1.0 The National Parks System

National parks protect representative examples of the Canadian landscape. To this end, Parks Canada has identified 39 terrestrial natural regions across Canada, each of which warrants representation in the national parks system. Efforts to create new parks are concentrated on those natural regions that do not have a national park.

National park establishment work is guided by the National Parks System Plan. The plan provides a description of each of the 39 National Park Natural Regions and the status of national park establishment in each. Parks Canada will periodically update the plan, including the listing of representative natural areas which are identified during regional analysis studies. In addition, Parks Canada will keep up to date an action plan to describe the activities which must be undertaken to complete the representation of each of the national park natural regions.

Parks Canada, acting alone, cannot protect all the areas identified as representative of Canada's natural regions. But by making public the system plan and action plan, Parks Canada hopes to encourage other public agencies and appropriate private organizations to work towards protecting areas that will not be included within the national park system.

Public support and the cooperation of other levels of government are essential in establishing new national parks or adjusting the boundaries of existing national parks. The park establishment process is therefore based upon public consultation and intergovernmental cooperation.

There is no rigid process for establishing new national parks. Each situation is unique and the steps leading up to the creation of a new national park reflect individual circumstances. The normal sequence, however, is characterized by five steps: identifying representative natural areas; selecting a potential national park; assessing park feasibility; negotiating a park agreement and obtaining clear title; and establishing a new national park in legislation. The following policies related to park establishment are grouped under these headings.

1.1 Identifying Representative Natural Areas

Representative natural areas will be identified for those national park natural regions not represented in the national parks system. The following criteria will be used:

i) the area must portray the geology, physiography, vegetation, wildlife, and ecosystem diversity characteristic of the natural region; and,
ii) the area's ecosystems must be in a healthy, natural state, or, if they are stressed or significantly modified, the area must have the potential for being restored to a natural state.

Representative natural areas will be identified in consultation with provincial and territorial governments, with other federal agencies and with the interested public.

Representative natural areas will be identified regardless of their current protected status or jurisdiction.

1.2 Selecting Potential National Parks

Potential national parks will be selected from among the representative natural areas identified in those natural regions that do not already have adequate representation in the national parks system.

In selecting potential national parks, consideration will be given to a wide range of factors, including:

i) the extent to which the area represents the ecosystem diversity of the natural region;
ii) the potential for supporting viable populations of wildlife species native to the natural region;
iii) the ecological integrity of the area's ecosystems, as well as those of the surrounding lands;
iv) the occurrence of exceptional natural phenomena, and rare, threatened or endangered wildlife and vegetation;
v) the existence of significant cultural heritage features or landscapes;
vi) opportunities for public understanding, education and enjoyment;
vii) competing land and resource uses;
viii) possible threats to the long-term sustainability of the area's ecosystems;
ix) complementarity with the objectives of existing or planned protected natural areas of other jurisdictions in the region;
x) the potential for establishing an adjacent national marine conservation area that is representative of its marine region;
xi) the implications of Aboriginal rights, comprehensive land claims and treaties with Aboriginal peoples; and
xii) international criteria for national parks.

Potential national parks will be selected in consultation with provincial or territorial governments, other federal agencies, non-government organizations, affected Aboriginal peoples and the interested public.

1.3 Assessing National Park Feasibility

Parks Canada, in conjunction with provincial or territorial governments, will undertake an assessment of the feasibility of a new park proposal; where there are opportunities, this will be undertaken as part of other processes such as regional land use planning, provincial protected area strategies or Aboriginal comprehensive land claim negotiations.

As part of the feasibility assessment, there will be consultations to seek the views of local communities, Aboriginal peoples, non-government organizations, relevant industries, other government departments and the interested public. Parks Canada will provide information regarding the purpose and the environmental, social and economic implications of the national park proposal.

In proposing the boundaries of a potential national park, Parks Canada will endeavour to establish a park with a size and configuration that:

i) protects ecosystems and landscape features representative of the natural region;
ii )accommodates the habitat requirements of viable populations of wildlife species that are native to the natural region;
iii) includes an undisturbed core which is relatively unaffected by impacts originating from the surrounding landscape;
iv) does not fragment sensitive, highly diverse or productive natural communities;
v )maintains drainage basin integrity;
vi) protects exceptional natural phenomena, and vulnerable, threatened or endangered wildlife and vegetation;
vii) offers opportunities for public understanding and enjoyment;
viii) results in minimum long-term disruption of the social and economic life particularly in the surrounding region; and
ix) does not encompass permanent communities.
In addition, consideration may be given to including significant cultural heritage features or landscapes within a proposed national park.

It is the policy of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to ensure that an inventory of the non-renewable natural resource potential of areas in the Northwest Territories and Yukon be compiled prior to their formal establishment as new national parks. The fundamental qualities of the area which recommend it for national park status will be taken into account in any land use activities associated with compiling the inventory. Parks Canada will cooperate with other federal agencies responsible for carrying out such inventories.

Parks Canada will consider, in cooperation with agencies having jurisdiction over land and resource uses, ways to prevent the loss of ecological values during the feasibility assessment process.

Following completion of a park feasibility assessment, governments will decide whether to proceed to negotiate a park agreement.

Boundary adjustments intended to improve the representation of the natural themes or the ecological integrity of an existing national park will be assessed according to the above policies.

1.4 National Park Agreements

New national park agreements will be negotiated between the Government of Canada and the government and/or Aboriginal peoples having constitutional authority regarding the lands; the agreement will commit the parties to establishing a national park under the National Parks Act and will set out the terms and conditions under which this will take place.

Areas which include Provincial Crown Lands will be established as national parks according to an agreement between the Government of Canada and the provincial government setting out terms and conditions for the acquisition of all third party interests and the transfer of administration and control of Provincial Crown Lands to the Crown in Right of Canada.

National parks in the territories will be established pursuant to agreements with the territorial government and with relevant Aboriginal organizations.

The Crown in Right of Canada will own the land and subsurface rights within the legislated boundaries of national parks.

Commercial exploration, extraction or development of natural resources will be terminated before national parks are formally established. Certain traditional subsistence uses of natural resources may be permitted to continue in designated parts of a national park as outlined in sections 1.4.10, 1.4.11, 1.4.12 and 1.5.2.

Private lands and interests will be acquired by negotiated settlement. Term interests may be allowed to expire. In exceptional cases, where lands are essential for park purposes, a settlement may require using expropriation to establish clear title to some properties.

Parks Canada will contribute toward the cost of special provisions agreed at the time of park establishment to reduce negative impacts on occupants or other users of lands acquired for a national park.

A variety of means will be used to foster opportunities for local residents to find employment and business opportunities related to the operation of national parks.

Cooperative arrangements for complementary use and management of lands adjacent to national parks will be pursued with government and non-government agencies at the local, provincial, territorial and federal levels in order to maintain ecosystem integrity and to foster sustainable development.

Existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada will be honoured. These may be defined in treaties and comprehensive claim agreements.

In areas subject to existing Aboriginal or treaty rights or to comprehensive land claims by Aboriginal peoples, the terms and conditions of park establishment will include provision for continuation of renewable resource harvesting activities, and the nature and extent of Aboriginal peoples' involvement in park planning and management.

In addition to Aboriginal or treaty rights, when new national parks are proposed within areas where local people have traditionally depended on the land for subsistence and no immediate alternative can be found, an agreement may be negotiated regarding the continuation of specified subsistence resource harvesting activities for a finite period of time, subject to regulation.

Parks Canada will negotiate interim measures as part of the park agreement in order to facilitate effective protection and management of the area until the national park is formally established under federal legislation. In the territorial north, one such measure may be withdrawal from further disposition of the lands for a proposed new national park under the Territorial Lands Act.

1.5 Establishing National Parks in Legislation

National parks will be formally established through amendment to the National Parks Act. The proposed legislation will give effect to the terms of a new park agreement.

Where new national parks are established in conjunction with the settlement of land claims of Aboriginal peoples, final boundaries of the national park as well as harvesting rights and involvement of Aboriginal peoples in park planning and management will be proposed in legislation according to the terms of the land claim agreement. In the interim, the area may be set aside as a "national park reserve" under the Act and traditional hunting, fishing and trapping activities by Aboriginal peoples will continue. Other interim measures may also include local Aboriginal peoples' involvement in park reserve management.