Chief Executive Officer's Executive Summary

Alan Latourelle © Parks Canada

Dear Minister Kent,

Under the auspices of the Parks Canada Agency Act, I am pleased to submit the 2011 report on the State of Canada's Natural and Historic Places. It outlines Parks Canada's stewardship of many of Canada's greatest treasures: our 42 national parks, 167 national historic sites, and four national marine conservation areas - known collectively as our “heritage places.” A century after we were established as the world's first national parks service, we are proud of our legacy as steward of these protected places, but we are fully aware of the challenges we face in the future.

To date, the national parks protect areas representing 28 out of 39 natural terrestrial regions and five of 29 marine regions. The system of national historic sites, together with persons and events of national historic significance, showcase our country's vibrant cultural heritage. We continue to move forward to add to our network so that eventually Parks Canada will protect the full range of regions, and are developing a framework to monitor the health of marine ecosystems under our protection.

In the two years since the last report, Parks Canada has expanded the system of heritage places, and maintained the resources entrusted to our charge. We have taken significant steps to add to the area protected under existing national parks and to lay the groundwork for new parks, to be located in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

We have expanded Nahanni National Park Reserve to six times the size it was when the United Nations declared it as one of the world's first UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Canada also became the first nation in the world to protect an area from mountain top to deep seabed with the creation of the 3,500 square kilometre Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site adjacent to an existing national park.

Two existing parks received legal protection under the Canada National Parks Act. For Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, this will mean additional legal tools to protect a delicate ecosystem, and in Wapusk National Park, these legal tools will help protect one of the world's largest polar bear denning areas.

The concept of national marine conservation areas is relatively new. Over the last two years, we have increased the protected marine areas by 30 percent through the addition of the waters of Gwaii Haanas to adjoin the existing national park on land. The process for creating new areas is underway in Lancaster Sound, the Strait of Georgia, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

We have also moved forward on our mandate to commemorate the places, persons, and events that helped to shape Canada. During the period covered by this report, we added nine places, 17 persons and nine events to the national historic system. Plaques were unveiled for historic icons ranging from the Montréal Canadiens and the Alouette satellite programme to Terry Fox. We made progress in increasing the number of designations in Aboriginal history, women's history, and the history of ethnocultural communities.

While the first section of this report details our accomplishments in the past two years, the remainder outlines the state of heritage places. It focuses on seven areas:

  • Aboriginal relationships, including our partnership with Aboriginal communities;
  • Assets, including more than $11 billion in real property assets;
  • Cultural resources, including the challenge of protecting Canada's heritage buildings and structures against the elements;
  • Ecological integrity, including our efforts to protect and to reintroduce species at risk;
  • The health of national marine conservation areas, including protection and ecologically sustainable use;
  • Public appreciation and support, including our use of media, outreach and other methods to bring the spirit, wonder and awe of heritage places to Canadians; and
  • Visitor experience, including our efforts to maintain visitor satisfaction and enhance opportunities for Canadians to visit our extraordinary places.

The visitor experience section points to an overarching challenge of reaching out to a new generation not yet familiar with our heritage places. As demographics, social values, urbanization, technology, and uses of leisure time change in Canada, we must find new ways to make more Canadians aware of the wonderful natural and historic treasures available to them.

Many other external factors influence Parks Canada's heritage places and the level of visitation - everything from economic cycles to climate change. We will adapt to those circumstances, and continue to address the issues that we can influence.

In 2011, Parks Canada enters its second century as the Agency responsible for protecting and presenting Canada's natural and historic places. The vision started with Banff National Park continues to be honoured by Parks Canada on behalf of all Canadians. As it steps into its next century, Parks Canada will endeavour to adapt to the changing natural and social environments while holding true to the core values underlying the system of heritage places, and to be present and known by Canadians where they live, work and play. Through its passion and shared actions, Parks Canada will inspire Canadians to learn about, appreciate, experience, and support the rich system of heritage places inspired by and protected for all Canadians.

Original signed by

Alan Latourelle

Chief Executive Officer
Parks Canada Agency

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