Part B: The state of Canada's natural and historic places (administered by Parks Canada)

Cultural Resources


As steward of Canada's treasured natural and historic places, Parks Canada is responsible to protect and conserve cultural resources so that they can be appreciated by current and future generations. The 167 national historic sites administered by Parks Canada represent a significant inventory of the nation's historic buildings and structures, archaeological sites, objects, and landscape features. Parks Canada further categorizes cultural resources in terms of whether they have national historic significance (Level I) or other heritage values (Level II). In this way, the heritage values ascribed to a cultural resource guide conservation efforts and investments.

In managing cultural resources at historic sites, Parks Canada aims to facilitate an experience that strengthens and deepens the connection Canadians have to the essence of Canada. Evaluating the state of cultural resources is a critical step in ensuring this goal is realized for each site. Parks Canada works to both improve the condition of cultural resources rated in poor condition, and to monitor situations where natural processes have accelerated the decline of a cultural resource. At this time, the condition of cultural resources at 133 of 167 national historic sites administered by Parks Canada has been evaluated and is reported here and in more detail in Annex 1.

State of Cultural Resources

The majority of Parks Canada's cultural resources are in good or fair condition (Figure 8). This also holds true within each of the four major resource categories noted above, i.e. buildings and structures, archaeological sites, objects and landscape features.

Figure 8: Cultural Resource Condition at National Historic Sites
Figure 8: Cultural Resource Condition at National Historic Sites

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Over 90% of Parks Canada's archaeological sites, objects and landscape features are in good or fair condition with more than half considered to be in good condition. Buildings and structures pose a greater conservation challenge due to their size and complexity, and exposure to the Canadian climate and occasional events such as windstorms, fire, and ice storms. Nonetheless, approximately 86% of Parks Canada's heritage buildings and structures are in good (39%) or fair (47%) condition. The relatively high number of buildings and structures in fair condition indicates an ongoing need to monitor these to ensure their condition remains stable or improves.

As seen in Figure 9, a relatively high proportion (57%) of Level I buildings and structures are in fair condition, as opposed to 35% of Level II buildings and structures.

Figure 9: Condition of Buildings and Structures
Figure 9: Condition of Buildings and Structures

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The overall condition of cultural resources is also evaluated at each national historic site, as seen in Annex 1. The cultural resources of 53 sites (40%) are considered to be in good condition, 72 sites (54%) in fair condition and eight sites (6%) in poor condition.

At 24 of these sites, Parks Canada has updated the initial condition rating of cultural resources through a reassessment (noted in Annex 1, indicated by arrows). For the majority, there was a net improvement. Improvements in the condition of cultural resources have been documented at 14 of the 24 sites and no significant change in overall condition was seen at seven. The remaining three showed a decline, signalling the need for further conservation work.


To date, Parks Canada has focussed its conservation efforts on those cultural resources rated in poor condition and has been successful in improving the condition of these resources in the majority of instances. Examples include the situation at Fort McNab National Historic Site (Nova Scotia) where Canada's Economic Action Plan funding permitted an extensive stabilization project to be conducted between February 2010 and March 2011. This project involved roof repair, significant concrete repair and painting on all major structures.

At Queenston Heights National Historic Site (Ontario), site of an important War of 1812 battle, Parks Canada completed major renovations to Brock's Monument leading to the site's cultural resources being rated in good condition in 2010-11 from the earlier poor rating in 2005-06.

In summary, Parks Canada continues to improve the condition of cultural resources at national historic sites, particularly in situations where they had previously been rated in poor condition. By making significant conservation investments, some accelerated by additional federal funding under Canada's Economic Action Plan, places like Dredge No. 4 National Historic Site (Yukon) and Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site (Quebec) have benefitted from important conservation work. The impact of this work on overall site condition will be re-evaluated in the future. At others, such as Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site (British Columbia) and Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site (Nova Scotia), Parks Canada has already evaluated the results of its conservation initiatives showing an improvement in the overall state of the national historic site.

Key Issues


At national historic sites located at or near shorelines, notably York Factory National Historic Site (Manitoba), Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site (Nova Scotia), and Navy Island National Historic Site (Ontario), erosion continues to threaten cultural resources. This has worsened over time due to climate-related effects such as melting permafrost and stronger than usual storm surges.

Built Heritage Condition

Some of Parks Canada's heritage buildings and structures are at an age when materials, such as concrete and steel, would normally be considered to be at the end of their life cycle. While regular and ongoing maintenance substantially slows environmental effects, over time, larger-scale conservation may be necessary. To assist in addressing these pressures, Parks Canada adopted the recently completed second edition of the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, providing improved conservation guidance on engineering works and sustainability-related interventions.

Ecological Integrity


As steward of Canada's national parks, Parks Canada has a legal obligation to maintain or improve ecological integrity (EI) while providing benefit and enjoyment for present and future generations of Canadians. A national park has ecological integrity when it supports healthy populations of those plants and animals that are representative of the unique natural region that the park was established to protect. It is also important that the natural processes that support park ecosystems be in place and functioning normally (e.g. fire cycle). Parks Canada regularly monitors the state of EI, and publishes the results for each national park every five years. The most current information for each of the 42 national parks is summarized in Annex 2.

Parks Canada uses indicators to summarize and assess the ecological condition of the various major park ecosystems in each national park, e.g. forests, tundra, wetlands, or freshwater.

State of Ecological Integrity

Of the 102 park ecosystems that have been assessed, 92% are reported to be in either good or fair condition. For the ecosystems in good condition, almost all had a stable trend, indicating no observed change in their condition since their last evaluation. For those ecosystems assessed to be in fair condition, 43% are showing a declining trend, which is cause for concern. Eight (8%) ecosystems are assessed as being in poor condition.

There is currently insufficient monitoring information to be able to assess the condition of 73 (42%) ecosystem indicators, and their condition is shown as being ‘not rated’. It will take several years for these assessments to be completed.

Although the 42 national parks are situated in a wide variety of unique ecological settings, there are some common trends in park conditions across the country. Almost half of the park ecosystems considered to be in poor and fair-declining condition are in park forests, and this is due mainly to some common challenges such as land use on neighbouring lands, overabundant deer and moose populations, plant diseases, and invasive plants.

The remaining park ecosystems considered to be in poor or fair-declining condition are varied. Freshwater and wetland ecosystems are generally in good condition - the notable exception being Wood Buffalo National Park.

Water quality and beach stability are affected by regional impacts on coastal and wetland ecosystems at Point Pelee National Park. In Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, a combination of invasive species, such as the European green crab, and concern for species at risk indicate poor condition of the park's coastal ecosystem. Similarly, coastal ecosystems at Gwaii Hanaas National Park Reserve and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve are also in poor condition, due to a range of factors including declining populations of herring and seabirds. In every instance, Parks Canada works with its neighbours to try to reduce the impact of stressors that affect the health of the parks.


Parks Canada is working to improve the condition of park ecosystems, using new knowledge and monitoring information to determine where restoration efforts will be most effective. Through dedicated funding for ecological restoration, targeted parks are implementing a variety of projects that will contribute to maintaining and improving ecological integrity, including:

  • restoring streams and riparian areas;
  • reintroducing native species lost from the park;
  • restoring aquatic connections (e.g. culvert replacement);
  • controlling invasive species;
  • restoring historical fire regimes; and
  • reducing populations of overabundant species such as moose, white-tailed deer, and double-crested cormorants.

Key Issues

Hyperabundant Species

In a number of national parks, deer and moose are so plentiful that their feeding patterns are damaging forest health and preventing tree regrowth. This has a significant impact on the diversity of forest flora and fauna, and on the process by which forests regenerate following major events like fire or insect outbreaks. In all cases this overabundance is due to a lack of predators (e.g. wolves), and several parks are working with local communities to reduce overabundant populations to allow forests to recover.

Adjacent Land Use

Industrial forestry operations and other land developments adjacent to national parks may directly affect the health of a park's flora and fauna. This is especially true for animal species that regularly move beyond park boundaries to meet their basic needs (e.g. breeding, rearing young, feeding requirements), or to ensure sufficient opportunites to diversify the gene pool by breeding with other populations. When adjacent land use is incompatible with conservation, parks become isolated from the landscape, reducing their effectiveness. Parks Canada is working with neighbours to develop cooperative land use plans that alleviate these effects (Figure 10).

Figure 10: Reduction of Flying Squirrel Habitat around Kejimkujik-1985-2005
Figure 10.1: Estimated Northern and Southern Flying Squirrel Habitat around Kejimkujik 1985
Figure 10.2: Estimated Northern and Southern Flying Squirrel Habitat around Kejimkujik 2005

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Long Range External Stressors

In addition to local and regional effects, there are more global stressors affecting national parks that are beyond the influence of park managers (e.g. climate change). Arctic national parks are already changing in response to a warming climate, (e.g. more shrubs), and national parks in Southern Canada are experiencing changes such as insect epidemics.

Focus: Species at Risk


Parks Canada is committed to maintaining and, when possible, improving the conservation status of species at risk. Nearly half of the species at risk in Canada can be found occasionally or regularly within Parks Canada lands and waters. The first step in preventing the loss of biodiversity is to understand which species occur in heritage places, and how they are doing. This information is used to determine the conservation status of the species, and to determine the risk of the loss of the species from the heritage place. This, in turn, guides decision-making on species at risk recovery actions, and provides a framework for monitoring, evaluating and reporting progress to Canadians.

State of Species at Risk

There are 166 species at risk that live, breed and feed throughout the network of Parks Canada heritage places. Parks Canada conducted assessments in 14 heritage places, to rank the conservation status of 89 of these species at risk (Figure 11). The rest of the species are currently being evaluated. The conservation status of the ranked species range from critically imperilled (22%) to uncommon (1%). Species that are critically imperilled are extremely rare and especially vulnerable to disappearing from the heritage place. Species that are ranked as uncommon are apparently secure in the heritage place but remain a possible cause for long term concern.

Figure 11: Conservation Status of Species at Risk in Parks Canada's Heritage Places
Figure 11: Conservation Status of Species at Risk in Parks Canada's Heritage Places

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A population may be critically imperilled for several reasons. For example, many species at risk are naturally rare, or have been reduced to small populations, or have been isolated from their main population, like the endangered Blanding's turtle in Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site. Other species, such as the queensnake, are critically imperilled and at very high risk of disappearing from the heritage place because they have declined significantly in recent years throughout their range. In most cases, species are affected by threats acting from outside the park, with only a portion of the Canadian population being protected within.

Fifty-two species are at low risk of disappearing from heritage places, either because they are more abundant, or because they face less imminent threats, or both. For example, in Wood Buffalo National Park, the endangered whooping crane has access to large areas of suitable protected habitat and the population is increasing.


Parks Canada supports activities for the protection and recovery of species at risk. Most projects are conducted in partnership with non-government organizations (NGOs), private citizens, or Aboriginal communities, under Parks Canada's leadership. In Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site in 2010, over 10,000 hours of volunteer work were dedicated to several projects contributing to recovery objectives for species at risk. Other activities across Canada included the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret into Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan after a 75-year absence, the restoration of habitat in Garry Oak ecosystems in British Columbia, and the continuation of the species at risk inventory and habitat assessment along the Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site in Ontario.

Key Issues

Habitat loss

Although some species are on the path to recovery, many more continue to face threats. Habitat loss is a notable threat that affects species within heritage places by decreasing ecological connectivity, which impedes movement of species within a park and between the park and its greater ecosystem, and by reducing seasonal habitat for migrating species. Invasive species and climate change are other key issues for species at risk and biodiversity on Parks Canada lands and waters.

National Marine Conservation Area Health


Parks Canada is entrusted to conserve marine habitats and biological diversity while providing for ecologically sustainable use within its growing system of national marine conservation areas (NMCAs).

The four existing NMCAs encompass a variety of marine ecosystems: from intertidal areas to abyssal depths; from coastal wetlands and estuaries to eelgrass and kelp beds; from banks, shoals and islands to deep water channels and troughs. This ecological diversity supports a wide range of uses, including activities such as recreation, tourism, shipping and transport, and commercial and sport fishing.

National marine conservation areas are fundamentally different from terrestrial parks. With species movements that encompass large expanses, this fluid three-dimensional environment tends to have a broader range of uses and stakeholders. Jurisdictional and legislative complexities are also considerable. These differences strongly affect how national marine conservation areas are managed and operated, with protection and ecologically sustainable use being equally important elements. As a result, a high degree of collaboration with other government departments, partners and users is required in the overall management of these protected areas.

State of NMCA Health

At the international and national levels, initiatives are underway to identify monitoring and reporting standards for marine protected areas. Informed by these initiatives and the monitoring and reporting experience gained in Fathom Five Marine Park and Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, Parks Canada will be developing a national set of indicators and a monitoring framework for the health of national marine conservation areas. In recognition of the unique challenges of managing national marine conservation areas, this set of indicators will need to integrate the health of marine ecosystems, the ecologically sustainable use of marine resources and the effectiveness of governance practices.


Over the past two years, initiatives have been undertaken to support improvements to the state of national marine conservation areas. For example:

  • The 2009 Zoning Plan for the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park represents a key achievement for Parks Canada. This zoning plan is the first in Canada to be developed for a marine protected area and is the result of close collaboration with partners and stakeholders involved in the management of the marine park. The implementation of the zoning plan supports the protection of ecosystems, habitats and species, and fosters the ecologically sustainable use of marine resources and the facilitation of meaningful visitor experience.
  • A major collaborative research program in Fathom Five Marine Park using leading edge technologies has produced high resolution maps of the lakebed, and allowed science and traditional knowledge to complement each other in gaining a greater understanding of submerged features and changes in water levels over time. These maps are being used for research, ecological modelling, decision-making, public outreach, and monitoring purposes.

Key Issues

National Monitoring Framework

As Parks Canada moves forward with the establishment of new national marine conservation areas, there is a need to track and report on their health, which will require the development of a national set of indicators and monitoring framework.



Parks Canada manages a large number of complex real property assets valued at more than $11 billion. Parks Canada's asset portfolio includes bridges, dams, roadways, canals, potable water systems, wastewater systems, fortifications, contemporary and historic buildings as well as other holdings. These assets support Parks Canada in the delivery of its mandate and serve the more than 20 million visitors to Parks Canada facilities each year. Certain assets, such as through-highways and through-waterways, also serve as vital links for Canadian communities.

There are several challenges inherent in managing these assets. Many are located in remote areas across the country, including northern climates, adding to the cost and complexity of operating and maintaining these assets. Parks Canada is also the custodian of many assets of historical significance which require specialized maintenance and management to ensure their protection and preservation. Of the contemporary assets, the majority are aging and require significant ongoing investments.

State of Assets

Parks Canada is developing a suite of national indicators and evaluation tools that will provide a consistent picture of the state of all of the Agency's assets. Currently, information on the state of three asset categories is available: buildings, dams and bridges related to waterways.


Parks Canada manages a diverse portfolio of buildings across the country ranging from public use buildings (e.g. visitor centres, washroom and shower facilities) to administration buildings. The distribution of condition ratings by building type is presented in Figure 12. Of the 4,298 buildings managed by Parks Canada currently in the Directory of Federal Real Property (DFRP), 3,432 (80%) have been determined to be in good or fair condition, 691 (16%) in poor condition and 175 (4%) are closed.

Figure 12: Condition of Parks Canada Buildings
Building Type Condition Rating
Total Good Fair Poor Closure
Public Use Buildings 1,927 36% 47% 13% 3%
Operation Building 1,064 37% 43% 17% 3%
Administration Buildings 235 38% 54% 8% 0%
Staff Housing 739 24% 55% 19% 2%
Other Buildings
(e.g. sheds, barns and garages)
333 19% 33% 28% 20%
Total 4,298 33% 47% 16% 4%

Buildings currently in the Directory of Federal Real Property (March 31, 2011)

Dams Related to Waterways

Parks Canada manages 204 dams related to waterways located along the Trent-Severn Waterway, the Rideau Canal and within four navigation canals around the Montreal area: Carillon, Chambly, Lachine and Saint-Ours. The condition of 59% of these dams is either good or fair (Figure 13). Each of these dams requires a dam safety review, performed by a team of specialized engineers. To this end, Parks Canada initiated five dam safety reviews on high-risk dams in 2010-11, in addition to the eight already completed in previous years, and progress will continue in line with the availability of resources and expertise.

Figure 13: Condition of Parks Canada Dams Related to Waterways
Condition Assessment 2010-11
Good Fair Poor Closed Not Rated
Number of Dams 32 88 82 2 0
Percentage 16% 43% 40% 1% 0%

Source: Dam safety project files

Bridges Related to Waterways

Parks Canada manages 115 bridges related to waterways. They are located along the Trent-Severn Waterway, Rideau, Carillon, Chambly, Lachine and Saint-Ours canals. The condition of 82% of these bridges has been assessed over the past five years and their respective condition ratings are listed in Figure 14.

Figure 14: Condition of Parks Canada Bridges Related to Waterways
Condition Assessment 2010-11
Good Fair Poor Closed Not Rated
Number of Bridges 23 45 21 5 21
Percentage 20% 39% 18.5% 4% 18.5%

Source: Bridge safety project files


Between April 2009 and March 2011, efforts related to asset management were focused primarily on delivering projects associated with Canada's Economic Action Plan. Parks Canada received $213 million in federal funding under the Improving Parks Canada's National Historic Sites and Visitor Facilities Program. From this funding, $57 million was invested in projects substantially related to the rehabilitation and upgrade of Parks Canada buildings including public use and heritage buildings. Other projects were aimed at the recapitalization and stabilization of fortifications, highways, bridges and municipal infrastructure.

Parks Canada is developing a path forward for more effective asset management across the Agency. As well, the Agency will continue to respond to recommendations of the Evaluation of Parks Canada's Asset Management Program.

Key Issues

Aging Infrastructure

Over the past decade, investment in recapitalization and maintenance has not been proportionate to the rate of deterioration of assets resulting in the closure of certain facilities due to a potential structural failure. Increasing deterioration of assets could potentially have negative impacts on public safety, as well as on the functionality and operability of assets, which in turn may hinder the level of service provided to the users (service disruption, traffic delay or congestion, etc.).

Parks Canada remains focussed on its higher risk assets such as bridges, dams and roadways. These assets are highly complex and require professional expertise to manage them effectively along with regular inspections performed by specialized engineers.

Information Management

Accurate real-time information on asset inventory, condition and status is crucial for the efficient and effective management of assets. Nationally consistent indicators as well as a reliable asset information system are needed to ensure that Parks Canada makes informed investment decisions.

Visitor Experience


"Visitor experience" refers to a visitor's interactions with Parks Canada in the context of their visit to a national park, national historic site, or national marine conservation area. It covers the whole visitor cycle from the initial inspiration to visit, to the planning of the trip, to arrival and experiences during the visit, to departure and fond reflection on the people met and the experience itself.

Relevant and memorable visitor experiences based on quality services, activities, and programs, in conjunction with passionate and knowledgeable staff, help foster the desirability of heritage places as travel destinations for Canadian and international visitors. These aspects also facilitate a diverse range of opportunities for visitors to learn about, experience, and enjoy the spirit, wonder, and awe of Canada's network of heritage places. These opportunities, in turn, help inspire and nurture a sense of personal connection among Canadians and ensure the continued relevance of Canada's heritage places for the country as a whole.

Parks Canada uses four indicators to measure the state of visitor experience: 1) visitor satisfaction, 2) visitor enjoyment, 3) visitor learning, and 4) visitation.

State of Visitor Experience

More than 20 million people visit Canada's network of heritage places annually. People visit and connect with heritage places for a variety of reasons. For some visitors, it is about spending time with family and friends, learning about their ancestors' lives or experiencing the power and mystery of nature or a past culture for the first time. For others, recreational activities - a familiar activity or something new - attract them. Indulging a curiosity is the attraction for others.

Visitor enjoyment, visitor satisfaction, and visitor learning are interrelated and all contribute to influencing the connection people have with heritage places, yet each measures a different aspect of a visitor's experience. Enjoyment is associated with whether an individual feels they benefited (i.e. spiritually, physically, intellectually, emotionally) from their experiences, while satisfaction is a subjective measure based on an individual's personal assessment of how well their overall visit met their own pre-determined expectations. Learning is associated with whether an individual feels they gained knowledge about the place they visited.

Visitors to heritage places leave with a smile on their face and fond memories to share with friends and family. On average, ratings of enjoyment have been above 92% since measurement began in 2008, and learning has been at least 80% on average during the same period. The percentage of visitors that consider they learned something tends to be higher at national historic sites where the offer and opportunities tend to be more learning-oriented. Interaction with Parks Canada staff is cited among the top reasons people enjoy their visit and learn. At national parks, opportunities to relax and stimulate the senses with beautiful scenery, along with recreation are often cited as reasons for enjoyment. Visitor satisfaction was 96% and 95% in 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively, and has remained high over the last decade.

Visitors to Canada's heritage places enjoy themselves and are satisfied with their visits, yet the challenge Parks Canada faces is that fewer people are visiting. Visitation in 2010–11 was 20.2 million, the lowest in a decade. Over the last five years, visitation has declined 7%. Since 2000, the rate of decline is 10%. Most of the decline since 2000 has occurred at national historic sites (down 24%).


Parks Canada undertook a number of targeted initiatives to create interest in visiting heritage places and to nurture a sense of personal connection in people that do visit. To raise awareness and inspire visitation, Parks Canada launched two national television campaigns (2009, 2010), enhanced its presence in travel media with feature stories in magazines (e.g. VIA Rail's Destinations, WestJet's up!) and newspapers (e.g. The Globe and Mail), and held special events nationally to celebrate the 125th anniversary of national parks in Canada and the centennial celebrations of Parks Canada.

To be competitive and relevant, Parks Canada further integrated its brand identity and attributes into all aspects of its visitor-related operations (including a refreshed look, service standards), thus creating a renewed energy. Parks Canada also employs market research to understand the needs of different visitors, which helps to promote opportunities for Canadians to experience nature and history in ways that meet their needs.

Admission fees remained frozen at 2008 levels, thus providing another incentive to visit. The Agency also began diversifying accommodation offers to include yurts, teepees, and cottage tents, introducing new recreational activities (e.g. traction kiting, rock bouldering), and expanding the use of technology in interpretation activities (e.g. GPS-oriented tours, apps).

Parks Canada launched initiatives to connect with specific segments of the population. It introduced a youth entry pass (My Parks Pass), which provides free access for Grade 8 students to heritage places, and an onsite explorers (Xplorers) program for youth and their families. “Learn-to” programs, such as learn to camp are designed to introduce urban youth, families and new Canadians to camping in a safe and friendly environment.

With the assistance of Canada's Economic Action Plan, a number of visitor-related assets were upgraded or built (e.g. visitor centres, trails, boardwalks, highways) to respond to changing visitor needs.

Key Issues

Relevance and Changing Society

Canadian society is changing - (e.g. demographics, social values, urbanization, technology, leisure). Awareness, access to, interest in, and experiences with nature, history, or heritage places, are variable in the Canadian population. Parks Canada must engage Canadians, particularly certain segments of the population (e.g. urban youth, new Canadians), in different and meaningful ways to ensure heritage places remain relevant for future generations.

Competitive Position

Parks Canada is one of many organizations offering places of natural and historical interest. It risks becoming less competitive than other parks, historical attractions, and leisure activities, which could result in fewer Canadians choosing to visit and connect with the heritage places administered by Parks Canada. To keep heritage places in the hearts and minds of Canadians also means raising awareness about them and reminding Canadians about the opportunities they offer.

External Factors

External factors such as economic conditions, fuel prices, new regulations, pandemics, and terrorism can influence visitation. Parks Canada needs the flexibility to adapt and react to these factors to encourage visitation to heritage places.

Aboriginal Relationships


To effectively manage its heritage places, Parks Canada counts on the support and collaboration of over 300 Aboriginal communities across Canada. New natural heritage places can be established only with the support, collaboration, and involvement of Aboriginal peoples. Over the years, cooperative management with Aboriginal partners has taken many different forms and has become a common practice within Parks Canada. The members of these cooperative committees work jointly with Parks Canada in the planning and operations of heritage places.

State of Aboriginal Relationships

Parks Canada defines the state of the Agency's relationships with Aboriginal communities by the following five areas:

Building Meaningful Relationships with Aboriginal Peoples

Approximately 68% of federal Crown lands are managed through a cooperative relationship between Aboriginal peoples and Parks Canada. At a national level, Parks Canada receives the support and collaboration of an Aboriginal Consultative Committee (ACC) composed of 12 members who meet three times a year to provide ongoing advice and guidance to the Agency. Parks Canada is also an active participant at land claim tables across Canada.

Creating Economic Partnerships

Parks Canada actively supports the Government of Canada Strategic Partnership Initiative (SPI) and has signed a memorandum of agreement with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to develop authentic Aboriginal cultural tourism projects. Over the past four years, more than 50 contribution agreements were signed with Aboriginal communities. The Agency has contracted with over 251 Aboriginal businesses in 2010 to procure goods and services, an increase from 206 in 2009, through competitive and non-competitive processes. Over 500 contracts were awarded for a total estimated value of $2.1 million.

Increasing Programming at Parks and Sites

Through the system of sites and parks, Parks Canada works with Aboriginal communities to present authentic Aboriginal interpretations. In St. Lawrence Island National Park, the community of Akwesasne has been working with the Agency to create Voices of Akwesasne and Words Before All Else aimed at helping visitors to better understand Haudenosaunee culture. Programs such as the Healing Broken Connections Project in Kluane National Park Reserve helped local First Nations reconnect to traditionally used lands through the participation of elders and youth in culture and science camps. The yearly Treaty Payments and Education Program at The Forks National Historic Site provides Parks Canada with the opportunity to welcome First Nations and Métis on the site and to educate people about the importance of the treaties. These initiatives also helped Parks Canada better understand the importance of conveying Aboriginal cultures and their inherent place in Canada's system of heritage places.

Enhancing Employment Opportunities

Parks Canada is one of the lead employers of Aboriginal peoples in the federal government (8.4% of staff is Aboriginal). In Nunavut for example, 63% of staff is Inuit. To support Aboriginal staff, Parks Canada developed, in partnership with Yukon College, the four-year Aboriginal Leadership Development Program. It focuses on Aboriginal employees' skills and leadership attributes. The program started in 2000 and 78 participants have graduated since then. Another 132 participants are currently in the program. Parks Canada also actively supports the Aboriginal Working Group, an Employment Equity and Diversity Advisory Group.

Commemorating Aboriginal Themes

The total number of national historic designations that commemorate Aboriginal history is 224. Of that total, there are 115 national historic sites that commemorate Aboriginal themes, 47 Aboriginal persons who have been designated as national historic persons, and 46 Aboriginal events that have been designated of national historic importance. In the past five years, 13 out of the 161 new designations (or 8%) commemorate Aboriginal history.


Over the past decades, Parks Canada has come to recognize that effectively managing heritage places means working in cooperation with Aboriginal peoples. Here are some examples of projects that were untaken over the past couple of years:

  • Saoyú-ᕈehdacho National Historic Site, is the largest Aboriginal cultural landscape in the world to be designated, as a result of consultations with the Sahtu Dene and the Métis nations.
  • In partnership with the Haida Nation, Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site became the first site in the world to be protected from mountaintop to the depths of the ocean.
  • Nahanni National Park Reserve was expanded to six times its original size with the direct involvement of the Dehcho First Nations.
  • 95% of the economic benefits from the Stokes Point Decontamination Project, funded under Canada's Economic Action Plan, went to Inuvialuit companies and workforce through a competitive national tendering process.
  • In Kluane, Mingan Archipelago, and Pacific Rim National Park Reserves, Parks Canada is working with local Aboriginal communities to build interpretation and visitors centres to help reconnect and welcome people.
  • Funds from Canada's Economic Action Plan were used to develop a Landscape Visitor Experience Plan in Port au Choix National Historic Site with the collaboration of Aboriginal groups to help visitors appreciate and understand the rich Aboriginal heritage of the site.

Key Issues


There is a need for a variety of mechanisms to allow for the engagement of Aboriginal peoples in the management of Parks Canada heritage places. Flexibility is required to account for the diverse contexts of the relationships that Parks Canada has with Aboriginal peoples.

Aboriginal Engagement

Establishing new places and managing existing ones require the collaboration of and partnerships with Aboriginal people. Developing and maintaining respectful relationships are essential to ensuring meaningful engagement, requiring dedicated capacity from all parties.

Public Appreciation and Support


To foster a sense of connection to Canada's national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas, it is important that Canadians have opportunities to be exposed to and interact with these heritage places, even if they never have the opportunity to visit them. Through media, outreach, and other public engagement activities, Parks Canada reaches out and brings the spirit, wonder, and awe of heritage places to Canadians - to where they live, work, learn, and play. In turn, Canadians develop an appreciation for the heritage places administered by Parks Canada, and will increasingly take pride in and support their protection, ensuring their continued relevance in Canadian society.

Success in ensuring that Canadians are connected to heritage places is very much dependent upon the health of working relationships Parks Canada has with its stakeholders and partners. Engaging stakeholders and partners in meaningful opportunities to connect Canadians with nature and history helps foster a constituency for the continued role of heritage places in Canada.

Parks Canada uses four indicators to measure the state of public engagement: 1) awareness, 2) public appreciation, 3) public support, and 4) stakeholder/partner support.

State of Public Appreciation and Support

Parks Canada protects and presents Canada's heritage places on behalf of all Canadians. To engage Canadians in discovering, appreciating and supporting these heritage places, Parks Canada and the heritage places it administers need to be known and understood by Canadians. Generally a large proportion of Canadians have heard of Parks Canada. When asked to name the organization responsible for heritage places, about one in five Canadians is able to say “Parks Canada” (Figure 15). When aided, awareness has increased from a low of 66 percent in 2008 to the mid 80s' in 2009-10 following the launch of two national television campaigns. Awareness (aided and unaided) levels have remained high in 2011, due in part to an enhanced multi-media presence and reach into Canada's largest cities through centennial celebration activities (Figure 15).

Figure 15: Public Awareness of Parks Canada
Figure 15: Public Awareness of Parks Canada

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Public appreciation and support are assessed through indices that are comprised of knowledge, behaviour and value components. When measured in 2009, it was determined that 53% of Canadians appreciate the significance of heritage places and that 67% of Canadians support protecting and presenting them. The results suggest that while Canadians generally support the concept of heritage places, they have a somewhat lesser understanding of the significance of the broader network of heritage places. With targeted initiatives to reach Canadians where they live, work and play over the coming years, there is room for these results to improve.

Stakeholder and partner support is based on the rationale that stakeholders and partners respect the breadth of Parks Canada's mandate (protection, learning, and enjoyment) although their relationship with the Agency may focus in one area. Currently, a preliminary baseline measurement suggests that 82% of stakeholders and partners support the protection and presentation of heritage places administered by Parks Canada.


The stories Parks Canada tells about heritage places, and the opportunities it creates to discover them, helps shape national pride and Canadian identity. Heritage places administered by Parks Canada are a treasured network that provide opportunities to foster an appreciation and connection to Canada through nature and history.

Parks Canada enhanced its presence in the day-to-day lives of Canadians by increasing its prominence in different media platforms. It improved its presence in television, including documentaries (e.g. A Park for All Seasons - Oasis HD, National Parks Project - Discovery World), serial shows (e.g. Rick Mercer Report - CBC), and news programs (e.g. Canada AM - CTV). Feature stories in magazines (e.g. Canadian Geographic, Canada's History, Maclean's) and national newspapers (e.g. National Post, The Globe and Mail), and a commemorative book (Canada's National Parks – A Celebration) brought heritage places to Canadians in print format. Parks Canada went mainstream by launching Twitter and Facebook accounts and a YouTube page, providing social media channels for Canadians to stay in touch with the Agency and its activities.

Over the last two years, Parks Canada undertook a concerted effort to expose Canadians to Canada's natural and historic places and the Agency responsible for them. Parks Canada also launched two national television campaigns (2009, 2010) - one being aired during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. The Olympic Torch Relay travelled through 34 heritage places administered by Parks Canada, highlighting an underlying Olympic theme: connectedness.

Parks Canada recognizes the valuable contribution that its stakeholders and partners make toward achieving its mandate. Since 2008, the Agency has developed a policy and guidelines for partnering with the private sector, and engaged stakeholders and partners in a dialogue about taking part in opportunities to help connect Canadians with nature and history.

Key Issues

Awareness and Reach

Many things compete for the time and attention of Canadians. To engage them in appreciating and supporting heritage places, the Agency has to be proactive and present in a sustained manner. It has to reach specific population segments. It is the cumulative long-term impact of this presence that will influence Canadians' appreciation and support.

Relevance and Changing Society

Canadian society is changing (e.g. demographics, social values, urbanization, technology, leisure). Awareness of Parks Canada and experiences with nature and history vary among Canadians. Parks Canada must engage Canadians, particularly certain segments of the population (e.g. urban youth, new Canadians), in meaningful ways to ensure heritage places remain relevant for future generations.


Parks Canada recognizes that to extend its reach through media and outreach endeavours, especially in Canada's largest urban areas, it needs to work with partners. To do so, Parks Canada needs a foundation and flexibility (e.g. tools, policies and authorities) to facilitate and nurture these opportunities.

Focus: Youth Engagement


Changing Society

Canada is an urban country, with approximately seven in ten Canadians living in Canada's 33 largest urban areas. Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa-Gatineau, Calgary and Edmonton are now home to more than one million residents each, and almost 35% of Canadians live in one of the country's three largest cities - Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. In addition, 20% of the residents of Canada's cities are now foreign-born with especially high proportions for Toronto (almost 50%) and Vancouver (40%). These two cities have the highest concentrations of foreign-born residents in Canada and tend to receive the largest proportion of new immigrants coming to Canada annually.

In Canada, 12-to 17-year-olds make up 8.6% of the total population, with higher representation in some ethnic and Aboriginal populations. According to research, Canadian youth rarely read newspapers and magazines, but when they do, they tend to focus on entertainment, fashion and sports content - in line with their travel and leisure habits of higher attendance at sporting events and activities than other age groups. According to surveys, only about 6% have traveled to a national or provincial park in the last year. They are experiencing the world on the Internet far more than most other age groups.

State of Youth Engagement


Awareness of Parks Canada is notably low in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and among younger Canadians and immigrants.


Despite variability in year-to-year attendance, national parks and national historic sites have been experiencing an overall downward trend in visitation. In addition, the visitor base is slanted to the older age bracket. The average age of visitors to Canada's heritage places is over 50. On average, about one-third of visitors are over 55, and one-half to two-thirds are over 45; nationally, only 20% of visitor groups tend to be families. Overall, visitors tend to be middle to upper class, older, suburban Caucasian adults and families, and older adults in rural communities.

Social Media

Parks Canada has established a presence on such social media platforms as Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, iTunes and Facebook. The Parks Canada Facebook page was created in August 2010, and over 4,500 people already “like” Parks Canada. Approximately 16.6 million Canadians are on Facebook, and of these 12% are 13-to 17-year-olds. Of these approximately two million Canadian youth on Facebook, only 1.6% of our “likes” (smallest segment) are from this demographic (Figure 16).

Figure 16: Parks Canada Facebook “Likes” by Age
Figure 16: Parks Canada Facebook “Likes” by Age

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Due to the ever-changing demographics of our country, there is a need to ensure that our national treasures maintain relevance to a variety of populations. Trends such as urbanization, increasing diversity through immigration and the youth “nature and history deficit” are driving forces for our new and renewed directions.

Parks Canada is home to several great onsite youth engagement and learning programs including, but not limited to, the Palisades Stewardship Education Centre, the Georgian Bay Islands camps and the Wapusk Leadership Camp. These programs have captured some early attention nationally and internationally. Parks Canada has also recently developed some national programs, in collaboration with other organizations, that target varying age groups. These include:

Parks Canada Xplorers

Parks Canada Xplorers (ages 6-11) - This program is designed to engage children visiting with their family in fun age-appropriate activities that allow them to discover the significance of Canada's natural and historic treasures. It provides participants with the flexibility to discover and interact with natural and cultural resources at their own pace and within the time limits of their visit. The visit experience can include interpretation programs, recreational activities, exhibits, trails, geocaching, Explora, talking to an interpreter and more.

My Parks Pass

My Parks Pass (ages 13-14) - This is a Canada-wide program that provides all grade 8 (2e secondaire in Quebec) students free access (for one year) to any national park, national historic site or national marine conservation area administered by Parks Canada. Additionally, all grade 8 classrooms, including split classes, will receive free admission to these parks and sites as part of a classroom field trip, organized by the school.

Operation Unplugged

Canada's Greatest Summer Job (ages 18-24) - In the program's first year, 32 young Canadians had the opportunity of a lifetime - to be handed a video camera and sent out to produce videos on Canada's national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas. By way of their own unique creative approach, students introduced viewers to Parks Canada's people, places and visitors. Building on this success, Parks Canada launched Canada's Greatest Summer Job - Season II as a broadcast initiative entitled Operation Unplugged.

Key Issues

Low Visitation

Youth and families make up a minority of Parks Canada visitors. Moreover, youth are found in greatest numbers in Canada's urban centres, which are not in proximity to most Parks Canada places. Research has shown that Canadians who have visited a national park or national historic site are significantly more likely to feel a sense of connection with these places (90%) than those that have never visited (20%), so it is imperative that opportunities for immersion in Canada's natural landscapes and historical places become more accessible to Canadian youth.


Over the years, Parks Canada has developed a variety of learning programs and tools that bring our treasured places to life. While these have been valuable, Canadian society is changing and Parks Canada must engage young Canadians in meaningful ways to ensure heritage places remain relevant for future generations. Expanding our reach to Canadian youth through innovative and engaging programs, and by working with like-minded organizations and strategic partners will be critical to connecting young hearts and minds to their national treasures.

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