Canada's rivers are keys to the understanding of our country's natural and human history. Virtually all of the nation's freshwater eventually flows through rivers into five different salt water bodies: the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans, Hudson Bay, and into the Gulf of Mexico. Modern industrial development has irreversibly changed many rivers through the construction of dams for hydro-electricity and irrigation, and through the disposal of waste into them. There is relentless pressure on Canada's important rivers from industry, agriculture and urbanization.

To help identify, conserve and encourage public use of important rivers, the Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS) was set up as a cooperative program by the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The System is overseen by a Board comprised of representatives appointed by each participating government. Parks Canada and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development represent the federal government on this Board.

This policy outlines how Parks Canada will implement its responsibilities for the coordination of the CHRS as well as its own participation in nominating, designating and managing rivers under the Minister's authority.

All agencies participating in the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, including Parks Canada, adhere to the agreed objectives and policies which are described in the document, The Canadian Heritage Rivers System: Objectives, Principles and Procedures. The System's objectives are to give national recognition to the important rivers of Canada and to ensure their future management in such a way that the natural and human heritage which they represent is conserved and interpreted, and the opportunities they possess for recreation and heritage appreciation are realized by residents of and visitors to Canada.