If we can come to order, that would be awesome. Thank you very much.
We were waiting for a few more to join us, but we know that some people have deadlines. We're going to get started and hope the others will join us soon.
We are working today on protected spaces. I know that we sometimes jump around between CEPA and protected spaces, so I want to make sure everyone is clear about what we're working on today: protected spaces.
We have the pleasure of three groups in front of us today.
One is the Moose Cree First Nation, with Patricia Faries, who is the the chief, and Jack Rickard, the director of lands and resources.
Thanks very much to both of you for being here.
We also have with us the Grand Council of the Crees, Eeyou Istchee, with Chantal Otter Tétreault, who is the protected areas coordinator for the Cree Nation government. With her is Geoffrey Quaile. He's the senior environment adviser from the Cree Nation government.
Thank you very much to both of you for being here with us today.
We have also the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, with Janet Sumner, executive director for the Wildlands League, and we have Alain Branchaud, executive director from Quebec.
Thanks to both of you for being here with us.
We're going to start off with the Moose Cree First Nation.
We will turn the time over to you. You have 10 minutes. It's all yours. Thank you very much.
Good afternoon. Thank you for this opportunity to share with the committee our perspective on protected areas and conservation objectives. At this time, I would like to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
It is an honour to be here before you today as we share our thoughts as indigenous people. As the chair indicated, my name is Patricia Faries. I am the chief of Moose Cree First Nation. Jack Rickard is our director of lands and resources.
We are from the Moose Cree First Nation, and we recently reaffirmed our “Homelands Declaration” in September of this year. Our home community is located in Moose Factory, on the Moose River delta in the Moose River system. Our Moose Cree homeland extends from Hearst, Ontario, in the west, to just beyond the Quebec border in the east, and from south of Highway 11 to points north toward the Albany River. Our Homelands are the areas determined by the Moose Cree citizens, our Eh-lilu-wuk, which is inclusive generally of the historical occupancy and use of lands and watersheds in northeastern Ontario.
The Moose Cree homelands are comprised of static boundaries and covers approximately 60,000 square kilometres. As the Moose Cree have determined, the homelands area includes surface and subsurface lands, air, and water. The homelands area has been derived by using Moose Cree knowledge from our elders and is based on our continued presence of hunting, trapping, and harvesting in these grounds, prior to the Ontario government trapline system, and indeed, prior to the signing of our James Bay treaty, Treaty No. 9.
This is the land our ancestors called home, where our forefathers were born, where food was gathered, where families were raised and buried, and where the Moose Cree life and culture continue to thrive. We consider ourselves the Water People. We believe that everything on this earth is alive—Nipi-ma-tis-i-win, meaning “water is life”—and water is one element that can be influenced by its environment, as was proven by western science.
We, the Moose Cree people, are the original peoples of this land. The Creator has given us this land as our home. The Creator gave us our spiritual beliefs, our languages, our culture, and this place on earth, which provides for all our needs. Our ancestors have lived on this land since time immemorial, drawing on the animals, fish, and plants for their sustenance. We are charged by the Creator with the duty of preserving and protecting the land for our future generations.
We come before you today to speak of a matter of great importance to us, to provide you information on the initiatives we are conducting within our homelands to ensure the protection and conservation of our way of life. We believe our initiatives run parallel with this study on federal protected areas and conservation objectives.
For the last 80 years, the people of Moose Cree have observed the impacts that have occurred on our lands, our water, and our wildlife. There is a broad range of resource development activities occurring in the southern portion of our homeland, including significant mineral exploration and extraction, hydroelectric development, and forestry.
We seek to work collaboratively with proponents where possible. In fact, Moose Cree is possibly the only first nation in Ontario to become a partner in a major energy infrastructure project with Ontario Power Generation. Within our homeland, we own 25% of the Lower Mattagami River project. We know, however, that economic development must be sustainable and must be pursued in a manner that protects our cultural integrity and is consistent with our cultural pursuits and the protection of our treaty and inherent rights.
The lands and resources secretariat has been mandated by the chief and council to provide for the management, protection, conservation, and preservation of the Moose Cree First Nation homeland on behalf of its citizens. One important initiative is the protection of the North French River watershed. This is shown shaded on the map you have before you. The pink area is the North French River watershed. This region is considered of great cultural significance to our first nation. We are deeply committed to preserving it and strongly oppose any resource development in this area.
The North French watershed is 6,660 square kilometres in size. As you can see on the map, the North French lies within the heart of the Moose Cree homelands. It is an area that remains free of any negative impacts from any resource development and is one of the last pristine freshwater sources. To this day, we can still draw water from the river and drink it directly. It is an area that has great cultural and environmental significance to the Moose Cree First Nation and is an area that must be protected for our future generations.
From discussions with our esteemed elders and other knowledge holders, it is clear that the preservation of the watershed is paramount. It is a source of clean water. It provides healthy habitat for the threatened boreal caribou and for fisheries. It is also a part of the carbon storehouse within the area. Most of all, it's a place for our people to exercise our heritage activities. That is fundamental to the continued well-being of our first nation.
While Moose Cree now considers this area to be removed from potential development, we are conscious that the issue of formal long-term protection should be addressed co-operatively. We request the federal government's support and co-operation in ensuring the removal of this area from potential development and that its protection be fully formalized and communicated with proponents, the public, and all governments.
We have asked Ontario, as an initial step, to withdraw these lands from any mineral prospecting, staking, sale, or lease. They have yet to act on this and, as such, are still encouraging mining, which is deeply troublesome to us. We are concerned that Ontario intends to introduce online staking in 2017, which may bring new threats to our territory.
We understand that both Canada and Ontario have signed on to ambitious targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity to protect 17% of lands and inland waters by 2020. We strongly encourage the committee and all governments to work with indigenous peoples to reflect and respect their protected areas in these plans.
We also look for your support to encourage Ontario to stop resource development in this watershed and to respect our indigenous-led protected area here. Right now, there is a gap, in that the provincial government has yet to respect our indigenous protected area and stop development from occurring here. This is critical to working toward reconciliation with our people. Ontario has no formal mechanism in its laws to respect our protected area. Ontario also has no formal mechanism in law to respect our ongoing management of any protected area. This needs to be fixed.
We recommend that you formally recognize our protected area and that you work with us to ensure these areas are permanently protected, as our people have said. The North French is one of several watersheds in our territory that require permanent protection. We will have more to say about other watersheds in the territory as our community members discuss them.
Indigenous peoples are leading the management and protection of their homelands in Canada. It is important that governments recognize this and work with us. Together, not only can we meet these international targets, but we can show leadership to the world.
Moose Cree have always been proactive in taking care of their homeland and their people. We have begun a land protection planning exercise, with an emphasis on protection of our resources. Over the years, we have carried out indigenous knowledge studies of the waters, the caribou, and the fish within our river systems. We have important bird areas in our homeland and have been surveying them for many years now.
We would like to say a final word about climate change and protected areas. We are deeply concerned about climate change, and our people are calling on us to take action. We see the indigenous protected areas in our territory that overlap the carbon-rich boreal forests and Hudson Bay lowlands as incredibly important tools in ensuring the resilience of ecosystems in the face of a warming climate.
We invite you to partner with us to build indigenous protected areas to meet international targets on biodiversity, to meet our ambitious climate change objectives, and to achieve reconciliation with indigenous peoples in Canada. We invite you to work with us.
Thank you for the opportunity to share our recommendations. We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon. My name is Chantal Otter Tétreault. I am a Cree from the community of Waswanipi, in Eeyou lstchee, northern Quebec. I am the protected areas coordinator for the Cree Nation Government. I am also interim chair for the Eeyou Marine Region Planning Commission, but today I am speaking on behalf of the Cree Nation Government. I am here with Geoff Quaile, who is the senior environment adviser for the Cree Nation Government.
First of all, thank you for the invitation to speak today. The Cree Nation Government, through its Department of Environment and Remedial Works, has taken on the task of researching, consulting on, and planning protected areas in Eeyou lstchee. The Crees have taken on this responsibility as a necessity in order to further protect and enhance our rights under section 22, on the environment, and section 24, on hunting, fishing and trapping, of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
In our territory, the Government of Quebec is primarily responsible for creating protected areas. Despite this, we have been proactive in ensuring that the candidate sites chosen for protection in our part of Quebec are in line with the Cree aspirations. We are now involved in the creation and management of protected areas in Eeyou lstchee. Examples here would be the Assinica Cree heritage park, the Albanel-Témiscamie-Otish national park, and the Muskuuchii biodiversity reserve.
In 2014, the Cree Nation Government, CNG, made its terms for selection of sites clear. Our vision is to “maintain strong ties to the Cree cultural heritage and way of life, and sustain biodiversity by creating a large, interconnected network of conservation areas in Eeyou lstchee.” This strategy was born in part from the necessity for the Cree Nation to react to Quebec's “Plan Nord”, which promised to develop 50% of Quebec's north while protecting the remaining 50%.
The Cree regional conservation strategy is a reminder to the future architects of the Plan Nord that the Crees possess constitutionally protected rights that mandate consideration beyond a typical profit/loss and risk/reward framework. It bears mentioning that these rights also align with those listed in various international agreements that Canada supports, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as article 8(j) of the the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity.
Some of the goals highlighted in the Cree Nation conservation strategy are: one, to create an interconnected network of conservation areas of cultural and ecological importance for the safeguarding of biodiversity; two, to conserve wildlife populations and enhance food security for present and future generations; three, to ensure full Cree participation in conservation planning and management; four, to ensure Cree knowledge, culture, and land management systems play a central role in conservation initiatives; five, to build Cree capacity for conservation planning and management; six, to ensure Cree youth are engaged in all stages of the strategy; seven, to integrate conservation science principles and build in resilience to climate change; and eight, to ensure the strategy is adaptive and based on the best available knowledge.
As indicated, our vision for the conservation of Eeyou lstchee is not solely dependent upon protected areas, which often only lead to the creation of islands of protection. Rather, we see our strategy as a more comprehensive approach, using many different tools. An example here is the CNG's recent efforts to safeguard Eeyou lstchee from uranium mining and, more specifically, the Otish Mountains, which were under threat from a proposed mining development even though the area was already part of a park co-managed with Quebec. The Crees deemed the risk of uranium mining to be too much of a burden for Crees to carry and thus put their full political weight behind a territorial moratorium.
Similarly, the Broadback River stands as one of the last wild rivers not diverted by Hydro-Québec in Eeyou lstchee. Also, the area is increasingly under threat from the northward expansion of logging operations. Given that parts of the watershed remain as some of the last examples of intact mature spruce forests in the Quebec commercial forest zone, the Cree communities have requested that portions of the valley be spared from logging, primarily to save the habitat of woodland caribou in this area.
It is for these parallel reasons that the CNG has persistently asked the Quebec government to take action in implementing an effective woodland caribou plan that would put the conservation of the Broadback basin at its core. In this area, we have three known herds—the Nottaway, Assinica, and Temiscamie herds—occupying a range of approximately 100,000 square kilometres. Much of the area has been disturbed by forestry activities and the subsequent development. In fact, the disturbance level for each of these herds already meets or exceeds the limits of the 35% maximum threshold of disturbed habitat recommended by the federal woodland caribou recovery strategy. Unlike many of the dwelling herds in Canada, these herds have a chance of recovery if we can only recognize the urgent need of investing in the protection of their habitat.
Unlike Canada and Quebec, which employ a mapping system of ecoregions to identify the high value of representative ecosystem features as potential candidate sites for protection, the Cree regional conservation strategy includes our system of family hunting territories.
Eeyou lstchee is divided into about 300 family hunting territories covering approximately 450,000 square kilometres. Let me put that more in perspective. My family hunting territory, known as “Traplines”, is about the size of Montreal and is considered very small compared to other hunting territories.
Each family has a person who serves as a land manager of these areas. An active “tallyman” has an intimate knowledge of their territory, which has been built up over generations. They know the best areas and the seasons to fish and to hunt game. Tradition has it that prospective land users must consult with the tallyman for permission and instructions on where, when, and how to access resources on the hunting territories. Aside from this important role, tallymen also act as auxiliary wildlife officers, meaning they have a duty to report any wrongdoing to authorities. These guardians of the land take on this responsibility to protect the land for everyone.
In terms of the Cree regional conservation strategy, our orientation for determining what areas are important to conserve is based on this family hunting territory system.
With respect to CNG's collaboration with the federal government on conservation, our focus has been mainly on marine and coast areas. The CNG worked with the previous Conservative government on the establishment of a national marine conservation area within the Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement area. Regrettably, there was little return in these efforts, and no action was taken.
The Cree Nation Government was delighted to read the mandate letter of the , which instructs the minister to increase the portion of Canada's marine and coastal areas to the international target. Great exchanges have already been made between the Cree Nation Government and Parks Canada, and we are currently drafting a memorandum of understanding to solidify a true working relationship for the development of a marine protected area.
If it were possible, we would like to protect all of our territory; however, we need to think of the needs of the future generations. A robust and diverse economy will offer the widest possible choice for our people, as long as it is situated in a healthy and protected environment.
The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement protects our traditional way of life, and it ensures participation in development. To support our growing population, we must embrace development that works best for us. By using the land use planning provisions of the governance agreement with Quebec, by employing a special management regime on forestry that is set up in the Cree-Quebec Paix des Braves agreement, and by using the various environmental assessment processes set out in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, we fight to strike a balance between conservation and development.
These efforts have many moving parts, so it's important for us not to lose sight of what our elders remind us of concerning the importance of our culture, language, and way of life, and the importance of active participation in development.
Good afternoon. Thank you for the invitation to speak today.
My name is Janet Sumner. I'm the executive director of the Wildlands League, a chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
The CPAWS Wildlands League is a not-for-profit charity that has been working in the public interest to protect public lands and resources in Ontario since 1968. At the Wildlands League, we have extensive knowledge of land use in Ontario and a history of working with provincial, federal, indigenous, and municipal governments, scientists, the public, and resource industries on progressive conservation initiatives. We've published on issues such as forestry and terrestrial carbon, assessments on transmission corridor impacts on a caribou range, monitoring and reporting failures from a diamond mine in a world-class wetland, and much more.
You may have seen our Paddle the Rouge event last June, where we had 200 paddlers out for a Sunday paddle with Prime Minister and Madam Grégoire Trudeau in the Rouge national park.
What is probably lesser known is our work with KI, where the community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib lnninuwug created a watershed declaration making their lands largely off-limits to industrial development. We asked the province to respect this declaration and recognize and reflect it in provincial law. The province finally agreed and withdrew 2.6 million hectares from mining tenure.
If Canada is to meet the 2020 biodiversity goals and targets adopted in 2015, the Province of Ontario and, for that matter, Manitoba and Quebec, will have to consider the Hudson Bay-James Bay lowlands wetland complex as a place where a significant contribution to the networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures is made.
In an age where we are already experiencing significant warming from climate change, unprecedented declines in species, and a carbon cycle that frankly is drastically off-kilter, protected areas and the protection targets must also be about addressing the overlap on climate, carbon, caribou, and biodiversity. We can do this by inserting protection objectives into our climate plan. Conservation areas can be identified when we do caribou range plans, and caribou outcomes can be achieved in our protected areas planning. These mandates overlap, and opportunities that are synergistic and achieve multiple benefits will be more efficient. For example, the federal recovery strategy for woodland caribou released by Environment Canada says that range plans must have more than 65% intactness.
I have worked with progressive companies across ranges all across Canada to develop technical inputs and range approaches that, if implemented by governments, could achieve that outcome. These range plans designate areas open for industrial use, but also areas that are off limits. It would be wise to see conservation areas, therefore, as contributions from these off-limit areas.
This isn't all about caribou either. In terms of carbon, in Ontario alone there are more than 28 million hectares of bogs and fens rich in carbon. Advancing protection here will protect millions of tonnes of carbon and the breeding grounds for the hemisphere's several billion migratory birds.
As you can see, there are multiple benefits in looking for contributions to the Aichi targets from Ontario's boreal. Partnering with indigenous communities in the boreal, though, is the key to achieving conservation outcomes. Supporting and embracing these efforts in a way that respects indigenous rights and interests is a huge opportunity to advance both conservation and reconciliation. Indigenous protected areas are recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and you have heard today about the Moose Cree, who are also working to achieve conservation outcomes that we are supportive of.
In the communities of the north, indigenous watershed declarations are being written right now. Ontario and Canada must find ways to honour and respect these conservation areas. We ask the federal government to encourage the provinces and territories to stop handing out permits for industrial activities in areas that have been proposed for permanent protection by indigenous peoples.
Part of the role for parks in the southern portions of Ontario is to also focus on maintaining and restoring ecological integrity as the management priority by law. That's why we were very pleased, therefore, to see this reflected in the amendments tabled by Minister for the Rouge National Urban Park. Meeting this objective, though, means reinvesting in conservation science capacity in Parks Canada. There is a need to refocus on our collective responsibility to pass along these special places unimpaired for future generations. We are committed to helping in any way we can.
In summary, if we are to achieve the commitments we have on conservation, then we need strong federal leadership, like the leadership we currently have on climate change, to bring provincial governments together in a concerted effort to meet and then exceed the 17% protection. We also need federal leadership that seeks to achieve these outcomes through synergy and opportunity in the overlap of mandates where climate and caribou outcomes dovetail with conservation objectives and are positively reinforced through EA reform.
Thank you, Madam Chair. I will start again.
The situation of protected areas in Quebec is similar to the situation in Canada. The network of protected areas in Quebec covers approximately 1% of the marine environment and a little less than 10% of the land environment.
Mining rights, oil permits and the forestry potential—in other words, the rights over the territory acquired by private interests—are the major obstacles to the fulfilment of Quebec’s and Canada’s international commitments to protect their territory. There are no effective legislative tools available to settle these impasses, to give real weight to the democratic will of the people and to advance the network of protected areas.
Four active projects involving marine protected areas are under way in Quebec. For us, the priority is the establishment of a protected area in the Magdalen Islands; it alone would achieve Quebec’s interim marine environment goal of 10% by 2020. This is also an area in which the federal government could play a key role.
On land, several dozen projects are dormant on shelves. These are projects that have wide consensus among local communities and that would add about 34,000 square kilometres to the protected areas in Quebec and would quickly bring the province to almost 12%. A number of projects on the table provide major economic development possibilities, such as the Lake Walker national park project on the north shore, or the protection, once and for all, of the Dumoine River watershed, not far from here in the Pontiac. The Government of Quebec’s Plan Nord project aims to protect 50% of the land north of the 49th parallel. There is also a great opportunity to advance the network of protected areas in Quebec and in Canada, bearing in mind that the network should be representative of the ecosystems, both in the north and the south.
A number of solutions exist. The work of federal and provincial departments responsible for establishing protected areas is marked by a lack of transparency. Things are generally done behind closed doors. The doors and the windows must be opened. There must be room for NGO representatives in order to facilitate discussions with the local communities and to do away with what often seem like unproductive little turf wars between departments and levels of government.
Since 2015, Quebec no longer has a strategic position on the establishment of protected areas. We feel that holding an extraordinary summit on biodiversity would allow the road to success to be defined together. Indigenous leadership in establishing protected areas across Canada must be promoted, encouraged and maintained.
There must also be openness and originality as the next protected areas are established. For example, creating a network of institutions for traditional teaching, with campuses made up of protected areas of more than 10,000 square kilometres, would, in one stroke, allow traditional knowledge to flourish and be protected. They could eventually become places of interaction and reconciliation between the nations of the country.
As one final idea for a solution, we invite you all to take the 150.ca challenge that we will be launching next January. As a part of the celebrations for Canada’s 150th birthday, it will give governments, the public and business the opportunity to give Canadians a present for the future in the form of protected areas. You are welcome to participate.
Here is a specific example to show how the challenge could work.
The Government of Canada has unused land adjacent to Quebec’s Parc national des Îles-de-Boucherville. That unused federal land could be made available to expand the park. We also challenge the Government of Quebec to make available land of an equivalent area to expand Gatineau Park in the Outaouais. We need new ideas and a dynamic approach if together we are going to meet the huge challenge of attaining the interim objective of 17% in 2020.
Thank you, witnesses, and welcome to our committee today. It is always a real pleasure to hear what our indigenous communities are doing across the country.
Let me go back for just a second. I've been on a national tour with another committee. We've been to all ends of the country, including spending eight hours in Iqaluit yesterday. I left there this morning in snow. As we travelled, we met with many indigenous groups across the country. It's always great hearing about the connections to land and the stewardship of land from the beginning of time.
To the witnesses who spoke this afternoon, you continue to reinforce that willingness and desire to work with other levels of government for the protection of these lands.
CPAWS, it's always a pleasure to hear about the work you're doing. Hopefully I'll get to you with my line of questioning, but I'm going to start with the other panellists.
Because I've been away with my other committee, I'm just getting up to speed on what we've been covering over the last three weeks in protected area discussions. In the work you're doing in Ontario and Quebec, I'm curious about the types of mechanisms that have been looked at and if you're into the mechanics of protected areas and what's going to work in your specific situations.
With this group, we're looking at a number of tools and mechanisms, so it could be things such as Environment Canada and wildlife refuges. Also, under Parks Canada there are national parks with various levels of co-management that are possible. There are marine conservation areas. There are perhaps other mechanisms to provide protections, such as this idea of indigenous protected areas, and we're really trying to figure out what that could look like.
I'd like to turn it over to you, perhaps, to our four panellists from the Moose Cree First Nation and the Grand Council of the Crees, for your about thoughts on what the ideal would be, or on where you're at in discussions about protecting your traditional lands, your homelands, and what we should be looking at in terms of tools and instruments to collaborate with you to achieve these objectives for long-term conservation. I hope that's clear.
Ms. Tétreault, would you like to start?
At the Cree Nation Government, we work very closely with Quebec. We have a very good relationship with Quebec because they also see the need to incorporate indigenous involvement in creating protected areas in the north. We have been using a bit of both traditional knowledge and western science. I've travelled up north—I'm from the north, so it's nice to go up there and see family—but I work from Montreal. I've been going up there and really trying to get into areas that are used. Not surprisingly, when I come back with my map everything is marked: where their camps are, where they hunt, and where their migratory patterns are in terms of caribou.
In using the science part of that, we're basing a lot of our work on watersheds, so we're using catchment areas and trying to get at areas that have no impacts right now and trying to use those areas of Quebec and safeguard these areas from future development, or maybe even mining claims at this moment. We just try to ask, can you not claim these areas, because they show an interest of certain communities? That's the approach we're taking.
In terms of what kinds of protected areas, in Quebec we mainly go toward the biodiversity reserves. That protects everything we want in terms of the wildlife, and it also doesn't.... With regard to national parks, Quebec has their own type of national parks. They are different from Canada's. They like to increase tourism, which is great for us, as it's more economic development. But that's a bit of a long shot, as they already have quite a few national parks in Quebec right now, so we're doing more work with Quebec on biodiversity reserves and aquatic reserves.
Good afternoon, Madam Chair, and members of the committee.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this committee today.
Parks Canada is recognized as a world leader in conservation. My remarks will provide you with details on Parks Canada's work to protect and present our protected places in northern Ontario where we manage a number of land- and water-based natural and cultural sites along the north shore of Lake Superior. They are situated in this rugged part of Canada along the Trans-Canada Highway.
My presentation will speak to my management experiences in support of ecological integrity including monitoring, restoration and providing meaningful experiences to our visitors. You will see through my examples that relationships with local communities, other government departments and indigenous communities are at the heart of how we operate and how we collectively enrich the experience of our visitors.
Established in 1978, Pukaskwa National Park is located on the north shore of Lake Superior, protecting 1,878 square kilometres of ecosystems, including boreal forest and rugged Canadian Shield.
An ecological integrity monitoring program has been implemented to monitor the long-term trends and health of Lake Superior ecosystems, both terrestrial and aquatic. Data is collected by park staff but also as part of an innovative collaboration with Lakehead University.
Since 2013, Lakehead University has held a field course in the park for its environmental science students. The course contributes to the work we do while providing students the opportunity to engage, experience, and learn about conservation and protection in our national heritage places.
Another example is the citizen scientists who are engaged in annual monitoring of the threatened peregrine falcon along Pukaskwa's coast. Each spring, Parks Canada staff and members of Project Peregrine survey known peregrine falcon territories within the park. In 2016, the highest number of active territories to date, five, were recorded in the park.
In addition to ecological monitoring, Pukaskwa is also actively restoring natural ecosystems through the reintroduction of fire on the landscape. Since 1998, the park has burned over 1,400 hectares of boreal forest, helping to restore key habitat. This program represents an opportunity for the agency to share our knowledge of the role of fire in ecosystems with park visitors who can take a walk through a prescribed burn area that includes interpretive panels explaining the role of fire in a healthy ecosystem.
Collaborations with other departments are ongoing and contribute to our focus on ecological integrity. The Pukaskwa National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park are collaborating on a multi-year study with Environment and Climate Change Canada to assess impacts of diet on fish-eating birds and its relation to declining populations of herring gull.
Another example is a partnership with Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, to ensure that Lake Superior's ecosystems remain healthy and viable for fish species such as lake sturgeon, lake trout and brook trout.
Parks Canada is also an important partner to the Great Lakes water quality agreement. The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area makes a significant contribution to the objectives in that agreement, through the protection of one third of the Canadian waters of Lake Superior.
Parks Canada also participated in the Lake Superior partnership working group, which produced the newly released Lake Superior lakewide action and management plan.
Parks Canada works with more than 300 indigenous communities across Canada in conserving, restoring and presenting Canada's natural and cultural heritage. Northern Ontario is no exception. Examples of this include a program where Anishnaabe teachings are brought to life with guided hikes along part of our trail networks.
Recently, the redevelopment of the traditional Anishnaabe camp immediately in the park's main visitor reception area engage the local community to build traditional birchbark structures including a tipi, cook tent and wigwam. Visitors passing by or participating in our guided hikes were able to witness traditional building methods in action and to speak with local knowledge-holders.
The Lake Superior national marine conservation area, once formally established under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, will protect almost 13% of the lake, including 10,880 square kilometres of lakebed, over 600 islands, the water column and all living things in it.
The completion of the interim management plan released earlier this year reconfirmed the vision established in 2002 and is an example of Parks Canada's collaboration with partner indigenous organizations, the Province of Ontario, other federal agencies, and coastal communities. As the national marine conservation area becomes operational, local indigenous communities are helping to define all aspects of its operation.
Canada's national parks and marine conservation areas are gateways to nature, adventure, and discovery, and Parks Canada will continue to connect Canadians with their heritage.
As we near the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, we are inviting Canadians to experience and learn more about our environment and our heritage. For example, the Pukaskwa National Park currently welcomes approximately 9,500 visitors per year and looks forward to welcoming more visitors for this special year.
Next year, a new trail will open at Pukaskwa, which, while linked to the iconic coastal hiking trail, will offer a more accessible hiking experience for visitors. The trail has been designed in collaboration with indigenous partners to include a focus on indigenous culture through the presence of interpretive panels and learning opportunities.
Canada's two national marine conservation areas in the Great Lakes region provide incredible living laboratories for freshwater research. As protected areas, they provide a baseline for understanding lake ecosystem health.
As part of our operations, we ensure that ecological integrity is the first consideration in the management of our national parks. Ecological integrity and visitor experience are not mutually exclusive; both are essential to ensuring that visitors will create lasting connections to our places. Within our marine conservation areas, ecological sustainable use is the management goal.
Parks Canada is strongly committed to working in partnership and collaboration with indigenous peoples, communities, municipalities and other stakeholders to ensure that Canada's heritage areas are protected for future generations.
Through planning initiatives, partnering opportunities, public outreach and education, Parks Canada is informing Canadians about the importance of protecting these special places and encouraging stewardship of our natural and cultural resources for present and future generations.
I'd like to thank everyone here for the opportunity to speak before the standing committee. The organization really does appreciate your time and your interest in what we have to say.
Trout Unlimited Canada, or TUC, is a national not-for-profit conservation organization founded in 1971. We're an on-the-ground conservation organization that's focused on conserving, protecting, and restoring Canada's freshwater ecosystems and their cold water resources for current and future generations. We're a science-based but volunteer-driven organization with volunteer chapters across Canada that adopt and work to conserve their local waterways, not only for the fish that inhabit them and the fisheries they support, but also to ensure clean water for the communities that depend on them.
TUC's science, policies, and program direction come from our national conservation agenda created by input from our chapters, our members, and our supporters, and from a national resource advisory council made up of academics, professionals, and policy-makers from across the country. Canada's landscape of lands interconnected by rivers and lakes constitutes the natural infrastructure of Canada, providing enormous ecological and economic benefits to all Canadians. Our organization recognizes that proper management of Canada's natural areas and biodiversity includes the continuum from protection, to conservation, to restoring damaged environments as part of ensuring the sustainability of the natural system that ensures our own health and prosperity.
Ensuring the protection of critical areas and their ecological functions, natural biodiversity, and habitats for wildlife, migratory birds, and species at risk is one component of an integrated environmental management strategy. Restoration of endangered aquatic species also requires the protection and restoration of their endangered habitats. TUC believes that the maintenance and acquisition of protected areas is one critical major step in better protecting Canada's natural biodiversity and the health of its natural systems.
The ongoing maintenance and establishment of new protected areas, whether as part of the national parks strategy, national wildlife areas, migratory bird sanctuaries, national marine conservation areas, or national marine protection areas, will require significant resources to maintain existing areas and also to strategically acquire new areas. Funds need to be ensured for the medium and the long term to manage and to acquire these protected areas into the future.
There is a strong need for a national strategy—not just an agency one—for the management and identification of future protected areas. This requires collaborative strategic planning and the linking of various protected area initiatives by Environment Canada, Parks Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada into a cohesive integrated planning initiative that would direct a longer-term protection program. The program would include critical terrestrial and aquatic habitats for both species at risk and threatened species, as well as examples of sensitive ecosystems and environments essential for the survival of all Canadian biodiversity.
This form of collaborative planning would increase the justification for the acquisition of specific protected areas, reduce duplication of effort, and demonstrate a more cohesive rationale for why specific areas are protected. Expansion of collaborative management to other organizations, nations, and private landowners will help ensure a broader strategic planning approach to better protect critical ecosystems beyond the capability of the federal government alone.
An ecological network needs connectivity. To increase the capacity for resiliency, especially with more climate variability and adjacent human activity, we need to actively create a set of connections to link protected areas to create a true ecologically active network of land- and waterscapes. We suggest that protected areas, whether freshwater, marine, terrestrial, or wetland, should be linked to corridors of connectivity where possible to ensure that they act as ecological networks, not just administrative or physical ones. In addition, there is a need for a stewardship strategy which ensures that the remaining landscape, whether working or not, is as functional as possible, especially in those areas near, connected to, or adjacent to protected areas. Some of these discussions date back to wildlife policy in the 1990s.
Stream and river corridors are one type of network system. One of the major elements lacking in Canada's legislation currently is legislation such as the wild and scenic rivers legislation in the U.S., which not only protects critical aquatic habitats in riverine systems, but also ensures connectivity through their linear corridors to protect landscapes. This is a major component in resiliency on the landscape, and it is currently lacking in Canadian legislation. While not the direct focus of this standing committee, this form of legislation would help to better link federal mandates and responsibilities for protecting both terrestrial and aquatic environments and could be considered another tool in achieving an effective protected area strategy.
Protected areas will not remain viable in the long term without ensuring that surrounding lands and waters have better management to ensure critical physical, chemical, and biological functions are maintained and that, where degraded, they are restored to some sense of ecological function. Trout Unlimited Canada focuses on working with others to ensure that Canadian landscapes that are not directly protected and are mostly private are managed to ensure critical functions where possible and restored to some level of ecological function. The roles of provinces, first nations, and private landowners are critical to ensuring these functions are maintained while these lands and waters are used for other purposes.
All lands and waters need some level of management and support to ensure various levels of stability, especially those lands in private ownership. Where acquisition is not possible or appropriate, incentives and support for complementary land use practices on private lands would extend the protection in and around protected areas. This is not a regulatory approach, but more of a co-operative approach.
There should be a federal strategic planning exercise for protected areas in Canada that is a collaboration among the three federal agencies and jointly implemented. The plan, reflecting the success of Parks Canada's approach, should focus on simplicity and clarity of message for why we create and manage protected areas. It should have clear objectives that are measurable and realistic timelines to ensure ongoing implementation. The exercise should be linked to strategic collaborative planning with provincial, territorial, and indigenous organizations that also wish to act proactively to better manage and protect critical environments.
People and monetary resources need to be made available to manage protected areas and maintain them so that the ecological and biophysical functions are maintained. Nation-to-nation collaborations and co-management opportunities should be explored and established to extend the range of these protected areas.
With that, I'd like to thank the standing committee again for the opportunity to speak.
First, I would like to thank you for coming to visit Pukaskwa Park.
I like to paddle and enjoy the outdoors, so thank you for visiting. I'll make sure I talk to the team over there about it.
If I may, I will talk about the two areas in which I have worked.
First, in Quebec, I worked on the north shore, specifically on the Mingan Archipelago. Then I went to Pukaskwa Park in Ontario. When the ecological integrity monitoring program is applied, those two parks—actually, the first is a park reserve and the second is a park—are in good health according to what we have been able to observe. At Pukaskwa, our program has three indicators, for which we use five measures as a minimum. Observing those measures allows us to say that the park is in good health.
With that as a starting point, we have to look at the infrastructures and experiences that we can offer to our visitors. At Mingan, as we were developing the visitor experience, for example, we installed oTENTik tents. We made sure to conduct sound environmental assessments so that those oTENTik tents were set up in places where rare plants would not be threatened. So we make sure to conduct good environmental assessments and examine the park's state of health.
It is important to try to provide an experience for the visitors because, at the end of the day, it is they who will be helping us to better protect our parks by talking about the experiences they had there.
Thank you for the question, Mr. Stetski.
The committee has been previously briefed in terms of the work that we are co-leading with the Government of Alberta in working with other governments, indigenous governments and others. If I may, let me suggest that in a number of weeks it might be worthwhile to ask representatives of Parks Canada to return, because I think we'd be in a better position at that time to speak to plans, or further plans, in terms of the 17%.
In terms of new national parks and national marine conservation areas, we continue to pursue, as per the announcement in budget 2016, Thaidene Nene, the proposed national park reserve that this committee has heard about. We've been making progress there. We've completed the public consultation. We have firmed up and are pretty close to completing our agreements with the Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation and the N.W.T. Métis Nation. The Government of the Northwest Territories has informed us that they have now appointed a senior negotiator for the land transfer agreement, so we're going to be making some solid progress to try to complete that one in 2017.
Certainly since I've had the chance with the committee, in terms of Lancaster Sound, the steering committee leading that one is close to completing its work. As you're well aware, Shell Canada relinquished some of their leases to that area. You also heard from the Cree Nation government of our interest in pursuing a national marine conservation area within their territory, and we are currently working with them, as they informed you, on an MOU to formally launch a feasibility assessment.
I'll leave it at that.
As far as areas go, sure, I could give you a list.
I think the underlying factor for all the areas that Trout Unlimited would identify is the value and the ecological function of the spaces. Those spaces tend to be what our national biologists refer to as “endangered spaces”, and those are headwaters.
Think of the foothills of Alberta. Once those waters are actually utilized and taken up, for whatever reason, or once land use practices actually change the hydro-geography of that area, everything downstream, which is basically all of southern Alberta, is realizing some significant impact in water quality, flooding, and all those sorts of things.
These headwater areas across the country, not just in the foothills, are extremely important. We were thrilled to hear about the first-ever habitat protection order for cutthroat trout. That was absolutely amazing. As a result, I think the province there put some protection through the Castle wilderness area there.
Unfortunately, actions and land use practices are still such that the habitat is being degraded, so we need to talk about what these protected areas look like. Is it okay to run ATVs through these rivers non-stop and disrupt spawning? Is it okay to disrupt groundwater upwelling? I think my answer would be that headwaters are where we need to start.
I am pleased to answer that question.
To protect our places and show what we are doing, it is absolutely essential that we form connections with Canadians and visitors. Canada's 150th anniversary is an absolutely extraordinary opportunity for this.
We want to win the hearts and minds of Canadians.
We are taking good, concrete measures to protect our parks. However, the people who visit us don't see them.
Once people visit our locations, and we introduce them to these places, they will come back. They will become ambassadors, which will bring more people to our places.
We know that there are demographic changes in society. More and more people live in cities. These people don't always know about Parks Canada sites since most of our parks aren't located in cities. But we're lucky because some of them are in cities. However, some of our sites are very far away from large urban centres.
So it is important to take the opportunity of Canada's 150th anniversary to make connections with Canadians, to introduce them to the beauty of our sites and to share with them what we do to protect our natural and cultural resources.
I hope I have answered your question satisfactorily.
Thanks for the question, Mr. Amos.
We have three national parks in Quebec. We acquired one by outright purchase from an oil company. The second one is on a 99-year lease, and the third one was the result of land exchange.
Saguenay-St. Lawrence exists because there is both federal and provincial jurisdiction. Parks Canada protects the federal jurisdiction in the waters and Quebec has terrestrial parks adjacent. The Government of Quebec has had a policy, which I believe it enshrined in legislation, that it will not transfer land to the Government of Canada for a range of purposes, and that includes national parks.
Under the Canada National Parks Act, in order to establish a national park in a provincial jurisdiction, we require the transfer of the surface and the subsurface. In terms of making any meaningful progress—and there have been a number of attempts to move forward but they did not come to fruition—we focused elsewhere, where we have had some good federal-provincial co-operation in terms of establishing new national parks, for example in Newfoundland and Labrador, where there was tremendous co-operation, and more recently with the Government of the Northwest Territories.
To go to collaboration, what is interesting is to look at the national parks of Quebec that have been created by the Government of Quebec. What they have done is that they've used our studies, focused on the areas that we identified as of national significance, and established them as national parks, in some places co-operatively managed with indigenous organizations.
You can look at it and say that, well, from a really tight federal perspective, we didn't make any gains, or you could take a more sort of national perspective and say they focused on the areas that we identified as of national importance and protected them. That's why we have continued for now to focus on the other areas where we have collaboration and to make progress there, and maybe through the indigenous model there might be something we can do in Quebec, but I think that's to be determined.
First of all, I think it's important to acknowledge at this moment that part of the reason the country has achieved so much in terms of conservation is because of the leadership of a gentleman we just lost, Mr. Jim Prentice. He brought to his portfolio tremendous leadership, which resulted in things like the sixfold expansion of Nahanni and the protection of Gwaii Haanas in the marine environment. In fact, Madam Chair, he exhibited a focus on exactly what this committee is looking at, and that is the involvement of indigenous people, and he accomplished much because of that. Our condolences to all parliamentarians on his passing.
I will not pretend to speak for CPAWS, but I think what you're hearing in part is a focus on a number of developments in the mountain parks. The mountain parks, throughout the history of national parks, have been a focus for a range of controversies, but I think you need to stand back and look at the entire system. I think we're quite proud of what we have accomplished in terms of what we've done with indigenous people, be it in the Torngat Mountains, the Mealy Mountains, and across the country. The number of advisory boards and management boards is growing tremendously.
In terms of our programs, when we looked at them, we had ramped up in the early 2000s. In 2012, it was time to move from a development phase on species at risk and ecological integrity into an implementation phase. The number of natural science professionals did drop by 30%. However, to compare it to now, as a result of a number of targeted investments and initiatives where we have hired staff to deal with a number of things, such as impact assessment of infrastructure projects, ecological restoration of ecosystems, climate change science, and management of human-wildlife conflicts, which you've heard about in the media, our staff in the natural sciences portfolio has grown by approximately 20% since 2013.
I think that if you look at a number of our publications, which we can share with you, you can see that there is a range of successes that we have brought to bear in terms of dealing with visitors, in terms of our ecosystems, in terms of working with indigenous people across our mandate, and in terms of securing new marine and terrestrial areas.
I apologize for the length of my response, but I think you raise an important point that we would want to speak to.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thanks, folks. I'll try to be quick on this. I know that we're running out of time.
I'd like to give Kevin a bit more time to talk about something that Mr. Fast went with. Earlier, in the first panel, Mr. Fast brought up a press release from some of the leading environmentalists that spoke to conservation capacity being reduced by 30%. You just touched on it again.
I was intrigued by that press release, and I looked it up and read it. I'm wondering about what has suffered since 2012 with the reduction in conservation capacity in our parks. Is it as easy as just ramping up those people? You spoke to an area where staff has increased since 2013. Can you elaborate a little?
First of all, I guess, my question would be, what has suffered since 2012 with that reduction in capacity for conservation? Second, is it just as easy as ramping up, going out, hiring those people, and getting the money in the budget?