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Table of Contents with photo: Artefact, L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, Newfoundland

A Message from the Minister of Canadian Heritage

The Parks Canada Agency

The Ecological Integrity of our Natural Heritage

Commemorating our History

Heritage Places and Canadian Identity

A Strong Beginning

Pangnirtung Fjord, Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut
©Parks Canada, M. Beedell
Pangnirtung Fjord, Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut


The Ecological Integrity of our Natural Heritage

Canada National Parks Act
Amongst Parks Canada's most important responsibilities is the safeguarding of its national parks, a legacy held in trust for future generations. Above all, fulfilling this trust means preserving their ecological integrity and, with the passage of the new Canada National Parks Act in October 2000, Parks Canada's ability to act on this front was clarified and significantly strengthened.

Tablelands plateau, Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
©Parks Canada, G. Sealey
Tablelands plateau, Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

Parks Canada mandate states that “Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks.” Commitment to ecological integrity was first enshrined in the National Parks Act in 1988. This commitment has since been broadened and the maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity is the first consideration in the fulfilment of Parks Canada's responsibilities for the national parks. In addition, the new Act formally establishes seven new national parks (Gros Morne, Wapusk, Grasslands, Aulavik, Auyuittuq, Sirmilik and Quttinirpaaq), together with one national park reserve (Pacific Rim), and formally adds Middle Island to Point Pelee National Park. The Act also provides greater protection for wildlife, flora and cultural resources within the parks, controls commercial development in park communities, and significantly raises penalties for offences under the Act.

Mi'kmaq Petroglyphs, Kejimkujik National Park 
and National Historic Site, Nova Scotia
©Parks Canada
Mi'kmaq Petroglyphs,
Kejimkujik National Park and National
Historic Site, Nova Scotia

A focal point of legislative and policy direction has been to bring into place mechanisms to contain and manage the relentless forces of commercial development which have posed inherent difficulties with national parks for the past half century. The revised Canada National Parks Act provides the mechanism for establishing maximum limits to development in townsites and makes Parliament the final arbiter for any future changes.

In March, 2000, the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks released its report, detailing the work required for the preservation and restoration of ecological integrity within our national parks, with successful examples of what could be achieved. The Report highlighted the importance of raising Canadians' awareness and understanding of ecological integrity as a step towards building support for its maintenance. In a positive and immediate response to the report, a comprehensive Action Plan with four key themes formed the initial response: making ecological integrity central to legislation and policy; building partnerships for ecological integrity; planning for ecological integrity; and renewal of the Parks Canada organization.

A Commitment

The Agency's firm commitment to ecological integrity is clearly reflected in the national parks actions that have been taken since the Action Plan was put forward. For example, regulations have been completed, designating more than 90 percent of the Rocky Mountain national parks as wilderness areas. Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks are the first to receive this designation and, upon completion of management plans, comparable regulations will be applied to most of the other national parks.

Wolf (Canis Lupus)
©Parks Canada, T.W. Hall
Wolf (Canis Lupus)

The results of the commitment to put ecological integrity at the heart of the planning process are already being seen. In Newfoundland, the new plans for Terra Nova National Park include a project to improve sections of the Trans-Canada Highway through the park, by applying design principles whose objective is the creation of an “ecological parkway.” The new plan will significantly improve fish and mammal corridors, and provide for alternative approaches to the management of roadside vegetation. At Fundy National Park, a “naturalization plan” has been adopted to reduce the human footprint on park facilities and help restore native bio-diversity.

The Panel had listed several priority recommendations for immediate implementation - preconditions to seeking an increased budget for ecological integrity implementation. All these preconditions have been met, including the hiring of an Executive Director of Ecological Integrity to participate on Parks Canada's Executive Board, and the launching of a national ecological orientation and training program for all Parks Canada employees.

Parks Canada has released a report entitled “First Priority: Progress Report on Implementation of the Recommendations of the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks”. This progress report demonstrates Parks Canada's commitment to address the recommendations of the Panel over the longer term, as new funds become available.

Parks Activities
All kinds of on-the-ground activities—large and small, in all sorts of fields—take place in virtually every national park in Canada, to preserve and restore ecological integrity..

  • Through the Bow Corridor Ecosystem Advisory Group, Banff National Park has influenced the development of wildlife corridors and fencing of the Trans-Canada Highway outside the park. The Central Rockies Ecosystem Interagency Liaison Group, the East Slopes Grizzly Bear Project, and the Transportation and Utilities Advisory Group are examples of Banff's involvement in decision-making for ecological integrity.

  • In Point Pelee National Park, roadwork and conversion to alternate power sources in some of the facilities are aimed at reducing human impact and enhancing ecological integrity.

  • At Pacific Rim National Park, all ecological integrity issues are dealt with in an integrated fashion, with the assistance of partners such as the Long Beach Model Forest, the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve and Interfor, an international forest products company.

  • In Yukon, plans for the implementation of the Panel's report concentrate on the science of decision-making, forging Aboriginal partnerships, building a conservation culture, and interpretation and outreach programs. Phase I of the Kluane Ecological Monitoring Program (KEMP) was implemented in August, 2000, working closely with the researchers from the Arctic Institute of North America's Research Station at Kluane Lake and Yukon Renewable Resources.
Quttinirpaaq National Park, Nunavut
©Parks Canada, W. Lynch
Quttinirpaaq National Park, Nunavut

Educational activities
Our national parks are places where Canadians can experience wilderness and great natural beauty, and learn about and appreciate the wonders of our natural heritage. Through a wide variety of educational activities, the Parks Canada Agency is presenting the parks to Canadians, and fostering an appreciation and awareness of the need to preserve the parks' ecological activity.

  • In Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park has initiated a program of school visits, to help young students get an early start on parks appreciation—as well as have fun.

  • Greenwich, which in 1998 became the newest addition to Prince Edward Island National Park, protects a rare ecological system of parabolic dunes. A new interpretation centre and new publications educate visitors on the ecological sensitivities of the area; together with appropriate beach day-use facilities these are examples of a strong commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable design. The beach facilities are powered by a photovoltaic and wind turbine system, demonstrating the use of clean, renewable energy.

  • Park managers in Ontario continue to use public education programming as a way of raising awareness of ecological integrity issues with the formal education communities. A new Grade 9 geography curriculum was introduced into the Ontario school system in Fall 1999 which incorporates national parks of Canada as study subjects: for example, the Grade 9 Geography Curriculum asks students to develop a “Proposal for a New National Park”.
Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, Quebec

© Parks Canada, M. Bouliane
Saguenay-St. Lawrence
Marine Park, Quebec

Partnerships for co-operation
Across Canada, numerous creative partnerships for
are advancing towards the goal of maintaining
or restoring the ecological integrity of existing parks and working together on the establishment of new parks and national marine conservation areas.

The North is home to some of Canada's newest national parks. On August 12, 1999, the federal government and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association signed an agreement allowing work to proceed towards the formal establishment of three national parks in Nunavut. Auyuittuq and Quttinirpaaq (Ellesmere Island) National Park Reserves have become national parks and a new one, Sirmilik, was created to represent the Eastern Arctic Lowlands Natural Region.

In Ontario, in partnership with Parks Canada and corporate sponsors, the Nature Conservancy of Canada purchased Middle Island, Canada's most southerly point. Located five kilometres off Point Pelee National Park in the Canadian waters of Lake Erie, this 18-hectare island contains many rare Canadian natural features. In the future, as part of Point Pelee National Park, the island will be afforded the highest level of protection.

At Manitoba's Riding Mountain National Park, co-operation is a major component of the renewal plan. In addition to being an important part of local recycling programs, the park is a key participant in the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve, and co-operates with adjacent land and water conservation groups. The park is also a partner with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the provincial Department of Conservation, and local cattle producers. This team approach is mitigating the incidence of tuberculosis in elk.

In northern New Brunswick, the provincial government is restricting the removal of peat from bogs adjacent to Kouchibouguac National Park to prevent any ecological disturbances to these natural groundwater filtration systems, many of which flow into the park.

After more than three years of intense negotiations with Domtar Forest Products and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the White River Forest Management Plan is now a reality. The plan, covering forest areas immediately adjacent to Pukaskwa National Park, includes significant amendments to forest harvesting practices, amendments that were put forward by park staff.

Still Committed
The work of Parks Canada towards their commitment to Ecological Integrity has not gone unheralded.

Kejimkujik National Park was highlighted by the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks as a positive example of what a national park could be. It has been selected as a pilot site for a Parks Canada Species at Risk initiative, and the park's Ecosystem Science Manager received the Gold Leaf Award from the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas. The award recognizes the outstanding efforts and achievements that contributed to the conservation and understanding of Canada's ecological diversity.

Parks Canada has continued to work towards the government's commitment to complete the Canada's system of National Parks and to establish a system of National Marine Conservation Areas, which involved working in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal Peoples, and a range of other partners and communities.

Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Ontario
©Parks Canada, Barrett & Mackay
Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Ontario

Progress has been made on feasibility studies or negotiations for five potential national parks: Gulf Islands (British Columbia), Interlake (Manitoba Lowlands), Torngat Mountains (Labrador), Mealy Mountains (Labrador) and Ukkusiklsalik (Wager Bay) and two national marine conservation areas: Gwaii Haanas (British Columbia), and Lake Superior (Ontario). On February 20, 2001, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act was tabled in Parliament. When passed, the Act will allow Parks Canada to form national marine conservation areas representative of our 29 marine regions.

These and other activities to safeguard ecological integrity are helping to ensure that Canada's national parks, in the words of the Canada National Parks Act, will be "maintained and made use of so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Catalogue No.:
ISBN: 0-662-30239-7

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Last Updated: 2001 04 04
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