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Located in Labrador on the mainland portion of Canada’s most northeasterly province, the glacially-rounded, bare rock summits of the Mealy Mountains reach 1180 metres to overlook Lake Melville. The region’s pristine landscapes of mountain tundra, marine coasts, boreal forests, islands and rivers are home to numerous boreal species. For thousands of years, ancient human cultures have also called this place home. To the Innu, Inuit, southern Inuit and other people in the region, the landscapes of this outstanding wilderness natural setting hold great cultural significance.
Since the mid-1970s, this culturally-rich, natural area has been under consideration as the site of a national park reserve. Following the successful conclusion of a park feasibility assessment in 2001, Parks Canada launched negotiations with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and with the Innu Nation in 2010.
Land transfer agreement officially establishes the national park reserve
The Akami-Uapishkᵁ-KakKasuak-Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve was officially established as Canada’s 46th national park with the July 31, 2015 signing of a federal/provincial Land Transfer Memorandum of Agreement. The lands were officially transferred by the province of Newfoundland and Labrador on July 10, 2017, when Parks Canada formally accepted the 10,700 km2 area in the Mealy Mountains region of central Labrador for the administration and control as a national park reserve. The traditional names of what is now the largest national park in eastern Canada are Akami-Uapishkᵁ, an Innu word meaning White Mountains across, and KakKasuak, a Labrador Inuit word for mountain.
The Akami-Uapishkᵁ-KakKasuak-Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve protects a nationally significant example of the East Coast Boreal Natural Region. Its establishment achieves important progress towards the goal of creating a system of national parks and national park reserves that represents the diversity of Canada’s distinct ecoregions.
Co-operative management with Indigenous communities
One of the defining features of the Akami-Uapishkᵁ-KakKasuak-Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve will be the sharing of management and planning responsibilities with our Indigenous communities:
Innu Nation The Innu Nation area of interest covers the entire park. The Innu Land Claims Agreement in Principle includes a commitment to establish the park, subject to the negotiation of a Park Impacts and Benefits Agreement (PIBA). The negotiated PIBA that was signed with the Innu Nation on July 31, 2015, the same day as the land transfer agreement, confirms that the Innu will maintain use of the land and resources within the park and sit on a Co-operative Management Board.
Nunatsiavut Government About eight per cent of the park is within the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area and is subject to the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement. As required under the Land Claims Agreement, a separate Park Impacts and Benefits Agreement has been negotiated with the Nunatsiavut Government. It was signed by Parks Canada on July 10, 2017.
NunatuKavut Community Council In response to the asserted rights of NunatuKavut members, formerly the Labrador Métis Nation, Parks Canada has negotiated a Shared Understanding Agreement with the NunatuKavut Community Council, defining their future role in the park. Signed on September 21, 2015, the agreement ensures their traditional activities will continue, and provides a framework for consultation, co-operative management and planning.
Innu of Quebec The Innu communities on the North Shore of Quebec have an accepted comprehensive claim by Canada that includes a portion of the Mealy Mountains area. Parks Canada is working to negotiate an Interim Protocol Agreement with the Quebec Innu.
In addition to these Indigenous partners, non-Indigenous traditional users are permitted to carry out traditional activities within the national park reserve. For more information, residents can contact Parks Canada directly.
National Park vs National Park ReserveThe Canada National Parks Act (CNPA) provides for the establishment of two categories of national parks: national parks and national park reserves. A national park reserve designation is used when there are outstanding claims by Indigenous people regarding Indigenous rights and title, and these claims have been accepted by Canada for negotiation. This is the case for the national park reserve in the Mealy Mountains. The Akami-Uapishkᵁ-KakKasuak-Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve will be formally brought under the CNPA upon the conclusion of work that is currently underway to negotiate a Park Impacts and Benefits Agreement with Inuit represented by the Nunatsiavut Government, and once an interim protocol agreement is negotiated with the Innu communities in Quebec, and upon the tabling of a bill in Parliament. It is anticipated this will take a number of years. In the meantime, work will continue to operationalize the national park reserve so that it may fulfill its role of protecting the park’s heritage resources and presenting its significance to the public for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations of Canadians.
Collaborating with Indigenous partners and others to protect and present the heritage values of the Akami-Uapishkᵁ-KakKasuak-Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve.
The creation of a national park reserve marks the beginning of an exciting and busy time. Once established, it takes time for a new park to become operational.
With the land transfer completed in July 2017, Parks Canada’s focus has turned to fulfilling the terms of the important agreements reached as part of park establishment. Among these is the creation of a Co-operative Management Board and other advisory boards.
Working together with Indigenous partners and others within these collaborative frameworks, we will undertake the park’s first management plan. The plan will address how we will collectively: ensure sustainability of the land within the context of traditional land uses; improve our understanding of the heritage values of the park and the requirements for their protection; and share the story of this special place with others as we prepare to welcome guests.
Ensuring sustainability of the land
In addition to a Co-operative Management Board, other committees and advisory boards will be established to guide and assist with issues related to carrying out traditional activities and land uses, and maintaining the cultural integrity of traditional ways of life.
Protecting heritage values
The national park reserve will play an important role in wildlife conservation. The park protects a significant portion of the range of the threatened Mealy Mountains caribou herd, including their key habitat. Extensive landscapes of boreal forest, which occur throughout the park, are home to such boreal species as caribou, wolves, black bear, marten and fox. Extensive wetlands provide important habitat for migratory birds such as ducks and geese, while high mountains provide important Arctic-alpine habitat for northern species.
Along with members of the Co-operative Management Board that will be formed in the near future, Parks Canada will explore possible ways to collaborate with Indigenous partners and others in the tourism sector to enhance the natural and cultural tourism opportunities that will eventually be available to visitors.