Daniel Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada Agency

Daniel Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada Agency

Dear Minister McKenna,

It is my pleasure to submit the 2016 Report on the State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places setting out the Agency’s key accomplishments of the past five years. I am proud of our team members’ passion and dedication to working together toward a common vision in managing the finest protected natural and cultural heritage areas in the world.

This Report presents the progress made towards establishing representative systems of protected natural places. Currently, 30 of 39 of Canada’s natural regions are represented by 46 national parks and national park reserves. Meanwhile, the national marine conservation area system has reached 17 percent completion.

Important natural conservation project work has been completed over the last five years. For example, the Beluga Whale species at risk project to mitigate human disturbances at Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, and the Garry Oak Ecosystem species at risk recovery project to engage the public in learning and active management activities at Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site, to name a few. In 2015–16, 33 projects were underway across 27 sites, reducing threats to ecosystems, reintroducing species, reconnecting watersheds, and re-establishing ecological processes. This demonstrates the Agency’s ongoing dedication to maintaining or restoring ecological integrity in our national parks.

Parks Canada has contributed to the development of national and international synthesis reports that recognize protected areas as “natural solutions” to climate change, including “North American Protected Areas as Natural Solutions to Climate Change”, from The North American Inter-Governmental Committee on Cooperation for Wilderness and Protected Areas Conservation (NAWPA Committee) and “Canadian Parks and Protected Areas: Helping Canada Weather Climate Change”, developed by the Canadian Parks Council’s Climate Change Working Group.

Parks Canada is also conducting important research within our protected areas that contributes to our understanding of climate change, including detailed climate change vulnerability assessments in three northern parks (Tuktut Nogait, Ukkusiksalik, Auyuittuq), which integrate the traditional knowledge and cultural values of local Indigenous communities. Parks Canada has developed a Master Plan for the Reduction of GHG Emissions within Parks Canada’s Operations (March 2015), which provides guidance and targets for both infrastructure and operations across the Agency.

Our national historic sites and cultural resources reflect the rich and diverse heritage of our nation and provide an opportunity for Canadians to learn more about our history. Parks Canada undertook important cultural conservation work on built heritage at the national historic sites it administers. The Agency also continues to play a leadership role in the Canadian heritage community through the delivery of a number of programs that commemorate and, in some instances, protect cultural and natural heritage. Examples include the National Program of Historical Commemoration, Canadian Heritage Rivers, and the recently expanded National Cost-sharing Program for Heritage Places which provides financial support to advance the protection and presentation of places of national historic significance that are not administered by the federal government. Lighthouses are powerful symbols of Canada's maritime heritage. Between 2011–16, 76 lighthouses were designated and protected under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, and more will be designated in the future. These designations help to ensure the conservation of heritage lighthouses for the benefit of present and future generations.

Parks Canada is also proud to be a significant contributor in the international community’s efforts to recognize “cultural landscape” as a foundation concept for conservation and presentation efforts. This concept is well aligned with, and supportive of, Indigenous peoples’ philosophy that both cultural and spiritual values are grounded in the nature that surrounds them. Cultural landscapes administered by Parks Canada that have been established with Indigenous partners include Saoyú-Ɂehdacho and Beausoleil Island National Historic Sites, which are expressions of this inseparable link between nature and culture.

To encourage more Canadians, including youth and newcomers, to experience the outdoors and learn about our history, Parks Canada has been working hard to develop new, innovative and educational programs and services. Canadians can take advantage of many amazing Parks Canada initiatives such as learn to camp, which introduces a new generation of Canadians to the joy of camping, and #ShareTheChair, which encourages visitors to seek out red chairs, slow down for a minute to connect with our heritage, experience the best of what Canada has to offer and share their experience on social media. Parks Canada also expanded the introduction of products to meet the needs of target audiences in urban centres, which included piloting new outreach activities in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver and building our presence on social media platforms. The Agency and the Royal Ontario Museum launched an interactive exhibit on the Franklin exhibition, which was then offered at ten museums across the country. As a result of these efforts, visitation to Parks Canada places increased by 16 percent over the last five years reaching 23.3 million visits.

The infusion of nearly $3 billion of federal funding is enabling the Agency to address the backlog of work and improve the overall condition of its built asset portfolio. In restoring nationally significant heritage resources, renewing visitor facilities, and rehabilitating canals, highways and townsites, this investment will ensure Canadians can continue to enjoy our special places. These investments represent the largest federal infrastructure plan in the history of the Agency.

Parks Canada is committed to stewardship of these natural and cultural heritage places that recognizes the role of Indigenous peoples in Canada, and will continue to work with the more than 300 Indigenous communities across Canada to protect, restore, and present Canada’s natural and cultural heritage.

As our nation celebrates its 150th birthday in 2017, Parks Canada will open the gates to Canadians and visitors from around the world to experience Canada’s treasured places. The same year, the Agency will mark the 100th anniversary of the first National Historic Sites.

Parks Canada continues to work with partners on a variety of initiatives designed to raise Canadians’ awareness and appreciation of their history and heritage.

I am confident that by building on its achievement to date and by strengthening collaboration with Indigenous peoples, partners and communities, Parks Canada will continue to protect Canada’s natural and cultural treasures and provide opportunities for visitors to experience and enjoy them for generations to come.

Original signed by

Daniel Watson
Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada Agency