Thank you, Chair. It's great to be here today. Thank you to the vice-chair and the members of the committee for having us here to speak to an update on our current work on protected areas in Canada.
My name is Niall O'Dea and I'm the associate assistant deputy minister for the Canadian wildlife service, a branch of Environment and Climate Change Canada.
I'm joined by Mark Cauchi, who is our director general of protected areas of the wildlife service; and as well, of course, by our esteemed colleagues from Parks, Michael Nadler and David Murray.
I'd like to start by thanking this committee for the unanimously supported 2017 report, “Taking Action Today: Establishing Protected Areas for Canada's Future”.
The initiatives I will describe are very much in keeping with the objective of the recommendations in that report, which was “to help Canada rapidly increase the extent of its protected spaces in a coordinated and equitable manner”.
The issues at hand are of global significance. The report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, released on May 6, observed, with alarm, that biodiversity continues to decline in every region of the world, significantly reducing the earth's capacity to contribute to our well-being.
The international report also identified the expansion and strengthening of ecologically representative and well-connected protected areas networks as well as other affected area-based conservation measures as an effective policy response.
With 20% of the world's freshwater resources, 24% of its wetlands, 25% of its temperate rain forest and 33% of its remaining boreal forest, Canada has a unique opportunity to lead the transformative change called for in the international report.
Canadians are facing the impacts of climate change itself, and so is nature. Our efforts to establish new protected areas also provide an important contribution to addressing climate change, supporting resilience to climate impacts for both nature and people, and protecting critically important carbon stores in our peatlands, wetlands and forests.
In budget 2018, tabled about a year following the publication of your report, the federal government announced an historic investment of $1.3 billion in nature conservation known as the nature legacy.
This was the single largest investment in the conservation of nature in Canadian history.
A key component of the nature legacy is the Government of Canada's $500-million investment in a new Canada nature fund, which was launched last fall. The nature fund is facilitating an array of new partnerships that are enabling Canadians to protect and conserve Canada's important ecosystems. The federal government's contribution to the fund will be matched by partners, thereby supporting at least $1 billion in conservation actions.
Today's focus is on Canada's land and freshwater conservation target, known as “target 1”, recognizing that the Canada nature fund will also support Canadians in working towards the country's complete suite of 2020 conservation targets, protecting and recovering species at risk, improving biodiversity and contributing to reconciliation with indigenous peoples, as well as the sustainability of local communities.
The nature fund is already supporting projects that will quickly add to Canada's protected and conserved areas. Specifically, funding of $14.5 million was allocated from the fund last year to near-ready or strategically important protected areas projects. The purpose of these quick start projects is to build momentum for meeting Canada's commitment to protect and conserve important sites for biodiversity.
A number of projects have been announced, including the recently established new provincial wild land park in Alberta, called Kitaskino Nuwenëné, the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes municipal park in Halifax, as well as protected lands around Georgian Bay. A map providing the location of 20 quick start projects can be found on our website.
The Canada target 1 challenge is the largest component of the Canada nature fund. This was launched in early December through an open call for proposals and will allocate up to $175 million over the next four years to projects that lead to the direct establishment of new protected and conserved areas across Canada. The federal government will work with provinces and territories, indigenous people, and the private and not-for-profit sectors to advance Canada's commitment to protect 17% of our lands and inland waters by the end of 2020.
Target 1 challenge projects will increase the number of protected and conserved areas, and also expand existing areas to enhance the ecological integrity and connectivity of Canada's network of protected and conserved areas, as called for by this committee and in the international report I mentioned earlier. They will protect and conserve provincial and territorial Crown land, private lands and indigenous lands located across Canada.
By the March 29 deadline, 148 target 1 challenge proposals were submitted, coming from provincial, territorial and municipal governments, indigenous people and non-governmental organizations. The proposals are currently being evaluated, based on a number of objectives and criteria established for the initiative.
In parallel, the natural heritage conservation program, announced by in Toronto on April 23, will provide an additional $100 million from the nature fund to enable a coordinated approach to the acquisition of private lands and interests in lands for conservation. Every dollar of federal funding in the NHCP will be matched by a minimum of $2 of funding from non-federal sources, including in-kind matching, such as donations of land. Including this match, the national heritage conservation program will invest more than $300 million in conserving nature.
The government is also using the nature fund to support the work of partners on new and existing national wildlife areas, including the recently announced Scott Islands marine national wildlife area and the Edéhzhié indigenous protected area that will be designated as a national wildlife area in 2020.
On the margins of the recent nature champions summit, announced the intent to create three new national wildlife areas, involving 27 islands in the St. Lawrence River near Montreal, and also a new national wildlife area for Isle Haute in Nova Scotia.
Environment and Climate Change Canada continues to work collaboratively with provinces and territories, national indigenous representative organizations, and others through the pathway to Canada target 1 process. A major step forward was taken with the release of the report, “One With Nature”, in February 2019. This report, supported by all federal, provincial and territorial deputy ministers, provides a guiding framework of policy definitions and tools to enable progress on target 1.
On April 25, 2019, Environment and Climate Change Canada announced that significant new progress has been made against target 1 since the end of 2017. Since that time, Canada has increased the proportion of land and fresh water that is protected and conserved from 10.5% to 11.8%. This increase is equivalent to the size of Greece.
By supporting others, the government is strengthening and better connecting networks of protected and conserved areas in support of biodiversity, while contributing to reconciliation with indigenous people and the sustainability of local communities.
The report of this committee from 2017 recommended that the Government of Canada set even more ambitious targets for protected areas than those established to date.
The results of an Abacus Data national public opinion survey demonstrated widespread support across the country and across generations for protecting and conserving more natural spaces in Canada, and for meeting Canada's commitment to biodiversity.
The current set of global biodiversity targets conclude in 2020, and the parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity have embarked on a process to develop a new framework, with an updated set of global targets for the post-2020 period.
Progress made towards the 17% target, and the productive relationships that have formed with provinces and territories, indigenous peoples and the not-for-profit and private sectors, position Canada well to contribute to the international discussions that are under way. Indeed, Canada is co-chairing the international working group that's developing the new global biodiversity framework for post-2020, expected to be considered for decision at an October 2020 meeting of the parties to that convention, in Kunming, China.
Establishing new protected and conserved areas across the country, and contributing to the protection and recovery of species at risk is an important part of the government's plan for environmental sustainability and protection. The Nature Fund is supporting Canadians from across the country to realize broadly shared objectives, while recognizing the fundamental link between nature, a stable climate, human well-being and sustainable development for all. build a better future, and set an example for the world.
Thanks, Mr. Chair. Thanks to all of you for the opportunity to speak today. As you mentioned, my name is Michael Nadler. I'm the interim chief executive officer at Parks Canada. I'm joined by David Murray, who is a key part of our establishment team, primarily focused on northern parks and protected places.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to appear before committee today. Parks Canada is pleased to play a role in conservation nationally, and specifically in the implementation of the historic investments announced in budget 2018, and discussed by Niall a moment ago. We're working with a broad array of partners to advance conservation across Canada, and achieve international targets for biodiversity and the establishment of protected places.
The work the government is undertaking today on conservation will help to ensure that Canada is maintaining and growing a national network of protected landscapes that will support biodiversity, and care for our uniquely varied ecology, for generations to come.
I will provide four examples of our work, starting with the land.
Parks Canada is proud to contribute to Canada's commitment to protect 3.3% of Canada's lands. Our national parks are located in each of Canada's 10 provinces and three territories, and increasingly have been achieved through partnerships with communities and other governments, but especially with indigenous peoples. While not explicitly called “indigenous protected areas”, they have increasingly adopted the principles behind the concept.
At this time, Parks Canada is working closely with indigenous peoples and the Government of the Northwest Territories to complete the final steps required to establish Thaidene Nëné national park reserve in the Northwest Territories, on the east arm of Great Slave Lake.
We are working with first nations in the province of British Columbia to establish a national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen region, which will protect some of Canada's last grassland habitats. These are among the most endangered ecosystems worldwide.
On the marine front, Parks Canada has made a significant contribution towards Canada's commitment to protect 10% of the nation's marine and coastal areas by 2020.
In August 2017, Canada, the Government of Nunavut and the Inuit of Nunavut's Baffin region, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, signed a memorandum of understanding setting the boundaries of Canada's largest-ever conservation area: Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound. This area spans some 109,000 square kilometres, and includes one of Canada's most diverse aquatic ecosystems.
Parks Canada is working closely with partners in Nunavut, and within the federal family, to move from interim protection for this very special place, achieved in 2017, toward the permanent establishment of Tallurutiup Imanga, in the near offing.
Moreover, we are working with federal, territorial and Inuit partners to assess the feasibility of creating several marine-protected areas in the High Arctic Basin. This area of Canada's last ice is an important conservation target, due to the presence of multi-year pack ice, upon which many species rely.
These are just four of the many protected areas establishment initiatives that Parks Canada is pursuing at this time.
These initiatives mark not only significant conservation gains and stand as important examples of Crown-indigenous reconciliation. Our agency is proud of its achievements in conservation and sharing protected lands with Canadians. We are particularly proud of doing this work in partnership with the communities, provinces, territories and especially indigenous groups.
Thank you for your attention.
Many thanks again for receiving us here today.