For thousands of years the Mi’kmaq People have frequented the shores and forests of Prince Edward Island and the Hog Island Sandhills. Known to the Mi’kmaq as Epekwitk, Prince Edward Island has played an important role in the culture and history of the Mi’kmaq People. This connection is as strong today as ever.

Parks Canada has listened to and learned a great deal from First Nations governments, organizations and communities, provincial agencies, local communities, and stakeholders. A national park reserve in this area would be unique and would require innovative approaches that respect and celebrate Mi’kmaq values and traditions, local communities, and the richly biodiverse ecosystems that make this area so special.

Following a Tripartite (joint government) announcement in August 2019, the Government of Canada, the Government of Prince Edward Island, and the Mi’kmaq First Nation Governments began conducting a feasibility assessment on the establishment of a national park reserve in Pituamkek (Hog Island Sandhills).

The undertaking of a feasibility assessment for a national park reserve in the Pituamkek area represents a valuable opportunity to advance reconciliation and for nation-to-nation engagement with the Mi’kmaq First Nations leading to a new partnership model for management of the proposed national park reserve in Pituamkek. These discussions also take into consideration the continuation of Mi’kmaq cultural and traditional activities in the region.

The creation of a new protected area is a complex process and the Government of Canada, L’nuey (the Mi’kmaq rights-based initiative), and Government of Prince Edward Island will take the necessary time to ensure that all parties are engaged and that the appropriate consideration is given at each stage of the process.


Where is the proposed study area for a protected area in Prince Edward Island?

The assessment area for the proposed national park reserve is a string of barrier islands located on the northwestern shore of Prince Edward Island. Hog Island, as well as an associated chain of barrier Islands known in English as the Sandhills (Cascumpec Island and Conway Island), stretch for 50 kilometres and represent some of the province’s most significant cultural, ecological, and geographical locations.


Proposed national park reserve study area

Proposed national park reserve study area map.
Proposed national park reserve study area map — Text version

This map shows the proposed working boundary of the proposed national park reserve in Pituamkek.

The study area begins to the east of Alberton, stretching from Oulete's Island in the west to the islands east of Lennox Island, slightly northwest of Malpeque Bay.

What is a feasibility assessment?

A feasibility assessment, including extensive public consultation, is designed to help determine whether establishing national park reserve lands in Pituamkek (Hog Island Sandhills) is both practical and desirable. The feasibility assessment does not determine whether national park reserve lands will be established, but identifies the scope of the park proposal, in addition to the opportunities and challenges associated with the proposal. If this assessment shows that the proposal for national park reserve is feasible and there is public and First Nations support, the governments and First Nations may decide to proceed with negotiation of a park establishment agreement. Otherwise, the proposal will go no further.

Why is the protection of the Pituamkek (Hog Island Sandhills) region so important?

Pituamkek (Hog Island Sandhills) has been an important location for the Mi’kmaq for thousands of years and has significant cultural, historical, and spiritual value to the Mi’kmaq People. Pituamkek is also home to one of the most ecologically significant coastal dune ecosystems in eastern Canada. Many species at risk, including the little brown bat, the northern long-eared bat, the piping plover and the Gulf of St. Lawrence aster. Additionally, the geological formation of the Pituamkek area forms a coastal barrier which protects the northwestern shores of Prince Edward Island from the volatile tides of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Government of Canada and Prince Edward Island are committed to a system of heritage places that recognize and honours the historic and contemporary contributions of Indigenous peoples, their histories and cultures, as well as the special relationships Indigenous peoples have with ancestral lands and waters.

When would the area be protected? How long will it take?

The creation of a new protected area is a complex process and the Government of Canada, L’nuey, and Government of Prince Edward Island will take the necessary time to ensure that all parties are engaged and that the appropriate consideration is given at each stage. As the characteristics and considerations of each proposal for a new national park or national park reserve are unique, there is no specific timeframe.

The Government of Canada, L’nuey, and the Government of Prince Edward Island will also seek input from stakeholders such as the Island Nature Trust and Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Will you be creating a new national park on PEI? Or will this be part of Prince Edward Island National Park?

The Government of Canada, L’nuey, and the Government of Prince Edward Island will be working together to conduct a feasibility assessment for the creation of a new national park reserve. This is a separate pursuit from the existing Prince Edward Island National Park and the proposed park reserve would function separately and may be co-managed by Parks Canada and the Mi’kmaq. During the process of the feasibility assessment, further discussions may lead to a variety of partnership agreements, including discussions of co-management.

What are the general steps for the establishment of a new national park/national park reserve?

The creation of a new national park is a complex process and requires the collaboration between Parks Canada and its partners, including the provinces and territories and Indigenous groups.

The following are the general steps involved in the establishment of a new national park or national park reserve in Canada:

1. Identify representative areas
Through scientific analysis, areas are identified that are representative of the natural region and in a natural state (or capable of being restored to a natural state).
2. Select a potential candidate area
A candidate area is selected that best represents the natural region based on various criteria as outlined in the system plans and as set out in Parks Canada's Guiding Principles and Operational Policies, and with the support of the province/territory and/or Indigenous groups, as appropriate.
3. Assess the feasibility of the proposed study area
In collaboration with the provincial/territorial government and Indigenous groups, the proposed study area and its regional context are assessed to determine if it will be feasible to negotiate an establishment agreement. The assessment is based on conservation science, social science, mineral and energy resources assessment. This leads to identifying a preferred boundary and operational management concept. An essential component is consultations with Indigenous groups, stakeholders and the public. It is during this step that Parks Canada may seek interim protection measures or land withdrawals to ensure candidate areas are not lost to development.
4. Negotiate and sign agreement(s)
A federal-provincial/territorial agreement for land transfer and/or Mutual Benefit Agreement(s) are negotiated, depending on the context of the Indigenous claims.
5. Protect the site formally under legislation
This step involves bringing a new national park or national park reserve under the Canada National Parks Act. The characteristics and considerations of a particular national park or national park reserve proposal mean that its establishment process is unique, and as such, there is no specific timeframe for moving through the process.
Will there be any benefits for the local Mi’kmaq communities in protecting this area?

The feasibility assessment will consider, among other things, the social, environmental and economic benefits and impacts of establishing a protected area.

Among its benefits, the establishment of a protected area would protect an important ecological area and the wildlife that calls it home, as well as Mi’kmaq cultural sites, and important archaeological sites for future generations.

Furthermore, a national park reserve would create opportunities for local Mi’kmaq People to participate in the establishment and management of the protected area.

How will the Mi’kmaq be involved in the establishment and management of the proposed protected area?

Parks Canada, L’nuey, and Prince Edward Island are working in partnership to conduct the feasibility assessment. If the outcome of the feasibility assessment is positive, Parks Canada and L’nuey will then look to define the relationships and the roles and responsibilities in the management of a future national park reserve, toward the mutual benefit and shared goals of Parks Canada and the Mi’kmaq. Parks Canada is committed to reconciliation and working in partnerships with Indigenous peoples in the establishment and management of national protected areas.

What does a feasibility assessment entail? Who will be consulted as part of the feasibility assessment process?

Parks Canada, L’nuey and the Government of Prince Edward Island will work to determine if the establishment of a proposed national park reserve is feasible.

The focus of the feasibility stage is the development of a boundary and overall park concept. During this stage, additional focus is placed on identifying the opportunities and challenges associated with the proposal. The feasibility of establishing a national park reserve will be assessed through extensive local public consultations and will consider, among other things, the social, environmental and economic benefits and impacts of establishing a protected area in northwestern Prince Edward Island.

The goal of the feasibility assessment process is to assess the support of First Nations communities, local communities and provincial or territorial governments, including regional stakeholders.

When will the feasibility assessment be launched? When will it be completed?

The feasibility assessment process began in August of 2019. Under normal circumstances, Parks Canada and our partners would invite stakeholders and the public to partake in a series of in-person open houses and public information sessions.

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, these information sessions have been delayed and online engagement sessions will take place. In-person engagement opportunities may be possible in the future – as safety measures allow. Exact timelines are difficult to determine at this time, but early projections suggest the feasibility assessment is expected to last 2 years before completion.

Once the feasibility assessment is complete and there is agreement on a formal park concept, the next step is negotiating a memorandum of Understanding (MOU), before moving to negotiations of a formal establishment agreement.

What does the 2021 federal budget mean for this project?

Budget 2021 represents the largest and most ambitious investment in nature conservation in Canada’s history. Budget 2021 commits approximately $1 billion to ocean protection and over $2 billion to land and freshwater protection over the next 5 years, ensuring that Canada can meet its domestic target of conserving 25 per cent land and sea by 2025.


Timeline
Find out where we are in the journey of creating a national park reserve in Pituamkek.


More information