I am pleased to see the progress highlighted in the 2016 Report on the State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places. Such achievements would not have been possible without the collaboration of community members, visitors, and stakeholders, as well as the more than 300 Indigenous communities that are partners in the conservation, restoration, and presentation of Canada’s national parks, national marine conservation areas and national historic sites.
National parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas represent the very best of Canada, including the history, culture and living legacy of Indigenous peoples. Parks Canada’s special partnerships with Indigenous peoples will contribute to the whole-of-government approach to reconciliation.
Since the last report in 2011, Parks Canada has continued to expand our system of protected natural areas and to support more designations of cultural heritage places for all Canadians. Over the past five years, four national parks have been added to our system: Sable Island National Park Reserve, Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve, Qausuittuq National Park, and Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve. Our strong cooperation with the Government of Ontario led to 21 square kilometres being added to Rouge National Urban Park—an expansion of over 36 percent. The Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve proposal is moving forward through an agreement with First Nations and Métis groups and the Government of the Northwest Territories, establishing a proposed boundary of 14,000 square kilometres. Legislation was also passed enabling the formal establishment of Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area under the Canada National Marine Areas Conservation Act.
Protected areas play an essential role in helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change. That is why we need to scale up our efforts to conserve the healthy, resilient ecosystems we all depend on for our well-being.
The Government is committed to working with our colleagues across all jurisdictions, and with Indigenous peoples, to deliver on our promise to protect at least 17 percent of our land and 10 percent of our ocean by 2020. And we are committed to looking beyond these targets to conserve nature in the long term, using science and Indigenous knowledge as our guide. Our first priority will be to maintain and restore the ecological integrity of our national parks, while providing opportunities for Canadians to understand, appreciate and enjoy these special places.
Canada is now the proud steward of 18 World Heritage Sites, which we protect on behalf of the entire world community. Parks Canada is right now seeking nominations for new Canadian places to put forward as World Heritage Sites.
Visitation to heritage places has increased by 16 percent over the last five years, reaching 23.3 million in 2015–16, boosting local economies in our communities. I am pleased that Canadians are taking the time to connect with these places that reflect the essence of Canada, and to learn about their natural and cultural heritage.
As Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, admission to all Parks Canada places will be free. As part of this Government’s commitment to youth, beginning in 2018, children under the age of 18 will continue to enjoy free admission to Parks Canada places. 2017 is also the 100th anniversary of National Historic Sites.
I am proud to be the Minister responsible for Parks Canada. I hope all Canadians will celebrate the richness and diversity of our nation’s history, and invite you to come out with your families to celebrate and enjoy our spectacular national treasures.
The Honourable Catherine McKenna
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
and Minister responsible for Parks Canada