking the portfolio of built assets

  • Parks Canada continues to make progress on improving its infrastructure. In 2019, its annual Asset Report Card indicated that by current replacement value 61% of the Agency’s built assets are in good to fair condition, compared to 60% the previous year.
  • Annual variations in the total built asset inventory are influenced by factors such as the establishment of new parks and sites (e.g., Rouge National Urban Park resulted in the addition of 375 assets)

Parks Canada manages a complex portfolio of assets valued at approximately $25.8 billion. Highways maintained by Parks Canada serve as critical socio-economic corridors enabling the flow of people and commercial goods. Along with heritage canals, highways additionally serve as vital links connecting Canadian communities. Ensuring the long-term sustainability of Parks Canada’s asset portfolio is essential to the delivery of the Agency’s mandate and to ensure that Parks Canada can meet its custodial responsibilities on behalf of the Government of Canada. Further to this, the November 2018 report by the Auditor General cited the need for Parks Canada to do more to conserve the physical condition and heritage value of federal heritage properties. The lack of sufficient ongoing funding to maintain its built heritage assets puts the Agency at risk of not being able to deliver its mandate and of losing significant and irreplaceable examples of Canada’s cultural and built heritage.

Parks Canada’s commitment to address government priorities for ensuring the accessibility and inclusiveness of its places for visitors, and for supporting the resiliency of its asset portfolio against the effects of climate change, places additional strain on existing resources and the Agency’s capacity to deliver and evolve Parks Canada’s programs and services. Efforts to make a long-term business case for on-going funding remain a central priority for the Agency.


Supplementary information tables

Transfer Payment Programs with total planned spending of less than $5 million

3-year plan for Grants for the Implementation of Rights and Reconciliation Agreements in Atlantic Canada
Start date 2019-20
End date Ongoing
Type of transfer payment Grant
Type of appropriation Appropriated annually through estimates
Fiscal year for terms and conditions 2019-20
Link to departmental results
  • Canada’s natural heritage is protected for present and future generations
  • Canada’s cultural heritage is protected for present and future generations
  • People connect to and experience Canada’s natural and cultural heritage in ways that are meaningful to them
Link to department’s Program Inventory Program: Heritage Places Conservation
Purpose and objectives of transfer payment program The objectives of these grants are 1) to support the Rights and Reconciliation Agreements signed by Parks Canada and the Indigenous Nations included in the Historic Peace and Friendship Treaties in Atlantic Canada (the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Peskotomuhkati Nations), 2) build capacity in Indigenous communities to participate with Parks Canada as co-managers of National Parks and National Historic Sites, 3) foster re-connection with the lands through traditional stewardship practices and 4) protect Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Peskotomuhkati culture and heritage.
Expected results The grants are expected to increase the participation of Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Peskotomuhkati Nations members as co-managers of Parks Canada protected heritage places in Atlantic Canada. The grants will build collaborative management capacity, infrastructure, governance, processes and relationships in place with Indigenous groups.
Fiscal year of last completed evaluation Not applicable
Decision following the results of last evaluation Not applicable
Fiscal year of next planned evaluation Not applicable
General targeted recipient groups Aboriginal recipients
Initiatives to engage applicants and recipients Not applicable
Type of transfer payment 2019–20
planned spending
2020–21
planned spending
2021–22
planned spending
2022–23
planned spending
Total grants 442,250 4,094,700 4,090,400 3,941,900
Total contributions 0 0 0 0
Total other types of transfer payments 0 0 0 0
Total program 442,250 4,094,700 4,090,400 3,941,900

3-year plan for the Grant to the International Peace Garden
Start date 1996-97
End date Ongoing
Type of transfer payment Grant
Type of appropriation Appropriated annually through estimates
Fiscal year for terms and conditions 2011-12
Link to departmental results Canada’s cultural heritage is protected for present and future generations
Link to department’s Program Inventory Program: Heritage Places Conservation
Purpose and objectives of transfer payment program The purpose of this grant is to support the International Peace Garden, a memorial to the peace that has existed between the United States and Canada, located in Manitoba and North Dakota. The objective of the grant is to help defray the costs of operating the International Peace Garden.
Expected results Canada’s continued symbolic support for the Garden is demonstrated
Fiscal year of last completed evaluation 2016-17
Decision following the results of last evaluation Continuation
Fiscal year of next planned evaluation Not applicable
General targeted recipient groups Not-for-profit organizations and charities
Initiatives to engage applicants and recipients Not applicable
Type of transfer payment 2019–20
planned spending
2020–21
planned spending
2021–22
planned spending
2022–23
planned spending
Total grants 22,700 22,700 22,700 22,700
Total contributions 0 0 0 0
Total other types of transfer payments 0 0 0 0
Total program 22,700 22,700 22,700 22,700

3-year plan for the Inuit Research Fund
Start date 2020-21
End date 2025-26
Type of transfer payment Grant
Type of appropriation Appropriated annually through estimates
Fiscal year for terms and conditions 2019-20
Link to departmental results
  • Canada’s natural heritage is protected for present and future generations
  • People connect to and experience Canada’s natural and cultural heritage in ways that are meaningful to them
Link to department’s Program Inventory Program: Heritage Places Establishment
Purpose and objectives of transfer payment program The purpose of this grant is to fulfill a commitment made in the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement (IIBA) regarding benefits and economic opportunities stemming from the establishment, development and operation of the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area. The objective is to provide for Inuit led research and monitoring in Tallurutiup Imanga, and to support the development of an Inuit Research and Monitoring Plan
Expected results The Inuit Research Fund will develop research capacity for Inuit to ensure that they will be able to identify and conduct research according to their own priorities. Inuit research and priorities will then be valued equally as Western science in research and monitoring for Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area.
Fiscal year of last completed evaluation Not applicable
Decision following the results of last evaluation Not applicable
Fiscal year of next planned evaluation Not applicable
General targeted recipient groups Aboriginal recipients
Initiatives to engage applicants and recipients Not applicable
Type of transfer payment 2019–20
planned spending
2020–21
planned spending
2021–22
planned spending
2022–23
planned spending
Total grants 0 1,000,000 1,000,000 0
Total contributions 0 0 0 0
Total other types of transfer payments 0 0 0 0
Total program 0 1,000,000 1,000,000 0

3-year plan for the National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places
Start date 2008-09
End date Ongoing
Type of transfer payment Contribution
Type of appropriation Appropriated annually through estimates
Fiscal year for terms and conditions 2016-17
Link to departmental results Canada’s cultural heritage is protected for present and future generations
Link to department’s Program Inventory Program: Heritage Places Conservation
Purpose and objectives of transfer payment program The Program assists recipients in conducting activities aimed at ensuring the heritage value of non-federally owned or administered heritage places that have been formally recognized by the Government of Canada. It provides financial contributions to eligible recipients to share the costs of work necessary to ensure the physical health of a heritage place and to ensure Canadians understand the importance of the site and its role in the history of Canada.
Expected results Cultural resources of national significance at heritage places recognized by the Government of Canada are maintained or improved.
Fiscal year of last completed evaluation 2012-13
Decision following the results of last evaluation Continuation
Fiscal year of next planned evaluation Not applicable
General targeted recipient groups Not-for-profit organizations and charities, Aboriginal recipients, government
Initiatives to engage applicants and recipients
  • Promotion and outreach through internal national networks across the Agency to inform potential applicants and recipients;
  • Communication with the Federal Provincial-Territorial Collaboration on Historic Places in Canada and targeted heritage organizations/stakeholders to promote the program;
  • Information shared via different social media channels and web presence on the Parks Canada website (www.pc.gc.ca) and www.historicplaces.ca;
  • Direct correspondence to inform newly eligible site owners; and
  • Presence at key stakeholder conferences.
Type of transfer payment 2019–20
planned spending
2020–21
planned spending
2021–22
planned spending
2022–23
planned spending
Total grants 0 0 0 0
Total contributions 1,000,000 1,000,000 1,000,000 1,000,000
Total other types of transfer payments 0 0 0 0
Total program 1,000,000 1,000,000 1,000,000 1,000,000

3-year plan for the Tallurutiup Imanga Inuit Stewardship Program Seed Fund
Start date 2019-20
End date 2025-26
Type of transfer payment Grant
Type of appropriation Appropriated annually through estimates
Fiscal year for terms and conditions 2019-20
Link to departmental results
  • Canada’s natural heritage is protected for present and future generations
  • People connect to and experience Canada’s natural and cultural heritage in ways that are meaningful to them
Link to department’s Program Inventory Program: Heritage Places Establishment
Purpose and objectives of transfer payment program The purpose of this grant is to fulfill a commitment made in the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement (IIBA) regarding benefits and economic opportunities stemming from the establishment, development and operation of the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area (TINMCA). The objective is to cover the start-up cost of an Inuit Stewardship program in the five communities associated with TINMCA. The program will support stewardship activities of Inuit within Tallurutiup Imanga that will make valuable contributions to the promotion of Inuit culture, well-being, the transmission of knowledge to youth, and the delivery of Inuit cultural, social, economic, health and conservation benefits.
Expected results The Stewardship Program will support Inuit involvement in conservation economy and collaborative management of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage.
Fiscal year of last completed evaluation Not applicable
Decision following the results of last evaluation Not applicable
Fiscal year of next planned evaluation Not applicable
General targeted recipient groups Aboriginal recipients
Initiatives to engage applicants and recipients Not applicable
Type of transfer payment 2019–20
planned spending
2020–21
planned spending
2021–22
planned spending
2022–23
planned spending
Total grants 2,927,088 2,400,000 3,100,000 3,600,000
Total contributions 0 0 0
Total other types of transfer payments 0 0 0 0
Total program 2,927,088 2,400,000 3,100,000 3,600,000

Transfer Payment Programs with total planned spending of $5 million or more

3-year plan for the General Class Contribution Program (GCCP)
Start date 1995-96
End date Ongoing
Type of transfer payment Contribution
Type of appropriation Appropriated annually through estimates
Fiscal year for terms and conditions 2017–18
Link to departmental results
  • Canada’s natural heritage is protected for present and future generations
  • Canada’s cultural heritage is protected for present and future generations
  • People connect to and experience Canada’s natural and cultural heritage in ways that are meaningful to them
Link to department’s Program Inventory
  • Program: Heritage Places Establishment
  • Program: Heritage Places Conservation
  • Program: Heritage Places Promotion and Public Support
  • Program: Visitor Experience
  • Program: Heritage Canals, Highways and Townsite Management
Purpose and objectives of transfer payment program The objective of the program is to assist recipients in conducting activities and delivering projects that will support the Agency in fulfilling its mandate to preserve and protect nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage and present and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity of these places for present and future generations.
Expected results
  • Canadians recognize, appreciate and are engaged in the values of natural and cultural conservation.
  • Stakeholders are engaged in terms of interest and involvement of common objectives towards ecological or cultural integrity.
  • Parks Canada managers and stakeholders have access to a better knowledge base for informed decision-making and dialogue on commercial, ecological or aboriginal issues of mutual interest.
Fiscal year of last completed evaluation 2016-17
Decision following the results of last evaluation Continuation
Fiscal year of next planned evaluation 2021-22
General targeted recipient groups Not-for-profit organizations and charities, academia and public institutions, Aboriginal recipients, government, international (non-government)
Initiatives to engage applicants and recipients Not applicable
Type of transfer payment 2019–20
planned spending
2020–21
planned spending
2021–22
planned spending
2022–23
planned spending
Total grants 0 0 0 0
Total contributions 14,110,583 15,835,443 21,497,421 18,571,829
Total other types of transfer payments 0 0 0 0
Total program 14,110,583 15,835,443 21,497,421 18,571,829

3-year plan for Support to The Great Trail
Start date 2018-19
End date 2021-22
Type of transfer payment Contribution
Type of appropriation Appropriated annually through estimates
Fiscal year for terms and conditions 2018-19
Link to departmental results People connect to and experience Canada’s natural and cultural heritage in ways that are meaningful to them
Link to department’s Program Inventory Program: Visitor Experience
Purpose and objectives of transfer payment program The contribution is to enhance, maintain and improve the Great Trail, a national network of multi-use recreational trails that links 15,000 communities and spans 24,400 kilometres. The emphasis is on optimizing user experience and accessibility, and ensuring long-term sustainability.
Expected results
  • The Great Trail is safe and accessible for trail users;
  • The Great Trail is enhanced through linkages with Indigenous communities and other trail networks;
  • Canadians are aware of The Great Trail and are inspired to discover their natural heritage.
Fiscal year of last completed evaluation Not applicable, new program
Decision following the results of last evaluation Not applicable
Fiscal year of next planned evaluation 2022-23
General targeted recipient groups Not-for-profit organizations and charities
Initiatives to engage applicants and recipients Not applicable
Type of transfer payment 2019–20
planned spending
2020–21
planned spending
2021–22
planned spending
2022–23
planned spending
Total grants 0 0 0 0
Total contributions 7,500,000 7,500,000 7,500,000 0
Total other types of transfer payments 0 0 0 0
Total program 7,500,000 7,500,000 7,500,000 0

Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+)

Governance structures

In 2020-21, Parks Canada Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) Action Plan 2019-21 will be formally approved by the Agency’s Executive Management Committee.

This plan outlines the structure for GBA+ within the Agency, including:

  • enhanced institutional capacity and governance to implement GBA+;
  • improved ability of team members to integrate GBA+; and
  • stronger monitoring, reporting and impact of GBA+.
Human resources

In 2020-21, Parks Canada will have at least one full-time equivalent (FTE) dedicated to GBA+, supported by a GBA+ working group with representatives from six Agency directorates.

Planned initiatives

In 2020-21, Parks Canada will continue to implement its GBA+ Action Plan and will undertake an evaluation of its Learn-to-Camp program with a GBA+ lens. The evaluation will be informed by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Integrating Gender-Based Analysis Plus into Evaluation: A Primer.

The Learn-to Camp program offers first-time campers (new Canadians, urban Canadians and lower and middle income families) a Canadian camping experience, builds awareness of the health and wellness benefits of time outdoors and introduces them to a lifetime of outdoor activities. Since 2011, the Learn-to Camp program has introduced over 100 000 young Canadians to the skills needed to enjoy the great outdoors and helped them learn about Canada’s cultural and natural heritage.

In addition, actions to increase awareness of GBA+ tools and broader knowledge of GBA+ among team members, as well as greater collaboration on GBA+ between Parks Canada and other departments and organizations, will continue.

Reporting capacity and data

Two key outcomes of the Parks Canada GBA+ Action Plan 2019-2021 are:

  • better access to supporting data and research for GBA+ among team members at Parks Canada;
  • stronger monitoring, reporting and impact of GBA+ at Parks Canada.