State of Canada's natural and cultural heritage places, 2021
Title: State of Canada's natural and cultural heritage places, 2021
Organization: Parks Canada Agency
- Minister’s message
- President & Chief Executive Officer’s message
- Working together with Indigenous Peoples
- Part A: The state of Parks Canada natural heritage places establishment, cultural heritage programs and other heritage programs
- Heritage designation programs
- National park establishment
- National marine conservation areas establishment
- Rouge National Urban Park establishment
- Cultural heritage protection and conservation programs
- Part B: The state of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage places administered by Parks Canada
- Cultural resources
- Ecological integrity
- Species at risk
- Protection and ecologically sustainable use of national marine conservation areas
- Asset management
- Visitor experience
- Public appreciation, support and awareness of heritage places
- Annex I — State of national historic sites administered by Parks Canada
- Annex II — State of national parks administered by Parks Canada
- Annex III — State of national marine conservation areas administered by Parks Canada
National historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas play a vital role in helping to understand and share our cultures and histories. These places are also key to protecting the environment, fighting climate change and stemming the loss of biodiversity in Canada and around the world. They also provide Canadians with ecological services, clean air and clean water, and countless opportunities to experience, enjoy and find inspiration in the country’s natural and cultural heritage.
Parks Canada’s report on the State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places is published every five years to track progress in the conservation and enjoyment of national heritage places. I am pleased to release the 2021 report and share Parks Canada’s achievements in the protection and presentation of national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas over the past five years.
During this period, the Agency continued to increase the area under its management, which includes 174 national historic sites, 47 national parks, five national marine conservation areas and one national urban park.
In 2017, Parks Canada partnered with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the Government of Nunavut to create the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area—an area twice the size of Nova Scotia. With the creation of this new conservation area, Canada surpassed its 2017 target of protecting 5% of the country’s coastal areas and marine waters. In addition, Parks Canada collaborated with the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation, the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, the Deninu Kųḝ First Nation, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the Government of the Northwest Territories to create the Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve in 2019, Canada’s 47th national park.
Today, the Agency continues in its efforts to increase the area under protection, grounding its work in scientific, Indigenous and local knowledge. The expanded area will help safeguard ecosystems, and restore their health and resilience, which will, in turn, help species at risk to recover. This work is key to mitigating the growing impacts of climate change and bringing Canada closer to its goal of protecting 25% of the country’s coastal areas and marine waters by 2025, with a further aim of protecting 30% by 2030.
Parks Canada not only protects the country’s many ecosystems and species, but also expends much effort in preserving the cultural heritage of the many different people living within its borders. Over the past five years, the Agency took important steps to highlight the diverse narratives that shape the country’s past and present, ensuring that cultural sites bring to light the histories, cultures and contributions of all people living in Canada, including Indigenous peoples.
Parks Canada worked with Indigenous partners to submit two new nominations to the United Nations (UNESCO)—Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi (in Alberta) and Pimachiowin Aki (in Manitoba and Ontario)—to protect and promote the sites’ sacred Indigenous cultural landscapes. The nominations were successful, and both locations have been formally recognized as World Heritage Sites, making Canada home to 20 World Heritage Sites.
As part of its commitment to recognize and celebrate the diverse history of cultural heritage sites, Parks Canada implemented the Framework for History and Commemoration in 2019. The framework formulates the Agency’s innovative approach to sharing the many stories of Canada through diverse and, at times, complex perspectives, while acknowledging the country’s more difficult periods of the past. In particular, the framework highlights the importance of working with partners to ensure that the histories and voices of Indigenous peoples are shared and presented at heritage places.
In partnership with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, in 2020, the Residential School System was recognized as a tragic and defining event in Canadian history. Since then, four former residential schools have been designated as national historic sites. These designations are an important part of the Government of Canada’s response to Call to Action #79 of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. By working with communities to share the accounts of victims and Survivors, as well as the impact on their families, the Agency can foster a better understanding of the country’s past and work toward a more respectful and inclusive future.
Building on the success of Canada 150 in 2017, Parks Canada has continued to cultivate interest in history and love for the outdoors by welcoming more people than ever before to national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas. In addition, the Agency provided youth with free admission starting in 2018 and expanded its popular Learn-to Camp Program, helping the Government of Canada meet its commitment to encourage young people to discover the parks and learn more about the natural and cultural richness in Canada.
Parks Canada’s activities play a crucial role in shaping the country’s future. Through protection of natural areas, the Agency works to lessen the impact of climate change on the environment, preserving it for coming generations. By presenting a broader, more comprehensive view of history and culture, the Agency aims to establish the foundations for a better, more inclusive Canada. Key to achieving these objectives are the Agency’s many partnerships with Indigenous governments and communities.
As we continue to advance reconciliation, fight climate change and biodiversity loss, and make heritage places more welcoming and accessible to all Canadians, I look forward to supporting the efforts made by Parks Canada and its partners to advance these priorities and to build on the many achievements of the past five years.
President & Chief Executive Officer’s message
It is my pleasure to submit the 2021 report on the State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places. Each day, Parks Canada team members work tirelessly to protect and showcase national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas on behalf of all Canadians. This report highlights the important work undertaken over the past five years to advance the Agency’s important mandate.
Parks Canada is committed to maintaining a system of national heritage places that recognizes and honours the historic and contemporary contributions of Indigenous peoples, their histories and cultures, as well as their relationships with ancestral lands, ice, and waters. Parks Canada and Indigenous peoples are partners in conserving natural and cultural heritage and sharing the stories of these treasured places.
For example, the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site is now jointly managed by Parks Canada and Inuit, while the site’s associated artifacts are jointly owned by Canada and Inuit through Parks Canada and the Inuit Heritage Trust. In addition, Obadjiwan–Fort Témiscamingue National Historic Site (formerly Fort Témiscamingue National Historic Site) has been renamed and is now co-managed with the Timiskaming First Nation.
Together with partners, Parks Canada continues to monitor and restore ecosystems, protect and recover species at risk, and conduct important research that contributes to our understanding of climate change. This work has been informed by the best available science and Indigenous knowledge, and has included projects such as:
- reintroducing Atlantic salmon in Fundy National Park;
- converting hayfields to habitat for Sage-Grouse in Grasslands National Park;
- improving habitat for Peary caribou by cleaning up a contaminated site in Qausuittuq National Park;
- bringing bison back to the landscape of Banff National Park; and
- developing a climate change adaptation framework for parks and protected areas in Canada.
Parks Canada continued work to complete Rouge National Urban Park, Canada’s first national urban park, which is now nearly 95% complete. In collaboration with Indigenous peoples, municipalities, park farmers, schools and environmental groups, 77 ecological restoration and farmland enhancement projects have been completed, restoring more than 70 hectares of wetland, stream and riverbank habitat, as well as 28 hectares of forest habitat.
Parks Canada has also continued to play a leading role in cultural heritage protection. Since 2016, almost 300 plaques for national historic sites, events and persons have been unveiled. This was increased significantly compared to the number of unveilings prior to 2016. New designations include 26 heritage lighthouses, 36 federal heritage buildings and one national heritage river. Parks Canada’s National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places supported 174 projects for a total investment of just over $21 million in heritage places not administered by the federal government.
Over the past five years, the Agency has invested $3.1 billion to support infrastructure projects across the Parks Canada network. These investments have helped to conserve historic sites, renew visitor facilities—such as campgrounds and picnic shelters—and restore important transportation infrastructure—such as highways and waterways—and ensure the safety of Canadians while protecting species and the environment.
Ease of access remained one of Parks Canada’s priorities, as the Agency worked diligently to make national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas accessible to as many Canadians as possible. This has been particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Agency’s many locations providing Canadians with the chance to enjoy the health and wellness benefits associated with being outdoors. During these unprecedented times, Parks Canada team members worked hard, and will continue to do so, to offer a safe, clean, healthy and enjoyable experience to all visitors.
I am proud of the Agency’s many achievements over the past five years. By building on the progress highlighted in this report, and continuing to work with Indigenous partners, stakeholders, and Canadians, I am confident that we can make our collective vision for the future of national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas a reality.
National historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas are part of Canada’s collective identity. These natural and cultural treasures constitute an enduring legacy and a source of pride for Canadians. They reflect the Agency’s conservation leadership and collaborations with Indigenous peoples; they tell stories of Canada from many perspectives, and they offer Canadians and visitors from around the world unparalleled opportunities to learn about, experience, and connect with our nation’s natural and cultural heritage. As the steward of these national treasures, Parks Canada understands the importance of evaluating the state of heritage places to support and inform decision-making and secure the future of these places for present and future generations.
This report, covering the period from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2021, fulfils the Agency’s obligation under the Parks Canada Agency Act to provide a report to the Minister, to be tabled in each House of Parliament, on the state of Canada’s national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas, on other protected heritage areas and heritage protection programs and on the Agency’s performance in carrying out its responsibilities.
This report is divided into two parts. The first provides a summary of the state of cultural heritage programs and the state of natural heritage place establishment since 2016.
The second part of the report presents a snapshot of the state of our natural and cultural heritage places. Parks Canada uses a suite of indicators to measure and communicate the state of heritage places under its administration. The full assessment process runs every ten years, in alignment with the current ten-year management planning cycle. This part of the report is organized around several areas assessed as follows: cultural resources, ecological integrity, species at risk, protection and ecologically sustainable use of national marine conservation areas, asset management, visitor experience, and public appreciation and support. For each category, the report provides a context, summarizes the current state and trend of associated indicators, highlights the actions taken over the last few years to improve or maintain the state and analyzes relevant issues.
Overall, this report provides a basis for collective understanding among parliamentarians, decision-makers, stakeholders, partners and the general public of the state of heritage places under Parks Canada stewardship.
Working together with Indigenous Peoples
Since time immemorial, Indigenous peoples have been stewards of the lands, waters and ice that form the region now called Canada. Despite a history of protected heritage place establishment in Canada that, in many places, displaced Indigenous peoples or limited the exercise of their rights and traditions on the landscape, Parks Canada is striving to restore lost connections to traditional territories and strengthen cooperative and collaborative management of protected places with Indigenous partners.
Indigenous knowledge, laws, governance, and practices are absolutely vital to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage. Parks Canada and Indigenous peoples have worked together to build relationships and collaborate in the establishment and management of national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas across the country. The Agency’s approach to working with Indigenous peoples continues to evolve as Indigenous peoples bring forward their interests and priorities and the Agency becomes more informed; truths are realized, reconciliation is promoted and the importance of Indigenous leadership in the stewardship of natural and cultural heritage is recognized.
In 2019, Parks Canada committed to a suite of actions to support progress toward reconciliation in Mapping Change: Fostering a Culture of Reconciliation within Parks Canada. This document provides the Agency with a roadmap to address barriers to working with Indigenous partners with the aim of strengthening relationships and collaborations. While work to implement Mapping Change commitments is underway within the Agency, Parks Canada continues to advance collaboration with Indigenous partners following the PARKS (Partnership, Access, Respect, Knowledge, Support) principles set out in 2015 in Promising Pathways. Examples of successful initiatives undertaken with, and in support of, building strong relationships with Indigenous partners from 2016 to 2021 are highlighted below.
Partnership: Working collaboratively in heritage place planning, management and operation
Progress in establishing and cooperatively managing heritage places includes:
- the creation of Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve - a place where healthy ecosystems sustain the cultures and livelihoods of the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation, Akaitcho First Nations, Northwest Territories Métis Nation and other Indigenous peoples with management of the national park reserve based on a consensus model of governance;
- the advancement of Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area in Nunavut, a protected area covering 108,000 square kilometres being established with the Inuit of the Qikiqtani region and the Government of Nunavut;
- the signing of an agreement between the Government of Canada and the Timiskaming First Nation to establish a trust to co-manage the Obadjiwan–Fort Témiscamingue National Historic Site. Through this agreement, the Government of Canada transferred 50% ownership of the national historic site into a trust that ensures co-ownership of the site with the Timiskaming First Nation, as well as their direct involvement in its management; and,
- the development of the Wood Buffalo National Park Action Plan, containing 142 actions—organized across seven thematic areas—that are required to protect the world heritage values of the national park and world heritage site. The Action Plan, which integrates monitoring, science and Indigenous knowledge, commits the federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments with stewardship responsibilities in collaboration.
Parks Canada established a national stream of funding to support projects that exemplify Indigenous leadership in conservation. Examples of pilot projects include:
- a multi-partner regional caribou workshop for Wapusk National Park;
- the co-development of an integrated aquatics management plan, which includes cultural keystone species in Yoho and Kootenay national parks; and,
- a project focused on Inuit guardians telling their story through video at the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site.
Access: Encouraging access to traditional lands and traditional activities
Parks Canada recognizes the fundamental connections between Indigenous peoples and protected heritage places. By waiving entry fees through Indigenous Peoples Open Doors program agreements, heritage places across the country can reinforce relationships with Indigenous peoples by promoting access to national parks or national historic sites within their traditional territories and homelands.
Supporting Indigenous practices on the land through initiatives such as the Indigenous Guardians programs and culture camps is another important area of focus. The Indigenous Guardians programs—adopted at sites like the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site—and Nauttiqsuqtiit Inuit Stewardship Program at Tallurtiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area strengthen Indigenous people’s participation in managing heritage sites. They also promote inter-generational sharing of Indigenous knowledge, provide economic and development opportunities, and enhance visitor experience. As of 2021, Parks Canada supports seven Indigenous Guardian programs operating in protected heritage places.
Respect: Building mutual respect, trust, and understanding
Improving Parks Canada team members’ understanding of Indigenous cultures, experiences and perspectives, in keeping with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Call to Action #57, which calls for the education of public servants on the history of Indigenous peoples, is of continued importance for the Agency. Many heritage places collaborate locally with Indigenous partners to develop context-specific learning. At the national level, initiatives such as the Kairos Blanket Exercise and Elder in Residence program have been made available to all staff to continue learning and healing, in support of stronger relationships with Indigenous peoples.
Parks Canada is also working collaboratively to develop the response to TRC Call to Action #79, which calls for the development of a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration. The Agency established a partnership with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to obtain guidance on how to appropriately recognize the national historic significance of the Residential School System in Canada. This includes recognizing individual residential school buildings or their former locations through the National Program of Historical Commemoration. This collaborative work has focused on the development of a national residential school narrative as part of the process to designate the Residential School System as a national historic event. Work also supports outreach at the community level to promote commemoration and healing.
The Agency continues in its work to present and commemorate Indigenous histories and cultures and to integrate Indigenous views, histories and heritage into heritage places managed by Parks Canada. For example, at Point Pelee National Park, working in collaboration with the First Nation Advisory Circle and the Caldwell First Nation, the “Pioneer” day use area was renamed to ‘Madbin Jina,’ which means “come sit awhile” in Anishinaabemowin, the language of Anishinaabe people. The renaming of this site, along with the addition of interpretive panels that tell the stories of the Caldwell First Nation peoples in their own words and language, signals the shift in the Agency’s approach to showcasing history at national parks.
Knowledge: Honouring Indigenous knowledge systems and Indigenous knowledge holders
Efforts continue across the country to weave together Indigenous and scientific knowledge systems in approaches to managing heritage places. Examples include the following conservation projects:
- collaboration with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia in Cape Breton Highlands National Park; and
- collaboration with the Haida Nation and other partners to launch the project Chiixuu Tll iinasdll: Nurturing Seafood to Grow in the kelp forests of Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site.
In 2019, Parks Canada celebrated the International Year of Indigenous Languages by supporting over 160 initiatives aimed at revitalizing Indigenous languages within protected heritage places. Beyond 2019, the Agency will continue to prioritize the use of Indigenous languages and the expression of Indigenous cultures at the places it manages. In line with this priority, Parks Canada established the Indigenous Cultural Heritage Advisory Council to ensure it appropriately integrates Indigenous perspectives and other world views into cultural heritage policies, programs and initiatives.
Support: Supporting Indigenous partners’ community interests
Over the past five years, Parks Canada has worked to meet the Government of Canada commitment to award at least 5% of federal contracts to businesses managed and led by Indigenous peoples. To meet this goal, the Agency:
- developed and delivered training and innovative tools for procurement staff and business units, as well as Indigenous businesses and individuals;
- provided strategic advice and guidance tailored to specific needs of business units; and
- actively worked with federal partners in inter-departmental working groups.
The Agency’s partnership with the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada has provided support to over 30 Indigenous tourism initiatives across the country through the Indigenous Tourism, Experiences, and Storytelling Initiative. For example, Forillon and Kouchibouguac national parks held “Mawiomi” ("gathering" in Mi'kmaq) events in collaboration with local Indigenous partners, providing the opportunity for visitors to celebrate Mi’kmaq culture through a range of activities.
Parks Canada launched the Indigenous Employee Training Fund in 2018 to address barriers to retention, career development and advancement for Indigenous employees, as identified in the whole-of-government strategy, Many Voices One Mind: A Pathway to Reconciliation. As a tangible response, Parks Canada developed the internal fund, which supports Indigenous employees in their personal and professional development, including Indigenous language acquisition.
In 2019, the Indigenous Workforce Strategies team was established to support the recruitment, retention and growth opportunities for Indigenous employees. This team is working to nurture a work culture that favours the well-being, career development, and advancement of Indigenous employees. In addition, Indigenous employees established an employee-driven sharing circle in autumn 2020 to offer a safe space and support system to Indigenous employees across Parks Canada.
Key issues and focus for the future
Bill C-15, An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, received Royal Assent on June 21, 2021. While Parks Canada is establishing strong relationships and progressive arrangements with Indigenous peoples, in line with the United Nations Declaration principles, a significant amount of work remains.
The Minister’s Response to the 2020 Minister’s Round Table on Parks Canada commits the Agency to developing a framework to guide efforts supporting Indigenous stewardship in protected heritage places. Parks Canada is proposing to use this framework as a central concept in its reconciliation work, including implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous Peoples and measures to uphold the rights and responsibilities of Indigenous peoples in the protected heritage places the Agency administers.
This framework will be developed through collaboration and dialogue with Indigenous peoples and partners. Based on what Parks Canada has heard from Indigenous peoples on what is needed to support Indigenous connections with protected lands, waters, and ice within their traditional territories and homelands, key areas of focus are expected to include:
- enhanced governance arrangements that enable shared decision-making authorities;
- improved economic opportunities to reflect Indigenous peoples’ roles in conserving natural and cultural heritage;
- the development of programs and removal of barriers to enable Indigenous practices on the land; and
- renewed practices and processes for weaving Indigenous knowledge, values and ethics into protected heritage place management and governance.
To successfully meet these objectives, Parks Canada has broad efforts underway to build and maintain strong relationships with Indigenous peoples. In line with this goal, the Agency recognizes the importance of acknowledging past policies and ongoing actions that negatively affect Indigenous peoples and their relationships with their traditional territories and homelands. The Agency is also promoting awareness and understanding among Parks Canada team members and the general public of the roles and responsibilities of Indigenous peoples in the protected heritage places administered by the Agency.
Part A: The State of Parks Canada natural heritage places establishment, cultural heritage programs and other heritage programs
Heritage designation programs
Parks Canada supports the designation and commemoration of cultural heritage through formal recognition programs at the national level, including designations of persons, places and events of national historic significance, heritage railway stations, heritage lighthouses, prime ministers’ gravesites, Canadian World Heritage Sites, federal heritage buildings and Canadian Heritage Rivers.
Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) provides advice to the Minister responsible for Parks Canada on the designation of places, persons and events that have marked and shaped Canada. Every year, Canadian individuals and groups submit nominations to the HSMBC for potential designation under the National Program of Historical Commemoration. The public’s participation in identifying subjects of national historic significance is fundamental to the program, accounting for most submissions made to the HSMBC.
Designations of national historic sites, persons and events are usually commemorated with a bronze plaque that describes the historical significance of the subject. The plaque is installed in a location that is closely related to the designated subject and accessible to the public. The plaque unveiling ceremony is the culmination of the designation process and an opportunity for Canadians to recognize and build awareness of their history. Parks Canada supports the HSMBC in its advisory role with secretariat services, historical and archaeological research, policy advice, media relations, planning of plaque unveiling ceremonies, and plaque installation and maintenance.
State of cultural heritage designation programs
Parks Canada exceeded its targets for new designations over the reporting period. As of March 31, 2021, the Government of Canada had formally recognized 3,822 persons, places and events under its heritage designation programs. This includes 1,265 federal heritage buildings owned and protected by the Government of Canada, 1,001 national historic sites—of which, 174 are administered by Parks Canada—along with 719 national historic persons and 500 national historic events.
The total number of formal recognitions in a given year depends on many factors, some of which can affect the growth rate and the overall number of designations. These include the number of nominations submitted and the number of eligible subjects nominated. In some cases, current designations can also lose their status following a review or as a result of loss.
The increase in designations over the reporting period is in line with the annual growth trend observed since 2016. In its 2018 report, Conserving Federal Heritage Properties, the Office of the Auditor General noted the increase in designations of federal heritage properties in Canada and identified the need to work to conserve the heritage value and extend the physical life of these places. As part of the Government of Canada’s response to the report, Parks Canada has begun work with other custodian departments to review the approach for designating federal heritage buildings and to establish a consistent standard of heritage conservation across the federal government.
Designation and commemoration
Since 2016, Parks Canada has unveiled nearly 300 plaques through ceremonies and social media, representing a significant increase in the pace and number of plaque unveilings prior to 2016. Many of the plaques unveiled over the last five years were high-profile or coincided with celebrations of significant milestones, such as:
- Wrecks of the HMS Erebus and Terror National Historic Site;
- Fort Anne National Historic Site (Canada’s first national historic site);
- Halifax Explosion National Historic Event (unveiled in 2017 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the event); and
- Chief Peguis National Historic Person (unveiled in 2017 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Selkirk Treaty).
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted Parks Canada’s ability to hold in-person plaque unveiling ceremonies in 2020 and 2021. Despite these challenges, three plaques were unveiled via social media – including the Japanese Experience in Alberta National Historic Event, the Spadina National Historic Site and the Magog Textile Mills National Historic Site.
In June 2019, Parks Canada released the Framework for History and Commemoration, which replaced the National Historic Sites System Plan (2000) following extensive consultation. The new framework articulates the Agency’s approach to presenting history through diverse, wide-ranging and sometimes complex perspectives. Informed by public history practices and the concept of historical thinking, it provides guidance to the Agency for promoting more diverse and inclusive stories at heritage places. The framework supports the work of the HSMBC by encouraging nominations that align with strategic priorities, including the history of Indigenous peoples, environmental history, diversity, and Canada and the world. It also outlines the HSMBC’s approach for carefully reviewing existing national historic designations and plaque texts in line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
During this reporting period, Parks Canada made significant investments to develop and launch the Stories of Canada program. This program supports the Agency’s implementation of the framework by renewing the approach to presenting history on lands administered by Parks Canada. It seeks to tell broader and more inclusive stories that represent the diversity and complexity of Canadian history, transforming the narratives currently in place. It rethinks how stories are told—as well as who should tell them and how they should be told—with an emphasis on sharing multiple perspectives.
The Stories of Canada program responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Call to Action #79 by facilitating new opportunities for Indigenous communities to share and communicate their views, history and heritage into the national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas administered by Parks Canada. The program provides support to Indigenous partners in building capacity to tell their histories in new ways on lands administered by Parks Canada through research, co-development, and presentation of stories.
In 2018–19, the Agency developed criteria to assess project submissions for Stories of Canada funding. It subsequently identified 25 multi-component projects involving more than 40 Parks Canada-administered places for funding to implement the new approach to history presentation. Through these projects, the Agency worked—and continues to work—with more than 60 Indigenous communities to transform how history is presented at heritage places, ensuring that visitors have access to a more comprehensive view of Canada’s history.
Truth and reconciliation
During the reporting period, Parks Canada continued to implement the Government’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action #79, which calls for the national commemoration of the history and legacy of the residential school system in Canada and the recognition and acknowledgement of the contributions that Indigenous peoples to Canada’s history.
To implement Call to Action #79, Budget 2018 announced $23.9 million for Parks Canada over five years. Funding was used to integrate Indigenous views, history and heritage into the national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas managed by the Agency. Parks Canada also used the funding to update its policies and guidelines to reflect Indigenous perspectives and to commemorate the history and legacy of the residential school system.
On September 1, 2020, the Minister responsible for Parks Canada announced the designation of the residential school system as an event of national historic significance, as well as the designation of two former residential schools as national historic sites, Portage La Prairie Residential School in Manitoba and Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia.
Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site
The Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site, the first national historic site managed by Parks Canada in Nunavut, is now jointly managed by the Agency and Inuit. In addition, all artifacts are now jointly owned by Canada and Inuit through Parks Canada and the Inuit Heritage Trust. This exceptional gift from the United Kingdom to Canada was a significant milestone in the Franklin story and is the culmination of over 20 years of collaboration between the Governments of Canada and the United Kingdom. The Government of Canada continues to collaborate with Inuit to share the story of the Franklin expedition, highlighting the pivotal role played by Inuit in the discovery, ongoing exploration, and protection of the Franklin wrecks. Work was completed to conserve artifacts for display in an international exhibit led by the Canadian Museum of History.
In December 2017, Parks Canada held two workshops in Gjoa Haven on the commemorative integrity statement – which lays out the reason for a site’s designation, the elements which reflect that designation and other heritage values the site contains – for the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site. One workshop was attended by youth, while the other was attended by hamlet council members, elders and other invited community members. As a result of these workshops, it was concluded that the commemorative integrity statement should reflect the fundamental role of Inuit in the search for, and discoveries of, the Franklin wrecks, the interactions between Inuit and the Franklin expedition itself, and the oral histories related to the Franklin expeditions.
Key issues and focus for the future
Parks Canada recognizes that historical interpretations of the past are constantly evolving and that it needs to be attentive and responsive to these shifts. The Agency is committed to ensuring that Canadians have opportunities to learn about the full scope of our shared history, including the difficult periods that are part of the past.
A key priority for Parks Canada is its work to develop clearer direction to inform the designation and preservation of national cultural heritage places. Through the Framework for History and Commemoration, the Agency has set guidelines presenting history at heritage places it administers, emphasizing the need to include a full range of voices, perspectives and experiences. In the case of commemoration, the framework includes strategic priorities for designating places, persons, and events of national historic significance under the National Program of Historical Commemoration. It also provides guidance on addressing conflict and controversy stemming from existing HSMBC designations.
With a clear mandate for the HSMBC from the Minister, Parks Canada will seek opportunities to actively engage Indigenous peoples, as well as ethnocultural and racialized communities to identify opportunities for commemoration, with the objective of making the National Program of Historical Commemoration more diverse and inclusive. Parks Canada will also proceed with the review of existing designations and enhance its web presence to communicate more clearly the program’s designation processes and encourage more public involvement in the board’s work.
Following this productive five-year period, Parks Canada will explore new approaches to commemorate national historic designations while it continues to commemorate existing designations through plaque unveiling ceremonies. The Agency will also seek to enhance the profile of national historic designations, through an increased web presence and social media.
Parks Canada pursues its plans to include Indigenous representation (First Nation, Métis, and Inuit) to the HSMBC, as part of its response to Call to Action #79. It has also started to revise the National Program of Historical Commemoration’s policies, criteria, and practices to better reflect Indigenous histories, heritage values, and memory practices within the presentation of heritage and history.
As part of its response to Call to Action #79, Parks Canada will also continue to work with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, Survivors, arts communities, Indigenous organizations and other federal departments and agencies to develop and implement a national heritage plan and strategy for commemorating residential school sites, communicating the history and legacy of residential schools and highlighting the contributions of Indigenous peoples to the history of Canada.
National park establishment
Since its establishment as the world’s first national park service in 1911, Parks Canada has been entrusted with protecting an increasing number of natural areas within a system of national parks that represents each of Canada’s 39 natural regions. As of March 31, 2021, the area of land protected in Canada’s 47 national parks and reserves is 342,456 square kilometres. It covers representative samples of the wide variety of ecosystems and natural landscapes that characterize Canada’s ecology and natural history.
In 1998, Parliament passed the Parks Canada Agency Act, stating that it was in the national interest to protect a representative collection of examples of Canada’s natural land and marine regions. It also directed Parks Canada to implement and maintain a long-term plan to establish a system of national parks, making the Agency responsible for negotiating and recommending the establishment of new protected areas.
Over the last several decades, Parks Canada focused on establishing one national park in each of the unrepresented areas as defined by a classification system based on western science. Looking forward, Parks Canada will build on this legacy and approach by working with Indigenous governments and using traditional Indigenous knowledge to identify sites that could be designated as Indigenous protected areas under the Canada National Parks Act. The Agency and its Indigenous partners will focus on protecting the boreal forest—a key ecological system— as well as better representing some natural regions with additional national parks.
Establishing a national park involves a series of steps, starting with the identification and selection of a potential park, followed by a feasibility assessment. Parks Canada works with Indigenous governments and communities, other federal departments, provinces, territories and municipal governments, conservation organizations, industries and all Canadians to support the feasibility assessment. If there is agreement to proceed, national park establishment agreements are negotiated with the relevant governments, including Indigenous governments or organizations. The final step is to formally protect the new park under the Canada National Parks Act.
State of national park establishment
Canadians are increasingly concerned about the environment that future generations will inherit. In a world of rapid change, the national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas administered by Parks Canada are regarded as models of environmental stewardship and as an important legacy to be preserved for future generations. They are also tangible and enduring evidence of Canada’s commitment to natural conservation.
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting natural heritage through expansion of the national parks network. This objective provides a “natural solution” to the two fundamental environmental challenges facing the world—biodiversity loss and climate change. The benefits to protected areas are manifold in this respect. Protected areas help to conserve biodiversity, to protect ecosystem services, to connect landscapes, to absorb and store carbon, to build knowledge and understanding, and to inspire people to take action to protect the environment.
Increasingly, new national parks reflect Indigenous leadership and collaboration in establishment, cooperative management and development of economic opportunities. Collaboration with Indigenous partners is critical. It also supports reconciliation by empowering Indigenous peoples to strengthen their connections with traditionally used lands and waters.
To date, 31 of Canada’s 39 natural regions are represented by 47 national parks and national park reserves.
Since 2016, one new national park reserve, Thaidene Nene, has been added to the national park system, increasing the number of represented natural regions by one and adding over 14,000 square kilometres to the system. Land was also added to two existing national parks. As of March 31, 2021, 79% of terrestrial regions in Canada are represented in the national park system.
Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve (East Arm of Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories):
On August 23, 2019, Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve became Canada’s 47th national park. It covers 14,070 square kilometres of a spectacular and unique part of the Northwestern Boreal Uplands Natural Region and features landscapes that sweep from the boreal forest to the southern Arctic tundra. Thaidene Nëné, which means Land of the Ancestors in Dënesųłıné, is the homeland of the Łutsël K'é Dene First Nation, Yellowknives Dene, Deninu Kųḝ and the Northwest Territory Métis Nation.
Work on establishing this new national park reserve dates back to the late 1960s. In the five decades since, Parks Canada worked with Indigenous communities to find a common path forward to protect this remarkable region, while respecting and supporting Indigenous rights and cultural practices. Parks Canada signed establishment agreements with the Akaitcho First Nations (Lutsël K’e Dene, and Deninu Kųḝ First Nations) and Northwest Territory Métis Nation. In addition, the Agency concluded a land transfer agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories. In September 2020, Parks Canada also signed an establishment agreement with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve was formally established under the Canada National Parks Act in September 2019.
Through collaboration, thoughtful dialogue and respectful negotiations with the Indigenous and territorial governments, Thaidene Nëné was designated by the Łutsël K'é Dene First Nation as an Indigenous protected area using Dene law. The other Indigenous governments have not yet indicated if they intend to do the same. Thaidene Nëné Indigenous Protected Area, which includes the national park reserve, spans 6.5 million acres (26,376 square kilometres) at the transition region between boreal forest and tundra. It also includes the east arm of Tu Nedhé (Great Slave Lake), the deepest freshwater source in North America.
Portions of the Thaidene Nëné Indigenous Protected Area have been co-designated a national park reserve, a territorial protected area, and soon, a wildlife conservation area. Management of the Thaidene Nëné Indigenous Protected Area is cooperative, with Indigenous, federal, and territorial governments all working together. Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve is an outstanding example of Indigenous-led conservation efforts and represents a new model for establishing national parks—a model that aligns with the principles of Indigenous protected and conserved areas.
Bruce Peninsula National Park:
Since the establishment of Bruce Peninsula National Park in 1987, Parks Canada has added over 140 parcels of land to the park on a willing seller–willing buyer basis. To contribute toward the completion of the national park, the Agency acquired two properties during this reporting period: 3,272 acres in 2018 and an additional 95 acres in 2020, resulting in the park being more than 90% complete.
The newly-acquired properties include a globally rare ancient cliff-edge ecosystem that contains the oldest trees in eastern North America, federally listed species at risk (including the Massasauga rattlesnake, round-leaved ragwort and Dwarf Lake Iris) a provincially rare fen wetland and ecologically, geologically and culturally significant cave systems.
Prince Edward Island National Park:
Parks Canada acquired a 405-acre property in Greenwich, Prince Edward Island, which will be scheduled under the Canada National Parks Act, adding the property to Prince Edward Island National Park. This land contains a forest, wetlands and coastal dunes that are home to many species at risk and rare species, such as the Piping Plover, the Yellow-banded Bumble Bee and the Little Brown Myotis (bat). Its addition to the park will also help protect some spectacular natural features, which will secure its legal protection at this site, such as the unusually large and mobile parabolic dunes and their associated counter ridges or Gegenwälle.
Nahanni National Park Reserve (Southern Mackenzie Mountains, Northwest Territories):
In 2009, Parks Canada expanded Nahanni National Park Reserve to 30,000 square kilometres to protect a larger portion of the South Nahanni River watershed—a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its incomparable northern wilderness and geologic landforms. However, an agreement with the region’s First Nations is still pending.
On March 31, 2021 Parks Canada and Nahʔą Dehé Dene Band signed the Interim Agreement on Economic Opportunities Related to Nahanni National Park Reserve. The interim agreement recognized the Nahʔą Dehé Dene Band’s territory and their long-standing support and cooperative management of Nahanni National Park Reserve. As part of the agreement the Nahʔą Dehé Dene Band will receive funding and support for tourism–related businesses, services and infrastructure, and employment and training opportunities. The agreement also called for the creation of a scholarship and to provide funding for Elders and youth visitation to support cultural practices in Nahanni National Park Reserve.
During the reporting period, Parks Canada continued to engage in consultations and negotiations also continued on the following park establishment processes:
South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve (South-central British Columbia):
In 2017, the governments of Canada (Parks Canada) and British Columbia, and the Okanagan Nations (represented by the Osoyoos and Lower Similkameen Indian Bands) re-launched the feasibility assessment for a new national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen region. Consultations were undertaken on a proposed boundary that encompasses 273 square kilometres during the winter and spring of 2018 and 2019, leading to the 2019 “What We Heard” report. On July 2, 2019, Parks Canada, British Columbia and the Okanagan Nations signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in which they agreed that a national park reserve was feasible, on a boundary subject to minor modifications, and to launch negotiations for a formal establishment agreement. Since the MOU was signed, parties have been negotiating a federal-provincial-First Nation establishment agreement that will determine a final boundary and governance approach for the national park reserve.
Pituamkek National Park Reserve* (Maritime Plain region, Prince Edward Island):
*previously referred to as Pitaweikek Hog Island Sandhills National Park Reserve
In August 2019, the governments of Canada (Parks Canada) and Prince Edward Island and the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils (as represented by L’nuey) launched a feasibility assessment for a national park reserve to protect the Hog Island-Sandhills area on the north shore of Prince Edward Island. Mi’kmaq elders have renamed the proposal to Pituamkek (pronounced Bee‑doo-um-Gek), which means “at the long sand dune.” In June 2021, the partners announced the launch of public consultations for the proposal. The consultation period ran until the end of July 2021, and will feed into a “What We Heard” report. Partners include the Government of Prince Edward Island and the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils, L’nuey, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Island Nature Trust.
Map 1 — National park system
National park system — Text version
Parks Canada’s long-term goal is to establish at least one national park in each of Canada’s terrestrial regions. The system, which is 79 percent complete, represents the diversity of natural regions and landscapes in Canada. Forty-seven national parks represent 31 of Canada’s 39 terrestrial regions, and protect approximately 342,456 square kilometres of Canada’s lands.
The purpose of Map 1 — National park system is to identify the 39 terrestrial regions of Canada including whether or not they are presently represented by a national park.
Canada's 39 terrestrial regions are as follows:
In the Western Mountains, there are:
- Pacific Coast Mountains, represented
- Strait of Georgia Lowlands, represented
- Interior Dry Plateau, not represented
- Columbia Mountains, represented
- Rocky Mountains, represented
- Northern Coast Mountains, represented
- Northern Interior Plateaux and Mountains, not represented
- Mackenzie Mountains, represented
- Northern Yukon, represented
In the Interior Plains, there are:
- Mackenzie Delta, represented
- Northern Boreal Plains, represented
- Southern Boreal Plains and Plateaux, represented
- Prairie Grasslands, represented
- Manitoba Lowlands, not represented
In the Canadian Shield, there are:
- Tundra Hills, represented
- Central Tundra, represented
- Northwestern Boreal Uplands, represented
- Central Boreal Uplands, represented
- Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Precambrian Region, represented
- Laurentian Boreal Highlands, not represented
- East Coast Boreal Region, represented
- Boreal Lake Plateau, not represented
- Whale River, not represented
- Northern Labrador Mountains, represented
- Ungava Tundra Plateau, not represented
- Northern Davis Region, represented
In the Hudson Bay Lowlands, there are:
- Hudson–James Lowlands, represented
- Southampton Plain, not represented
In the St. Lawrence Lowlands there are:
- 29a. West St. Lawrence Lowland, represented
- 29b. Central St. Lawrence Lowland, represented
- 29c. East St. Lawrence Lowland, represented
In the Appalachian Region, there are:
- Notre Dame-Megantic Mountains, represented
- Maritime Acadian Highlands, represented
- Maritime Plain, represented
- Atlantic Coast Uplands, represented
- Western Newfoundland Highlands, represented
- Eastern Newfoundland Atlantic Region, represented
In the Arctic Lowlands, there are:
- Western Arctic Lowlands, represented
- Eastern Arctic Lowlands, represented
In the High Arctic Islands, there are:
- Western High Arctic, represented
- Eastern High Arctic, represented
Key issues and focus for the future
One of Parks Canada’s priorities over the next decade is to support the Government of Canada’s commitment to protect 25% of Canada’s lands and freshwaters by 2025, and to work toward the emerging global target of 30% by 2030. While this target presents a significant opportunity for Parks Canada, the timeline is aggressive and the projected area is considerable. In addition, the Agency will need time to build trust and consult with Indigenous governments and communities, stakeholders, commercial interests and the public.
As it works to meet this goal, Parks Canada will also need to continue to contribute meaningfully towards Indigenous reconciliation, to enhance quality visitor experiences in support of a growing tourism sector, to promote rural economic development and to help build a conservation economy.
Budget 2021 provided Parks Canada with the funds to identify, assess the feasibility of, undertake consultation on and negotiate the agreements to protect 300,000 square kilometres, or 3% of Canada’s lands and freshwater, in new national parks and freshwater marine conservation areas. This is a lofty goal, fraught with challenges but full of opportunity. The twin global crises of climate change and biodiversity loss compel Parks Canada to respond by protecting natural areas, but will make it difficult to achieve the protection of fully functioning natural ecosystems. However, the growing recognition that the protection of natural areas is critical to lessening the impact of climate change, coupled with the increasing number and nature of partnerships with Indigenous governments and communities, mark a historic opportunity for Parks Canada.
Of growing importance to the Agency is the need to determine how to plan, establish, manage and connect a network of protected areas in the context of accelerating climate change. Areas established as national parks today based on our current understanding of an area’s natural values may not exist in their current form several decades from now. This reality poses important philosophical questions: should an area be protected as source of ecological features or should it be assessed in terms of where those features might move to in the future? How should such assessments be made in a brief period of time, given the aggressive targets? And how large should future protected areas be in order to withstand the stresses of rapid ecological change?
Among the immediate priorities facing Parks Canada is the need to identify national park candidates that the Agency can move through the establishment process with provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments. Protecting additional representative areas, particularly in natural regions represented by small or ecologically-isolated national parks, is a critical approach to tackling climate change. Protection of multiple examples of landscapes and habitats increases the resilience of biological diversity across regional landscapes in the face of climate change, an important conservation goal.
As part of this approach, Parks Canada is working with Indigenous governments to use Indigenous knowledge to identify sites that could be designated as Indigenous protected areas under the Canada National Parks Act. Adding national parks within the boreal forest region and protecting inland and freshwaters are important to conserving key ecological systems. The Agency must also focus on improving representation of some of Canada’s more southerly natural regions.
To attain this goal, while continuing to work to reach the Canada’s conservation targets, Parks Canada will need to modernize its establishment process. This will include early engagement with Indigenous governments and communities, developing more strategic partnerships with stakeholders, examining innovative financing and better articulation and demonstration of the economic value of conservation beyond the traditional focus on tourism benefits and employment.
National marine conservation areas establishment
Canada has the world’s longest coastline, extending more than 243,000 kilometres along the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans. It covers an area of more than 5.5 million square kilometres of ocean waters and is home to the world’s second largest continental shelf. Canada also shares jurisdiction over the Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater system. These marine environments are fundamental to the social, cultural and economic well-being of Canadians. Currently, 123,740 square kilometres—more than 2% of Canada’s marine area— are protected as part of national marine conservation areas and reserves (not including Tuvaijuittuq).
Parliament mandated Parks Canada to establish a network of national marine conservation areas (NMCAs) representative of the diversity of Canada’s 29 oceanic and Great Lakes marine regions under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act (2002). Parks Canada’s role is to protect these NMCAs and ensure that they are used in an ecologically sustainable manner. The Agency is also responsible for providing Canadians with unique experiences of these areas and promoting among them an appreciation and understanding of marine heritage. This will, in turn, help motivate Canadians to actively participate in the management of NMCAs.
Establishing an NMCA involves multiple steps, starting with the identification and selection of a potential site, followed by a feasibility assessment and public consultations. If governments agree to proceed, an NMCA establishment agreement is negotiated with the relevant governments and Indigenous organizations. The last step includes developing an interim management plan and formal establishment agreement under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act.
State of national marine conservation areas
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting Canada's natural heritage by expanding the network of national marine conservation areas. Healthy coastal habitats, such as salt marshes and seagrass meadows, provide many important ecosystem services that contribute to the well-being of Canadians. Such services include providing habitat and nurseries for fish, offering a natural barrier against the impacts of storms and flooding along coastlines, and taking up and storing carbon from the atmosphere. The uptake and storage of “blue carbon” helps to mitigate the release of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
As of March 31, 2021, the national marine conservation area system was 21% complete. The system includes five national marine conservation areas representing six of the 29 marine regions and protecting 123,740 square kilometres. With the addition of Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area (Nunavut) the country’s protected area expanded more than six-fold (an increase of approximately 686%) compared with the previous reporting period.
In Nunavut, Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area became operational pursuant to an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement (IIBA) signed by the federal government and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association in August 2019. Since the signing of the agreement, a Federal-Inuit cooperative governance structure has begun to implement the IIBA.
In Ontario, Parks Canada continues to work on establishing the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, which has been operational for numerous years. The Agency is currently engaged in completing a benefit agreement with First Nations and transferring the administration and control of lands from the Government of Ontario to the Government of Canada. Establishment of these two national marine conservation areas will be considered complete once they have been added to Schedule 1 of the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act.
Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area (Lancaster Sound, Nunavut):
In 2017, Parks Canada—in collaboration with numerous partners—completed a feasibility assessment of the ecologically and globally significant Lancaster Sound area. The assessment concluded that establishing a national marine conservation area was feasible. A historic achievement took place during this process: Shell Canada Ltd. voluntarily relinquished 30 offshore exploratory hydrocarbon licences, covering 8,600 square kilometres in Lancaster Sound, to the Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC). The NCC then relinquished the licences to the Government of Canada.
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the governments of Nunavut and Canada (Parks Canada) subsequently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in Pond Inlet in 2017, confirming that a national marine conservation area was feasible. The MOU outlined the need to protect the area, while the partners established an agreed-upon boundary and agreed to commence negotiation of an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement (IIBA) and to provide the area with interim protection.
On August 1, 2019, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the federal government (Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada) signed an IIBA for Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area. This IIBA established a final boundary and protected an area of 108,000 square kilometres, contributing 1.9 percentage points toward Canada’s international commitments, thus helping Canada surpass its national target of protecting 5% of Canada by 2017. The Tallurutiup Imanga IIBA also included guidance on the implementation of the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area in the High Arctic Basin.
During this reporting period, several proposed national marine conservation areas continued to advance through the feasibility assessment and consultation phases:
Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area (Arctic Basin north of Ellesmere Island, Nunavut):
The remote area of Tuvaijuittuq— which means “the place where the ice never melts—” became the first marine protected area to be designated by a Ministerial Order under the Oceans Act in August 2019. This designation provides interim protection for five years by “freezing the footprint” of existing.
Proposed national marine conservation area reserve in the Southern Strait of Georgia (Strait of Georgia, British Columbia):
Parks Canada and British Columbia are working to complete a feasibility assessment for a national marine conservation area reserve in the southern Strait of Georgia. In this area, fresh water from the Fraser River mixes with the marine environment to support over 3,000 species in myriad habitat niches.
The Indigenous peoples who inhabit this region—and have done so since time immemorial— have rooted their laws and relationships in the area’s lands and waters. There are 19 First Nations whose territories are either within the proposed area or adjacent to it. At the same time, the proposed boundary borders the most populated urban centre in British Columbia and encloses an important recreational, residential and economic region that is prized by residents and visitors alike. Since 2016, Parks Canada has been engaging with the affected First Nations to secure their support, which is essential to the success of this initiative. As part of the feasibility assessment, the Agency will ensure that it has obtained the prior and informed consent of the First Nations directly impacted by the proposal.
Proposed marine protected area adjacent to the Îles de la Madeleine (Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec):
The governments of Canada (Parks Canada) and Quebec announced a feasibility assessment in June 2019 to protect the Magdalen Islands area, which is remarkable for its biodiversity and its oceanographic, ecological and cultural richness. The area is representative of the Magdalen Shallows Marine Region, identified in Parks Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan, and aligns with Quebec’s biodiversity conservation goals for the Gulf of St. Lawrence area. Parks Canada views this iconic site as an important addition to the national network of protected areas.
Proposed national marine conservation area in James Bay (Eastern James Bay):
In June 2019, the Government of Canada (Parks Canada) and the Cree Nation Government signed a memorandum of understanding to launch a feasibility assessment to establish a national marine conservation area in eastern James Bay. This environmentally important site contains a distinct sub-arctic ocean ecosystem and forms part of the larger Hudson Bay inland sea. The Cree Nation Government recommended the site, which represents a part of Parks Canada’s James Bay marine region.
The national marine conservation area is expected to create opportunities for local communities to participate in the establishment and management of the protected area as well as support an ecologically sustainable way of life. Parks Canada will need to advance this proposal within the context of the Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement. The study area for this national marine conservation area is adjacent to the Quebec coast and Parks Canada and the Cree Nation Government will work with the Government of Quebec and other partners to move the establishment process forward.
Proposed national marine conservation area on the Labrador Coast (Northern Labrador Coast):
In September 2019, the Government of Canada (Parks Canada) and the Nunatsiavut Government launched a feasibility assessment to create an Indigenous protected area under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act. Parks Canada and the Nunatsiavut Government formed a steering committee to explore the feasibility of protecting the waters of the Labrador Shelf. This area, which is adjacent to, and off the shores of, Torngat Mountains National Park, represents a transition between Arctic and Atlantic habitats and communities. Its features range from highly scenic fjords to long beaches and mudflats. The area also encompasses a variety of marine mammal species, as well as important concentrations of breeding and migrating seabirds and waterfowl.
Map 2 — National marine conservation area system
National marine conservation area system — Text version
Parks Canada’s long-term goal is to establish at least one national marine conservation area in each of Canada’s marine regions.
Once completed, the system of national marine conservation areas will represent Canada’s 29 marine regions spanning its three oceans and the Great Lakes. With the addition of Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area in 2019, six of Canada’s 29 marine regions are represented making the system 21 percent complete, and protecting 122,846 square kilometres of Canada’s marine and freshwater ecosystems.
The purpose of the map is to illustrate the 29 marine regions of Canada including which are presently represented by a national marine conservation area, as well as those regions with active proposals. Canada's 29 marine regions are as follows:
- Hecate Strait (Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site)
- Queen Charlotte Shelf (Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site)
- Queen Charlotte Sound
- Vancouver Island Shelf
- Strait of Georgia (Proposed national marine conservation area reserve in the southern Strait of Georgia)
- Arctic Basin (Proposed national marine conservation area in Arctic Basin)
- Beaufort Sea
- Arctic Archipelago
- Queen Maud Gulf
- Lancaster Sound (Represented by Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area)
- Baffin Island Shelf
- Foxe Basin
- Hudson Bay
- James Bay (Proposed national marine conservation area in Eastern James Bay)
- Hudson Strait
- Labrador Shelf
- Newfoundland Shelf
- North Gulf Shelf
- St. Lawrence Estuary (Represented by Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park)
- Magdalen Shallows (Proposed marine protected area adjacent to the Îles de la Madeleine)
- Laurentian Channel
- The Grand Banks
- Scotian Shelf
- The Bay of Fundy
- Lake Superior (Represented by Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area of Canada)
- Georgian Bay (Represented by Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada)
- Lake Huron
- Lake Erie
- Lake Ontario
Key issues and focus for the future
Parks Canada prioritizes its support of the Government of Canada’s commitment to protect 25% of Canada’s coastal areas and marine waters by 2025, while working toward attaining the global target of 30% by 2030. Like the terrestrial target, the marine target not only presents significant opportunities for Parks Canada, but also poses challenges: the target is equally aggressive, the projected area substantial and the Agency will need time to establish critical partnerships with Indigenous governments and communities, stakeholders and commercial interests.
Budget 2021 provided Parks Canada with the funds to identify, assess the feasibility of, undertake consultation on and negotiate agreements to protect 240,000 square kilometres (4% of Canada’s marine environments) as part of new national marine conservation areas. As with the national park target, this is an ambitious goal, that represents significant challenges and opportunities for the Agency. The twin global crises of climate change and biodiversity loss not only affect land, but they also extend to waters compelling Parks Canada to respond by protecting natural areas within the marine environment. The growing global recognition that protecting ocean areas can help address these crises, along with Parks Canada’s strengthening partnerships with Indigenous governments and communities, is presenting the Agency with a historic and unique opportunity: to significantly expand the system of national marine conservation areas to combat climate change.
The oceans are a significant source of regional and national economic activity and Canadians play a key role in ensuring that marine resources are used sustainably. Parks Canada, in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and provincial and territorial governments, is determining how best to support and advance Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy. This includes highlighting the direct link between ocean health and long-term marine economic values. Only by working hard to protect and conserve ocean spaces—while minimizing the impacts of human activities on marine environments—can the Agency and its partners succeed in establishing conservation economies, cultures and ways that are both based on marine resources and sustainable over the longer term.
Climate change continues to impact Canada’s oceans, creating challenges for marine communities and marine-based industries—especially in Arctic regions. Pristine areas, once covered with ice throughout the entire year and completely inaccessible, are beginning to open as ice melts and moves with the changing tides. Perspectives on these areas as a source of potential development and use present challenges for protected area efforts that are underway and began at a time when environmental conditions were different. Protected area efforts will increasingly face the challenge of moving quickly to protect areas that are themselves rapidly changing and becoming more accessible and available for use. As support for protected areas continues to grow in tandem with interests to explore and use areas that were once inaccessible, Parks Canada will need to navigate these challenges.
Parks Canada is ideally positioned through its mandate to protect, conserve and foster public understanding and appreciation for our natural and cultural heritage places and to engage Canadians to learn about marine and land ecosystems that they would not normally have the opportunity to experience. The opportunity to explore and learn from the waters and lands also emphasizes Indigenous knowledge, values and cultures, as well as how Indigenous peoples view these environments as connected and seamless ecosystems. Indigenous perspectives tell us that there is no line separating waters and lands; rather, they are a unified whole that together supports the animals and creatures that live in these special places. Parks Canada’s efforts to protect both waters and neighbouring lands will advance to ensure that these seamless environments are protected together, providing holistic visitor experiences and fostering an understanding of the connectedness of the natural environment, a perspective held by Indigenous peoples since time immemorial.
Parks Canada contributes towards Canada’s terrestrial conservation targets through the protection of freshwater lakes under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act. A priority for Parks Canada over the next decade is to assess the potential for new freshwater national marine conservation areas in the Great Lakes, including areas off the shores of Point Pelee National Park in Lake Erie and offshore Prince Edward County in Lake Ontario. Canada’s Great Lakes and their connecting channels form the largest freshwater surface system on earth. They cover more than 244,106 square kilometres, with Lake Superior as the largest freshwater lake in the word. While the lakes are a major source of transportation, trade and fishing, they also serve as critical habitat to many aquatic freshwater species and species at risk. Parks Canada will need to continue to assess potential areas for conservation and protection in this complex environment of ecosystem use, growing marine activities, and a conservation economy.
Rouge National Urban Park establishment
Rouge National Urban Park is a new type of protected area administered by Parks Canada and a Canadian first: a national park located in an urban setting. The park is a great example of a protected “cultural landscape” where expanses of natural ecosystems are intertwined with rich agricultural lands and culturally significant landscapes.
As a federally-designated protected area with its own legislation, Canada’s first national urban park celebrates the diversity of the Rouge’s natural, cultural and agricultural heritage and offers opportunities for visitors to connect with the park through seasonal events, recreational and learning activities, as well as stewardship and volunteering opportunities.
Located within the Greater Toronto Area–Canada’s most populated and culturally diverse metropolitan centre–Rouge National Urban Park fulfils the goal of community leaders and visionaries of creating a park connecting Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine. The Rouge is one of the largest urban parks in the world and the largest of its kind in North America.
State of Rouge National Urban Park
Since the initiative to establish Rouge National Urban Park was first announced in 2011, Parks Canada has engaged more than 20,000 Canadians and has worked closely with Indigenous peoples, all levels of government, community groups, conservationists, park farmers, residents, volunteers, and many other groups on the park’s planning and establishment, and its first management plan.
In 2012, the Agency established the Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle to help guide the establishment and management of the park and its operations. The Advisory Circle is comprised of ten First Nations with an expressed interest and historic and cultural connection to the area of the national urban park.
The Rouge National Urban Park Act came into force on May 15, 2015, formally establishing the park. In 2015, Transport Canada transferred 19.1 square kilometres to Parks Canada – the very first lands for Rouge National Urban Park.
During this reporting period, Parks Canada has completed significant work to establish Rouge National Urban Park and bring it under the Agency's administration and operation.
In 2017, the Rouge National Urban Park Act was amended to strengthen the park’s ecological and agricultural protections. The Government of Canada also provided greater certainty for farmers within the park by announcing that one-year leases would be replaced with leases of up to 30 years to ensure long-term stability.
During this period, significant land was added to Rouge National Urban Park through land transfers from federal and provincial land managers as well as from municipalities and local conservation authorities. As of March 31, 2021 land assembly for the park is nearly 95% complete. The transferred lands include the majority of the original regional Rouge Park–including Rouge Beach and the Glen Rouge Campground–and some of the last remaining tracts of Class-1 farmland in the GTA. Once land assembly for the national urban park is completed, the park will cover an area of nearly 80 square kilometres.
Leading-edge science and collaborations are contributing to species at risk recovery, ecological connectivity, invasive species control and cultural resource conservation throughout the Rouge. Parks Canada is also implementing a full suite of monitoring, assessment and reporting tools uniquely designed for the national urban park. Since 2015, Parks Canada has been working collaboratively with Indigenous peoples, municipalities, park farmers, schools and environmental groups to improve the health of Rouge National Urban Park, initiating and completing 77 ecological restoration and farmland enhancement projects throughout the park. These park projects have restored more than 70.5 hectares of wetland, stream and riverbank habitat, as well as 28 hectares of forest habitat. Parks Canada has also planted more than 123,000 native trees, perennials, shrubs and aquatic plants in the Rouge – many by students, community groups, and Indigenous partners – and enhanced habitat connectivity for aquatic wildlife through the removal or improvement of twelve in-stream barriers. In collaboration with the Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada has also introduced almost 400 Blanding’s turtles, a federally endangered and provincially threatened species, to wetlands in Rouge National Urban Park.
In January 2019, Rouge National Urban Park’s foundational management plan was tabled in Parliament, marking another important milestone in the creation of Canada’s first national urban park. The creation of this first-ever management plan for Rouge National Urban Park, which will guide the national urban park as it moves from establishment to full operations, reflects the dedication and hard work of countless people both within Parks Canada and beyond the Agency.
In August 2019, Parks Canada announced the location of the future education and welcome centre for Rouge National Urban Park, which will be built on park lands across the street from the Toronto Zoo. The facility will be a learning and orientation facility where students, visitors and residents can gather and learn about the Rouge’s incredible natural, cultural, agricultural and Indigenous heritage, and Parks Canada-administered places across the country.
In September 2019, the very first Parks Canada-built facilities and trail opened in Rouge National Urban Park. This included the Reesor Road and 19th Ave. day use areas, as well as a new five kilometre family-friendly multi-use trail that showcases the park’s agricultural heritage. The Agency also worked hard to ensure the safety and security of park users while they used these new facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Key issues and focus for the future
Rouge National Urban Park
Parks Canada’s priority for Rouge National Urban Park is to complete the park’s establishment and transition to full operations with a focus on conservation, orientation, outreach and education, new and upgraded camping facilities, and a comprehensive trail system connecting Lake Ontario with the Oak Ridges Moraine. Parks Canada will continue to raise awareness and appreciation of the long history of farming in the Rouge, from Indigenous people’s traditions over millennia, to the Mennonite farms of the 19th and 20th centuries, to today’s modern farms.
In the coming years, Parks Canada will build more than 50 kilometres of new trails throughout the park with a focus on south-north connectivity. This extensive trail network will allow visitors to explore the park’s unique natural, cultural and agricultural landscapes. Trails will support the protection of natural and cultural resources through a choice of routes and construction methods that support ecological integrity, protection of cultural heritage and visitor education.
Other park establishment projects underway include the Glen Rouge Campground revitalization, the Rouge Beach Improvements Project with a new trail connection from the beach to the campground, as well as the future Rouge Gateway education and welcome centre. This facility will feature environmentally sustainable design, enhanced accessibility and significant collaboration with the Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle and other community partners.
Parks Canada also plans to add washrooms and other improvements to several existing day use areas throughout the park, including Bob Hunter Memorial Park, Woodland, Twyn Rivers and the day use area that provides access to the Coyote Trail.
As Parks Canada works towards completing the establishment of Rouge National Urban Park, new Parks Canada-branded signage is being installed throughout the park to identify the park to visitors and surrounding communities. This primary signage will be added at all day use areas and trailheads throughout the park, as well as at the future visitor education and welcome centre.
National Urban Parks
Urban parks contribute to protecting biodiversity, supporting climate resilience, connecting people to nature, improving mental health and wellness, and increasing social inclusion.
Building on the success of Rouge National Urban Park, Parks Canada is launching a new program for the creation of a network of national urban parks across Canada. In collaboration with various partners, Parks Canada will create or expand urban parks that are readily accessible to people in Canada’s urban centres and provide opportunities to connect to, and learn about, local nature and culture. Parks Canada will work closely with Indigenous partners to ensure national urban parks also provide space for Indigenous stewardship, promote Indigenous voices and stories, and offer opportunities for connections to lands and waters based on Indigenous knowledge and values.
Cultural Heritage Protection and Conservation Programs
In addition to the designation of sites, persons and events of national significance, Parks Canada is responsible for eight heritage designation programs, some of which include protection mechanisms through federal policy or law. These support and enhance the commemoration and protection of important cultural and natural heritage resources across Canada in all jurisdictions.
1) Heritage lighthouses
The Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act came into force on May 29, 2010. The Act is designed to identify federally-owned heritage lighthouses and to protect and conserve their heritage character. The Act establishes conservation and maintenance standards for federal custodians of heritage lighthouses. It also requires that the heritage character of a lighthouse be protected upon its sale or transfer out of the federal portfolio. Heritage lighthouses are designated by the Minister responsible for Parks Canada on the advice of the HSMBC. Parks Canada supports the Board in its advisory role to the Minister.
Canadians nominated 349 lighthouses for designation during a two-year nomination period that ended May 29, 2012. Since 2016, 26 heritage lighthouses have been designated, for a total of 102 since the program began. Of these, 43 will be managed by federal custodians and 59 are surplus to the operational requirements of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. These surplus lighthouses are therefore destined to be protected and conserved by new, non-federal owners, primarily other levels of government and community-based organizations.
More communities wish to acquire and protect surplus historic lighthouses and, as such, are interested in having them designated as heritage lighthouses under the Act. Negotiations are ongoing between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and other levels of government and community-based organizations, which are developing sustainable, long-term business plans for local lighthouses. Once these negotiations are concluded, these historic lighthouses will become eligible for designation.
2) Heritage railway stations
The Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act (HRSPA) outlines the procedures to follow to designate heritage railway stations. It provides a clear process for the review and approval of proposed changes or the sale of designated stations. Based on the advice of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, the Minister responsible for Parks Canada designates heritage railway stations. Any proposal to sell or alter a designated station must be recommended by the Minister to the Governor in Council for approval.
Since 1990, 164 heritage railway stations have been designated under the HRSPA. As of March 31, 2021, 71 were still owned by federally regulated railway companies and fell under the protection of the Act, including such notable railway stations as Union Station in Winnipeg, Gare du Palais in Québec, and the VIA Rail Station in Halifax. The others have been sold to new owners who have committed to protect and conserve their heritage character.
Over the last five years, Parks Canada provided program and conservation advice to railway companies for 75 interventions at more than 30 stations. The Agency will continue to work closely with heritage railway station owners and communities to promote effective conservation and protection of these iconic landmarks.
3) National Program for the Gravesites of Canadian Prime Ministers
This program was created in 1999 to ensure that the gravesites of prime ministers were conserved and recognized in a respectful and dignified manner. It involves the preparation of conservation plans for each of the gravesites, installation of a Canadian flag and information panel on the life and accomplishments of the prime minister, and the organization of a commemoration ceremony to honour the prime minister. To date, 16 prime ministers have been commemorated through the program. Each gravesite received a formal inspection by Parks Canada conservation specialists in 2016 and 2019. These inspection reports form the basis for work planning to address conservation issues on a priority basis. The next formal inspections will take place in 2022 and every three years thereafter.
In autumn 2020, a Canadian flag was installed at the gravesite of former prime minister John Turner, who died on September 19, 2020 at the age of 91. A commemorative ceremony will occur at an appropriate time in the future at his resting place in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.
4) Canadian heritage rivers
The Canadian Heritage Rivers System is Canada’s national heritage river program—a cooperative federal-provincial-territorial program led by Parks Canada. The program, which the Agency runs under the authority of the Parks Canada Agency Act, aims to recognize, protect and manage rivers having outstanding natural, cultural and recreational value.
The Cultural Heritage Rivers System is the world’s largest heritage river program, making Canada a leader in the identification of riverine cultural landscapes and in celebrating the cultural, natural, and recreational roles rivers play in many communities and for Indigenous peoples. Thirty-nine rivers have been designated, meaning that plans have been put in place to conserve and present their heritage value. Together, these rivers span nearly 10,000 kilometres. In the past five years, the Ottawa River (Ontario) was designated.
5) National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places
Parks Canada’s National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places is a contribution program that helps ensure the protection of heritage places that have been formally recognized by the Government of Canada, but that it does not administer. In 2016, the Program’s criteria were expanded to include federally designated heritage lighthouses and heritage railway stations, in addition to national historic sites. The Program supports the Agency’s mandate of protecting and presenting nationally significant examples of Canada’s cultural and natural heritage.
Through the Investing in Canada Plan, launched in 2016, the Program was allocated an additional $19 million in contribution funding under the Social Infrastructure Stream, which supported a total of 132 projects over fiscal years 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. During the reporting period, the Program received 279 applications and supported 174 projects for a total investment of just over $21 million in heritage places. As a result of the cost-sharing model, this investment has encouraged an additional $25 million in public and private sector investments to support heritage conservation. Although funding is normally time-limited within the fiscal year it is approved for, in light of the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of projects that were approved in fiscal year 2020–21 have had their funding agreements extended into the 2021-22 fiscal year to allow for completion.
Some examples of projects funded in this period include the following:
- The corporation Les Aventuriers de l'archéologie dans le Haut-St-Laurent received $24,973 in 2017-18 to redevelop the exhibition hall at Droulers-Tsiionhiakwatha National Historic Site of Canada (Québec), strengthening the interpretation of the Indigenous heritage of the site, including the translation of materials into Haudenosaunee.
- The Land of Maquinna Cultural Society received a total of $166,514, between 2016-17 and 2018-19, to address priority conservation issues at the former church within the Yuquot National Historic Site of Canada (British Columbia). The former village church has been repurposed as a community gathering space for the Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation and as a visitor centre and administrative hub for visitors to the traditional village site of Yuquot on Nootka Island.
6) Federal heritage buildings
Parks Canada, through the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office (FHBRO), has a lead role in advising federal government departments on the protection of heritage buildings, in accordance with the heritage requirements of the Treasury Board Policy on the Management of Real Property. FHBRO provides heritage advice to custodian departments on how to meet their obligations under the policy, and manages the heritage evaluation process, reviews proposed interventions to Classified federal heritage buildings and reviews proposed disposals of federal heritage buildings. Additionally, FHBRO develops heritage value statements for all federal heritage buildings to assist custodial departments in protecting the heritage values of their designated buildings and provides regular training on heritage obligations under the Policy.
Managed by 20 different departments, these buildings represent some of the most significant places and illustrate some of the most important themes in Canadian history. Federal heritage buildings are defined according to two categories: Classified and Recognized. Classified federal heritage buildings—“Classified” being the highest designation level—represent the best examples of federal built heritage. Overall, there are 266 Classified federal heritage buildings in Canada, of which the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa are an example. Buildings categorized as Recognized federal heritage buildings—“Recognized” being the second designation level—are buildings of significant heritage value, such as a rustic warden cabin in Mount Revelstoke National Park. In total, there are 998 Recognized federal heritage buildings in Canada. Parks Canada is the largest custodian of federal heritage buildings, managing 130 Classified and 384 Recognized federal heritage buildings.
Since 2016, the Minister responsible for Parks Canada has approved 36 new designations, including one Classified federal heritage building and 35 Recognized federal heritage buildings.
In its 2018 report, Conserving Federal Heritage Properties, the Office of the Auditor General noted the increase in the number of designations of federal heritage properties in Canada and identified the need to work sufficiently to conserve the heritage value and extend the physical life of these places. As part of the Government of Canada’s response to the report, Parks Canada has begun work with custodian departments to review the approach for designating federal heritage buildings and to establish a consistent standard of heritage conservation across the federal government.
Parks Canada has been working to better reflect the specific circumstances of various custodians of federal heritage buildings to reflect regional realities, Indigenous history, community voices, and contemporary approaches to heritage values. FHBRO has advanced on a number of methodologies related to the evaluation, intervention, and disposal of federal heritage buildings. These include new presentations of research, a variety of memorandums of understanding with federal departments, as well as memorandums on engagement.
The Agency has also achieved positive results in conservation methodology relating to the disposal, sale and transfer of real property. Technological advancements in heritage recording, such as 3D and virtual presentation, have led to new approaches in monitoring, conservation, and commemoration practices. The adoption of different review approaches, for example in grouping and comparative analysis, enabled better planning and better protection of designated federal heritage buildings.
7) Federal archaeology
As the Government of Canada’s expert in archaeology, Parks Canada assists other departments in managing archaeological heritage on federal lands and underwater, as set out in the Parks Canada Agency Act and in the Government of Canada’s Archaeological Heritage Policy Framework (1990). The Agency provides advice, tools and information to support custodial departments, principally with respect to environmental assessment of projects where archaeological resources may be affected. For example, Parks Canada provided advice to Public Services and Procurement Canada in relation to archaeological resources for projects on Parliament Hill and at the National War Memorial.
8) World Heritage Sites
Parks Canada plays the leading role in Canada’s implementation of the World Heritage Convention, both domestically and internationally. The Agency provides support and guidance to World Heritage Site managers within Canada and to teams working on World Heritage nominations. Parks Canada also undertakes outreach and engagement to inform the Canadian public and interested stakeholders about world heritage matters.
Through a rigorous, 18-month public renewal process in 2016-17, the Government of Canada updated the country’s Tentative List for World Heritage Sites—an inventory of natural and cultural heritage properties with strong potential to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. On December 20, 2017, the Minister responsible for Parks Canada announced the addition of eight new sites to Canada’s Tentative List. Future nominations will continue to be drawn from Canada’s Tentative List for World Heritage Sites.
As of March 31, 2021, Canada was home to 20 World Heritage Sites, including the two most recently inscribed sites, Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi in Alberta and Pimachiowin Aki in Manitoba and Ontario. Both sites focus on Indigenous heritage places and the nominations were co-developed with Indigenous partners. A nomination for Tr'ondëk-Klondike in Yukon was submitted to the World Heritage Centre in January 2021. Following a standard evaluation process, it will be considered by the World Heritage Committee in 2022.
Internationally, Parks Canada has continued to cooperate in the development of World Heritage policies for the effective implementation of the World Heritage Convention with particular interest in supporting stronger representation of Indigenous cultural heritage in the international context.
In response to World Heritage Committee decisions over the past several years, Parks Canada has been preparing formal state of conservation reports for two Canadian sites, Gros Morne National Park and Wood Buffalo National Park, and has been working closely with partners to address the various requests made by the Committee.
In February 2019, the Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site Action Plan was finalized and submitted to the World Heritage Centre, following extensive collaboration with Indigenous partners and provincial/territorial governments as well as input from stakeholders. The Action Plan is currently being implemented in coordination with federal, provincial and territorial authorities, and with Indigenous governments that have stewardship responsibilities for their traditional territories in Wood Buffalo National Park.
Canada’s most recent state of conservation report for Wood Buffalo National Park was submitted to the World Heritage Centre in December 2020, including information on the status of all 142 actions identified in the Action Plan across its seven thematic areas. This progress report indicated that as of December 2020, over 50% of the Action Plan measures had been completed or were underway, consistent with the Plan's implementation schedule. For more information on the Wood Buffalo Action Plan, please refer to the Actions section of Ecological Integrity in this report.
Part B: The state of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage places administered by Parks Canada
Cultural resources are maintained through conservation work at national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas administered by Parks Canada as well as in the facilities that house Canada’s national collection of archaeological and historical objects. At national historic sites administered by others, a contribution program provides support for conservation projects to mitigate or reduce threats.
Parks Canada also provides heritage expertise and conservation advice and guidance to federal custodians of national historic sites and federal heritage buildings through the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office.
As stewards of national historic sites, Parks Canada categorizes cultural resources according to their national historic significance or other heritage value they may possess. These cultural resources represent a significant inventory of the nation’s buildings and engineering works, Canada's historical and archaeological collection, cultural landscapes and archaeological sites. The Agency ensures that cultural resources are safeguarded and conserved and that their heritage value is shared for the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of present and future generations.
Protecting and conserving cultural resources require constant vigilance because once lost, they are gone forever. In order to safeguard these cultural resources for Canadians, regular assessment and monitoring of their state are critical, particularly when natural processes or human actions could accelerate their deterioration.
Parks Canada monitors the state of cultural resources by conducting commemorative integrity assessments at the national historic sites that it administers. These assessments are used to support decision-making about cultural resources at national historic sites and to inform management planning and reporting requirements. Cultural Resource Impact Assessments (CRIA) are also conducted to inform impact analysis when interventions are being conducted at heritage places on lands administered by Parks Canada or for emergency reasons, such as a natural disaster. CRIA are also conducted in the context of environmental impact assessments. They ensure that cultural resources and their heritage value are safeguarded or improved during work or interventions required at heritage places.
Parks Canada also annually monitors measures taken to safeguard the historical and archaeological collection, cultural landscapes and archaeological sites in its care. These measures and their results help to inform conservation programs on progress and for work planning to achieve Agency priorities for cultural heritage conservation. Work to safeguard the archaeological and historical collection, cultural landscapes and archaeological sites is tracked and reported annually, serving as a measure of the Agency’s progress in achieving its target to ensure that cultural resources managed by Parks Canada have identified conservation measures in place.
The Government of Canada’s significant investment in infrastructure on lands administered by Parks Canada continues to improve the condition of a wide range of built heritage (a type of cultural resource) at national historic sites. This contributes to maintaining their heritage value, as well as strengthening their appeal as destinations to celebrate Canada's cultural heritage. Investments in improving the condition of cultural resources that are in poor condition will ensure that heritage value is preserved for future generations.
Cultural resources at national historic sites are assessed as part of the process to evaluate the state of national historic sites, which runs on a 10-year cycle. Annex I provides a detailed report of the condition of the cultural resources of national significance and cultural resources of other heritage value at national historic sites administered by Parks Canada assessed during the reporting period.
State of cultural resources
According to results from the commemorative integrity assessments for 30 national historic sites conducted between 2016-17 and 2020–21, most cultural resources of national significance assessed at these sites (i.e. buildings and engineering works, archaeological sites, objects, and landscape features) were judged in fair condition or better. Footnote 1 Buildings and engineering works pose significant conservation challenges, because of their size, complexity and exposure to harsh weather and other natural threats such as ground erosion and water infiltration. However, the condition of Parks Canada’s buildings and engineering works of national historic significance has improved since 2016. Among the 30 sites assessed, 44.4% of Parks Canada’s buildings and engineering works of national historic significance were found in good condition while 22.2% were in poor condition (see graph). The condition of objects remained good or fair, none of which reported to be in poor condition.
| ||Landscape and landscape architecture features||Buildings and engineering works||Archaeological sites||Objects|
Protecting and commemorating Canada’s rich heritage is of high importance for Parks Canada. Since 2016, Parks Canada’s cultural heritage professionals, including archaeologists, built heritage advisors, and other experts, have provided support toward the protection of cultural resources by performing hundreds of cultural resource impact analyses to identify and mitigate potential impacts on the heritage value of cultural resources and on the commemorative integrity of national historic sites administered by the Agency. For example, over the past five years, cultural resource impact analyses were conducted at:
- HMCS Haida National Historic Site;
- Lachine Canal National Historic Site;
- Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site;
- Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site;
- Fort Lennox National Historic Site;
- Riding Mountain National Park;
- Former Territorial Courthouse National Historic Site in Dawson, Yukon;
- Edmonds Lock/Weir on the Rideau Canal National Historic Site; and
- several locks on the Chambly Canal National Historic Site.
During this time, Parks Canada has led significant conservation work on national historic sites as part of federal infrastructure funding, with a focus on improving the condition of cultural resources considered to be in poor condition. For example, the Federal Government invested more than $61 million to restore and protect Province House National Historic Site, the birthplace of Confederation.
Parks Canada currently manages and operates six collection storage facilities located in four cities – Winnipeg, Ottawa, Quebec City, and Dartmouth - with the facility in Cornwall having been closed in the first quarter of 2020. Work is underway to move the objects from these facilities to a new, purpose-built collections facility — one of the largest in North America — in Gatineau, Quebec by 2023–24, subject to the construction schedule. There are approximately 31 million objects under Parks Canada’s care, representing over 11,000 years of human history and this consolidation project will contribute significantly to safeguarding the collection. Over the reporting period, the Agency completed the functional requirements and design, contract tender and construction initiation for the new facility. An important component of this work has been advanced engagement with Indigenous peoples on access to objects and information sharing with regard to the collection.
Over the last five years, as part of the preparatory work for consolidating the collection and other initiatives, Parks Canada has made significant efforts towards safeguarding the collection of historical and archaeological objects. Annual reporting results demonstrate that there have been increases in the number of objects safeguarded every year since 2016–17, except in 2020–21 when work was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; as of March 2021, 68% of the historical and archaeological collection, cultural landscapes and archaeological sites in Parks Canada’s care were safeguarded.
To date, the Agency’s achievements in safeguarding the collection of historical and archaeological objects have been the result of the Preventive Conservation Strategy, the relocation of objects at the Sheffield collection site—along with planned work and a Preventive Conservation Risk Assessment—as well as conservation efforts to protect significant collections that have been identified as being at risk.
The physical move of the artifacts of the Cornwall collection, completed in March 2020, resulted in greater safeguards for over 10% of the national collection under Parks Canada’s care. The rehousing of the Cornwall collection continued in fiscal year 2020-21, and the collection was regularly monitored and accessed, within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Agency also worked to further positive relationships with Indigenous communities in and around cultural heritage at heritage places by working with the Indigenous Heritage Circle to organize and hold regional engagement sessions with experts and practitioners in the field of Indigenous cultural heritage in 2019 to inform the review of the Agency’s cultural heritage policies. The Agency established an Indigenous Cultural Heritage Advisory Council to provide ongoing advice on issues related to Indigenous history and cultural heritage, with the goal of advancing reconciliation and supporting Parks Canada in managing the heritage places in its care in the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
To date, the Agency has completed the formal inventory of 80% of known archaeological sites and 91% of cultural landscapes to contribute to their safeguarding. A significant undertaking during this reporting period has been the Post-Kenow Wildfire Archaeology Project following a wildfire that burned through 38% of Waterton Lakes National Park in 2017. A dedicated team of terrestrial archaeologists have been working on the ground documenting archaeological sites that were exposed by the fire, adding 70 new archaeological sites to the known archaeological inventory for the national park. Despite the risks presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Parks Canada’s Archaeology Team supported investment programs by completing numerous archaeological assessments identifying threats to archaeological resources and providing mitigation measures. In the pandemic context, this was achieved by identifying archaeology as a critical service and developing safe work practices to address the risks of travel and fieldwork.
Since 2016, the Agency has achieved significant milestones to complete the development of the Cultural Resource Management Information system which is now ready for the migration of data. This system will consolidate critical cultural resource information from multiple sources to facilitate evidence-based decision making, reporting and presentation for the cultural resources cared for by Parks Canada.
Key issues and focus for the future
Both the November 2018 Auditor General’s report and the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development’s December 2017 report highlighted the need to better protect federal heritage properties and to strengthen heritage conservation and protection across Canada. The recommendations include the integration of Indigenous perspectives, better policy and legislative measures, and financial incentives. Parks Canada will support the Government of Canada in the development of new legislation, policies and instruments for the protection of nationally recognized heritage places and work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, Indigenous partners, and heritage stakeholders, to strengthen the conservation of cultural heritage in Canada. The Agency is advancing commitments to work on the development of new legislation, policies and instruments for the effective protection of federally-owned cultural heritage places and support the development of clearer direction on the designation and preservation of national cultural heritage places.
Parks Canada will continue to make prioritized investments in its cultural heritage assets that will improve their condition. As part of this work, Parks Canada’s heritage conservation professionals will continue to support the protection of cultural resources in infrastructure projects and conduct impact analyses to identify and mitigate potential threats. In addition, the Agency will also incorporate improvements, where feasible and within available funding, in the priority areas of accessibility, inclusivity, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, greenhouse gas reduction and climate change resilience. In the next few years, the Agency expects the conclusion of 11 cultural heritage projects for a total investment of $53.3 million. These projects and others will contribute to the Agency’s commemorative integrity objectives by preserving and protecting sites of vital national historic significance for future generations. Parks Canada is implementing the Action Plan developed in response to the Auditor General’s report on the conservation of federal properties including: improving the accuracy and completeness of information in its asset management database and reviewing the approach for designating federal heritage buildings.
Working in collaboration and in partnership is essential for the Agency to ensure cultural resources at heritage places are safeguarded. Parks Canada will work with others to conduct research and analyze the economic, social, and environmental impacts of heritage places conservation, to inform options for enhancing heritage conservation measures. Parks Canada will continue engagement with Indigenous organizations, governments and Canadians to advance the review of cultural heritage policies with the goal of ensuring that the management and presentation of cultural resources at Parks Canada is respectful of Indigenous heritage values, approaches and practices and is inclusive of and accessible to all Canadians. The Agency will also enhance its efforts to play a leadership role in cultural heritage conservation and promotion, and will continue to work to ensure that Canada’s national historic sites are a source of national pride and enjoyment for present and future generations.
National parks are beautiful and inspiring places that protect nationally significant examples of Canada’s ecosystems. Parks Canada’s mandate and first priority is to maintain or improve the ecological integrity of national parks, through the protection and restoration of natural resources, while providing benefit and enjoyment to Canadians and international visitors. The Agency has successfully managed these integrated objectives for over 100 years.
Ecological integrity exists when an ecosystem’s natural components (such as native species and biological communities), and functions (like fire and natural forest succession), are intact and likely to persist.
Parks Canada regularly monitors the state of ecological integrity in 47 national parks and one national urban park. The Agency uses indicators to summarize and assess the condition and trend of ecological integrity of several ecosystems (e.g., forest, wetland, freshwater) in each national park. The results are summarized in Annex II. This data on the state of ecological integrity in national parks also informs one of the indicators for the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators, as well as both the Government of Canada's Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and Parks Canada's Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy.
Ecological monitoring helps Parks Canada to identify conservation issues and take directed actions to improve ecological integrity and contribute to the recovery of species at risk. In some cases, the required actions and the conservation results are clear (for example restoring freshwater connectivity by improving culverts). In other ecosystems, it takes time to develop appropriate solutions and to observe measurable responses in ecological integrity (for instance the restoration of forest structure and composition using prescribed fire).
In 2018, the Government of Canada announced funding for Canada’s Nature Legacy. Among other things, this ambitious initiative provided Parks Canada with new resources to support the ecological condition of protected heritage areas and to strengthen the protection of species at risk that live within these areas.
State of ecological integrity
As of March 2021, the ecological integrity of 82% of park ecosystems had been maintained or improved since 2016, placing Parks Canada 10 percentage points from its target of 92% by 2023.
Among the 119 ecosystems assessed, wetlands are faring better than other ecosystems, while tundra is most often reported as declining. Monitoring results indicate that both large scale threats (e.g., climate change, landscape fragmentation) and local stressors (e.g., invasive species, water pollution) are affecting ecosystems. Nevertheless, some ecosystems are showing improvement—three ecosystems that were declining in 2019 are now stable. These improvements can be attributed, at least in part, to management actions for species at risk and restore ecosystems.
The monitoring program was also improved in 2020, in line with the recommendations from the Independent Working Group Report to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019). In 2020, Parks Canada added seven new ecological integrity measures, for a total of 502, and made significant progress on an additional 20 remote sensing measures. Improving the monitoring program leads to more useful ecological information and better ecosystem management. However, by revealing new information, new stressors are uncovered, which are reflected in the results as a “worse” outcome (e.g., in Elk Island National Park, a better assessment of ungulate browsing pressure on forest resulted in a “declining” ecosystem trend).
Parks Canada works to maintain and improve ecological integrity in national parks and ecological sustainability in national marine conservation areas.
Through the Conservation and Restoration program (CoRe), Parks Canada invests in projects aimed at restoring ecosystems, recovering species at risk, and managing sustainable marine environments. Over the past five years, $94 million has been used to finance 123 projects, which have achieved a collective success rate of nearly 70% of project objectives.
CoRe projects adhere to global standards of practice. They factor in socio-ecological context, they anticipate climate change impacts, they are informed by Indigenous knowledge, local understanding and scientific evidence, they engage local partners, they share stories with park visitors and Canadians writ large, and they learn and adapt practice based on experience and measured outcomes. The following examples are representative of the diversity of Parks Canada’s CoRe projects during the reporting period:
- Helping humans and wolves coexist in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve: In collaboration with First Nations, neighbouring jurisdictions and stakeholders, the project looks to develop and implement a common vision for human-wildlife coexistence in the region;
- Preventing and managing aquatic invasive species in mountain national parks: This project aims to prevent the introduction and manage the spread of aquatic invasive species to protect ecological integrity and support species at risk recovery, including westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout;
- Converting hayfields to habitat for Sage-Grouse in Grasslands National Park: The project is restoring part of a former hayfield into sagebrush habitat in partnership neighbours, stakeholders, and park visitors and providing knowledge for long-term restoration of habitat lost;
- Controlling Hemlock Woolly Adelgid in Kejimkujik National Park: Actions are being implemented to reduce the impact of this invasive aphid-like insect (discovered in 2018), which is highly destructive to eastern hemlocks; and
- Reintroducing Atlantic salmon in Fundy National Park: The Fundy Salmon Recovery project, through collaboration with communities, First Nations, academia and industry stakeholders, is the first ever project in the world to collect young fish from the wild and raise them in an ocean environment at a marine farm site. Atlantic salmon were reintroduced over five years in collaboration with these partners and the ‘Swimming with Salmon’ visitor program, to help this species spawn on their own again in the inner Bay of Fundy. Wild Atlantic salmon are an iconic Canadian species, and their presence within Fundy National Park reflects Parks Canada’s commitment to protecting and maintaining the ecological integrity of this treasured place.
Maintaining ecological connectivity, which can be defined as the movement of species and the flow of natural processes, is one of the proven ways to reduce impediments between ecosystems caused by landscape fragmentation and habitat loss. It is an essential element of the effective management of protected areas. Recognizing the importance of ecological connectivity, Parks Canada developed a new program of work on ecological connectivity that is integrated in the conservation planning cycle, from management planning, through to monitoring, active management, and reporting. Across the country, 23 initiatives, commenced during the reporting period, are underway to better understand and manage connectivity for focal species or ecosystems that are priorities for local and regional conservation efforts. The following examples illustrate the types of connectivity projects underway:
- Kluane National Park Reserve: Managing movement patterns for Dall Sheep in the Thechàl Dhâl (Sheep Mountain) area to help reduce sheep-vehicle collisions on the Alaska Highway adjacent to the park;
- Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks: Identifying priority areas for establishing connectivity pathways between national parks for Southern Mountain Caribou;
- Rocky Mountains: Using wildlife camera data to map multi-species occupancy and connectivity across national parks and provincial lands from Jasper to Waterton;
- Forillon National Park: Mapping habitat use and movement corridors for American Marten across park boundaries to assist with collaborative conservation planning in the Gaspé Peninsula; and
- Gros Morne National Park: Mapping migratory pathways and habitat for Grey-cheeked Thrush from Newfoundland to South America in order to help inform coordinated efforts to conserve this species in decline.
By using ecosystem-based approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation, Parks Canada's work provides important co-benefits that address multiple climate change risks and impacts, while supporting landscape-level biodiversity conservation, protecting ecosystem services and benefiting human health and well-being.
Parks Canada continues work on initiatives to improve its understanding of current and future climate change impacts, and to enhance its ability to adapt, through a variety of initiatives, including:
- Co-leading two working groups, the Biodiversity Adaptation Working Group under Canada’s Adaptation Platform and the Canadian Parks Council’s Climate Change Working Group, which include federal, provincial and territorial managers, as well as Indigenous, industry and academic partners. These groups strive to develop and share knowledge and best practices for heritage place stewardship in the context of climate change;
- Developing, in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Climate Services, a series of accessible, site-specific climate summaries of the evolution of climate conditions at heritage places across Canada and the potential impacts that projected changes may cause;
- Leading, in collaboration with federal, provincial and territorial partners, the development of a climate change adaptation framework for parks and protected areas in Canada;
- Conducting research, in collaboration with the Canadian Forest Service and other organizations, to develop Parks Canada’s Carbon Atlas series, which will assess and map ecosystem carbon dynamics within the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of Canada’s national parks and national marine conservation areas. This includes quantification of carbon in salt marshes and seagrass meadows (known as “blue carbon”) in coastal national parks and national marine conservation areas;
- Analyzing long-term data on glaciers, groundwater and deep oceans using satellite data to get a better picture of how climate change is impacting the amount and density of water in remote Arctic national parks and national marine conservation areas;
- Researching novel methods, new technologies and tools that support evidence-based decisions for active management of natural resources. A first set of best practices and in-depth training was provided on environmental DNA (eDNA), and other topics are under development;
- Conducting a horizontal scan of emerging scientific issues to inform active management of protected areas, in partnership with the Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership (CPCIL). Parks Canada will use the results of the horizon scan to inform its own science-based research agenda and the management of conservation programs; and
- Investing in conservation projects that exemplify Indigenous leadership in conservation and are tailored to the rights, priorities, and aspirations of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis partners. Examples include collaborative governance structures, on-the-land programs such as Indigenous guardians, recognition of Indigenous knowledge systems in management processes, economic opportunities and capacity building.
Parks Canada is working to increase the use of science and knowledge to inform conservation decision making and active management. The Agency is promoting a culture of science through a variety of initiatives, including an Applied Natural Science Fund that supports the acquisition of new scientific information regarding priority science gaps for evidence-based decision making in conservation planning and active management in protected and conserved areas.
Additionally, for many years Parks Canada has been undertaking efforts to restore and maintain wildland fire in places where it has historically been an important natural ecological process, including through the use of prescribed fires. As of 2021, 73% of Parks Canada-administered places are meeting area burned targets through fire management actions, up from 60% in 2016. This represents a significant improvement in the number of Parks Canada-administered places that have been successful in their fire restoration efforts.
Wood Buffalo National Park
A notable area of focus during this reporting period has been Wood Buffalo National Park, one of the largest national parks in the world. Wood Buffalo National Park's remarkable value as an outstanding example of ongoing ecological and biological processes encompassing the Peace-Athabasca Delta – one of the world’s largest inland deltas – among other elements, leading to its recognition as a World Heritage Site. However, the park faces pressures from external development and a changing climate. The cumulative impacts of these pressures are causing ecological change on a landscape scale within the Peace–Athabasca Delta. These environmental changes, including cumulative effects, are part of the lived experience of Indigenous peoples of the region who possess generations of knowledge about conditions in the Peace–Athabasca Delta System.
Following a reactive monitoring mission to the park in September 2016 by experts representing the World Heritage Centre and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Parks Canada, in collaboration with partners, is implementing the Wood Buffalo National Park Action Plan. This Action Plan represents a historic investment to ensure the Outstanding Universal Value of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site is maintained for generations to come. It builds upon and enhances ongoing efforts by a range of government partners, Indigenous governments, and stakeholders and identifies new collaborative actions and strategies.
In December 2020, an investment of $59.9 million over three years was announced to continue implementing the Government of Canada’s commitments under the Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site Action Plan to address concerns regarding the national park’s world heritage values. This funding, building on $27.5 million received through Budget 2018, supports the delivery of remaining Action Plan initiatives including strengthening park management in collaboration with Indigenous partners, enhancing research, monitoring and management of the Peace-Athabasca Delta using science and Indigenous knowledge, and establishing new mechanisms to support improved water management in the Peace-Athabasca Delta. Notable progress has been made on the Action Plan to date, with more than half of the identified actions completed or underway.
A core element of the Action Plan is the Strengthening Indigenous Partnerships theme that outlines a set of actions to improve relationships with Indigenous partners and enhance cooperative management of the park. These actions include support for the Wood Buffalo National Park Cooperative Management Committee and a series of Action Plan task teams that represent federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners. These task teams lead the collaborative development of restoration strategies, research studies and monitoring programs to protect the outstanding universal value of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site. Transparency, respect and braiding of knowledge systems are foundational elements of all the task teams’ work. To support the work of the task teams, Parks Canada is advancing contribution agreements with Indigenous governments, as well as Indigenous knowledge sharing and use agreements, and providing capacity for within-community Indigenous knowledge coordination to further strengthen Indigenous partnerships.
Key issues and focus for the future
As climate change and other stressors continue to put pressure on ecosystems, Parks Canada will continue to work with partners at the landscape level to support conservation efforts and nurture climate resilience. Understanding, maintaining, and restoring ecological connectivity within and around protected heritage areas will become increasingly important, as climate change redistributes the habitats of species and alters the frequency, extent, and intensity of disturbances. Maintaining ecological connectivity within and around protected heritage places will become a key adaptation strategy to help species respond to climate-induced changes. It will also be crucial for conserving ecological integrity, maintaining ecological sustainability and helping to recover species at risk.
Parks Canada will work to ensure that protected heritage areas function as elements of ecological connected landscapes. The Agency will also modernize its conservation policies and practices in respect of Indigenous rights and knowledge systems. In addition, it will create opportunities for Indigenous leadership in conservation and enhance the use of science and knowledge in conservation planning and effective management.
Parks Canada will continue to:
- Monitor ecosystems in national parks and focus efforts on understanding and responding to ecological changes in a manner that will improve conservation results.
- Implement conservation and restoration projects that are designed to enhance the ecological integrity of national parks and the ecological sustainability of national marine conservation areas, and to recover species at risk in all places administered by Parks Canada.
- Consider climate trends and projections in its programming and project planning, such as integrated climate change adaptation planning processes, climate-smart conservation planning guidelines, and development of site-specific climate summaries.
- Ensure that science, research, and management of knowledge support Parks Canada’s conservation planning and action and enable effective communication to Canadians, including updating conservation programs and planning to foster greater collaboration with Indigenous peoples, honour Indigenous knowledge systems, and collaborate with Indigenous peoples in conservation practices.
- Manage human/wildlife conflict and coexistence, wildlife health, hyper abundant species, alien invasive species, and wildland fire to enhance ecological integrity and ensure public safety.
- Undertake and fund scientific research to support evidence-based decision making for conservation planning and active management of ecosystems.
Species at risk
Parks Canada is advancing the Government of Canada’s commitment to Nature Legacy, including making meaningful contributions to the conservation and recovery of species at risk. Parks Canada protects individuals, residences and habitats, and takes action to contribute to the recovery of species at risk. This work directly and indirectly contributes to enhancing ecological integrity, promoting public awareness and providing rich visitor experiences.
State of species at risk
Places administered by Parks Canada are home to more than 230 species listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Some of these species live year-round in these places and breed in them, while others only occasionally or infrequently use them. In addition, Parks Canada-administered places may comprise a large or small proportion of the species range. Parks Canada determines the influence that it can have on the recovery of each species at each site, and uses that to guide the development of population and distribution objectives as well as the development and prioritization of recovery measures.
Parks Canada-administered places maintain “species lists” that inform park management and decision-making, including recovery planning, the identification of critical habitat, and impact assessment processes. From 2016 to 2021, sites updated their species lists through surveys and inventory projects, including more than 35 Bioblitz events and the support of iNaturalist and eBird.
Between 2016 and 2021, Parks Canada identified critical habitat for 21 species and provided legal protection for the critical habitat of 56 species. In the same period, Parks Canada developed 23 site-based multi-species action plans that identify recovery measures for more than 220 species of conservation concern (including more than 127 SARA-listed species) in 42 Parks Canada-administered places. These action plans identify short-term site-based population and distribution objectives, and identify a variety of measures that are required to achieve those objectives. Progress is ongoing: 44% of the recovery measures, with 50% targeted for completion by 2023, and 69% of the population and distribution objectives have been achieved.
Parks Canada has achieved demonstrable progress in the recovery of the following species at risk:
- Mormon Metalmark was down-listed from Threatened to Special Concern, thanks to recovery efforts, research, and inventories conducted in Grasslands National Park;
- Pitcher’s Thistle was down-listed from Endangered to Special Concern due in part to restoration efforts in Pukaskwa National Park; and
- Common Hoptree was down-listed from Threatened to Special Concern due in part to survey efforts in Point Pelee National Park.
Since 2016, Parks Canada has strengthened collaborations with Indigenous peoples, partners and stakeholders to develop and implement integrated, landscape-level conservation approaches to improve ecosystem resilience in response to climate change and other threats. Notable examples of ongoing work begun in the reporting period include:
- Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, and Waterton Lakes National Parks are working with provincial partners, non-profit foundations and plant nurseries to stop the decline and restore populations of Whitebark Pine and Limber Pine;
- Qausuittuq National Park is collaborating with the Inuit and the community of Resolute Bay to improve habitat for Peary Caribou by cleaning up a contaminated site; and
- Kejimikujik National Park and National Historic Site is working in collaboration with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq and the Wisqoq Recovery Team to plant Wisqoq (Black Ash) seedlings to restore the population.
Another approach Parks Canada has used to recover species at risk involves re-introducing or supplementing individuals of a species to an area they used to live but no longer live, or live in numbers too small to be sustainable. For example, Parks Canada has been involved in projects to supplement the endangered Greater Sage-Grouse in Grasslands National Park and Blanding’s Turtles in Rouge National Urban Park. Working with partners and experts, Parks Canada has developed a preliminary project proposal to rebuild caribou herds in Jasper National Park. There is strong scientific support for using conservation breeding as a way to increase caribou populations in Jasper National Park and Parks Canada is exploring options for implementation. Moreover, in 2018, after an absence of over a century, Canadians celebrated the return of the iconic Bison to Banff National Park which now roam freely in the park’s backcountry; a true conservation success story.
Parks Canada also used a robust impact assessment process to protect species at risk and lessen negative impacts from human activities. This process resulted in several innovative projects including the installation of wildlife eco-passages for turtles, snakes, salamanders and frogs in Bruce Peninsula National Park and improvements to a fish way at Saint-Ours Canal National Historic Site to protect Copper Redhorse during migration. The threat of predation of Greater Sage-grouse was reduced in Grasslands National Park through a project to bury telephone wires underground, thereby reducing the number of perching opportunities for predatory birds in Sage-grouse habitat.
Parks Canada’s visitor experience and law enforcement programs also make significant contributions to the maintenance and restoration of ecological integrity. Park wardens undertake prevention and law enforcement activities to protect wildlife and ecosystems and contribute to on-the-ground restoration efforts. They also work in partnership with communities, local organizations, and external law enforcement agencies to help ensure the success of conservation projects. Parks Canada’s Law Enforcement Branch is responsible for enforcing all legislation related to the Agency’s mandate, including SARA, on all lands and waters it administers. In 2020, there were 86 operational park wardens dedicated to law enforcement activities in all Parks Canada-administered places. Parks Canada’s SARA-related enforcement activities included targeted patrols and investigations of reported violations of the SARA prohibitions. Park wardens recorded a total of 80 law enforcement incidents related to the protection of species at risk. These incidents led park wardens to issue one charge and one warning under SARA as well as to lay 38 charges and to issue 50 warnings under other legislation.
In 2019, Parks Canada joined the efforts of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada and other partners to protect the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW). By 2020, Parks Canada had staffed two additional park wardens in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and two additional ones in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and equipped each office with a dedicated patrol vessel to educate and enforce interim management measures for the recovery of the SRKW. In 2020, park wardens conducted over 1,000 hours of dedicated patrols within SRKW Critical Habitat and Interim Sanctuary Zones. Park wardens worked collaboratively with External Relations staff in Parks Canada as well as other NGOs to help promote and educate the boating community on the new protection measures.
Key issues and focus for the future
Many of the recovery measures undertaken by Parks Canada to improve the conservation status of species at risk are showing positive effects; however, the most significant sources of pressures on many species at risk originate from outside Parks Canada-administered places. Habitats are disappearing at a rapid rate in almost all parts of Canada — wetlands are being filled in, forests fragmented, and grasslands ploughed and fenced. Exotic invasive species are a serious problem for many native wildlife species in Canada. Climate change can affect biodiversity and the ability of species to adapt to variations in the ecosystem. Increasing severity and frequency of disturbances such as storms, floods and fire constitute a threat to the habitat and survival of many species. As a result of these factors and others, the number of species at risk in Canada is still growing.
In an attempt to address the growing number of species at risk, Parks Canada is modernizing its action planning approach, including enhancing the Agency's approach to climate-smart conservation, the ability to work with partners on landscape scale conservation initiatives, and the way that science and Indigenous knowledge systems weave together to conserve Canada’s natural heritage for the benefit of current and future generations.
Through Nature Legacy funding, Parks Canada has initiated or expanded species at risk recovery projects in the places it administers across the country. This funding will also transform approaches to recover species at risk through multi-species and ecosystem-based strategies, while advancing reconciliation by supporting Indigenous leadership and responsibilities in land and wildlife stewardship and related cultural activities.
Additionally, Parks Canada is an active partner in implementing the Pan-Canadian Approach to Transforming Species at Risk Conservation in Canada. Parks Canada is a key contributor to many Priority Places and Priority Species initiatives as we have expertise, resources, and relationships that will be key to success in these programs. Across the country, there are several Priority Places that are adjacent to or directly overlap with Parks Canada places, allowing for collaboration with partners to maximize landscape-scale conservation benefits. A Parks Canada National Bison Strategy is currently under development and will strengthen Parks Canada’s leadership in bison conservation, identify Agency-wide bison objectives and priorities, ensure national cohesion for the management of bison herds and support informed decision making.
Protection and ecologically sustainable use of national marine conservation areas
Parks Canada manages a growing number of national marine conservation areas (NMCAs) and national marine conservation area reserves (NMCARs) and plays a leadership role in working towards the long-term protection and ecologically sustainable use of these areas.
Canada’s NMCAs represent marine and Great Lakes regions and ecosystems from intertidal areas to abyssal depths, from coastal wetlands and estuaries to eelgrass and kelp beds, from banks, shoals and islands to deep-water channels and troughs. These ecologically diverse areas support a broad range of uses, including recreation, tourism, shipping, commercial and recreational fishing, and other traditional and commercial harvests of renewable marine resources.
As part of larger seascapes, NMCAs are managed using an ecosystem approach, in which information about the state of marine biodiversity (habitat and species), and about the threats and pressures on marine ecosystems are combined to inform decision-making. Monitoring, assessment and reporting on status and trends involves working closely with others towards common objectives and common understanding. Parks Canada works closely with Indigenous peoples, other federal departments, provincial/territorial governments, as well as coastal communities and others with interests in NMCAs (e.g. fishing sector, environmental non-governmental organizations, academia) to protect and conserve these areas for the benefit, education, and enjoyment of current and future generations, and to provide lasting benefits to coastal communities.
State of NMCAs
Parks Canada is developing a national monitoring framework that requires each site to have a suite of indicators to monitor the state of ecosystems and ecologically sustainable use of NMCAs. Taking into account the unique challenges of managing these large, inter-connected areas, the suite of indicators provides an integrated assessment of marine biodiversity, environmental quality, and marine use.
NMCAs are managed to maintain resilient ecosystems, to ensure that the use of marine resources does not compromise ecosystem structure and function, to adapt and respond to changes in environmental quality, and to uphold strong collaborative arrangements. Four NMCAs have begun implementing their monitoring programs (see Annex III), and Parks Canada will be working in collaboration with government colleagues, Indigenous peoples, and others to collect and assess data that will provide decision-makers with an assessment of the state of NMCAs.
Over the past five years, four NMCAs have developed a suite of indicators, monitored them, and used this information to inform management decisions, reduce threats to marine habitats and species, and increase understanding of key conservation values. Some significant work undertaken during the reporting period includes:
Kelp forests within the cooperatively-managed Gwaii Haanas NMCAR and Haida Heritage Site have declined in quantity and quality since extirpation of sea otters from the maritime fur trade of the late 1700s into the mid-1800s, and more recently due to climate change effects on the ocean. Working in collaboration with the Council of the Haida Nation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Urchin Harvesters association, and research institutions, Parks Canada implemented a five-year kelp restoration project that increased the depth and extent of kelp forest habitat by mimicking sea otter predation on sea urchins.
As vessel traffic increases worldwide, management measures to reduce collision risk and limit ocean noise are required. Beginning in 2018, the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park closed an important beluga whale calving area to all vessels in Bay Sainte-Marguerite to reduce stressors. The first of its kind in Canada, this area closure was followed by the establishment of a conservation zone covering 44% of the marine park. These measures were designed in collaboration with representatives of interested groups and based on the best scientific information available. Whale watching activities are excluded from this portion of the park, which corresponds to 21% of the beluga whale’s critical habitat.
Over the past two decades, the Lake Huron ecosystem has undergone many changes, resulting in the lake-wide decline of Dikameg (Lake Whitefish), a socio-ecologically important fish species that plays a vital role in the ecosystem and is a culturally and economically important species for the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. A five-year collaborative project was initiated in 2020 to gain a better understanding of the current status of the Dikameg population using a "two-eyed seeing" approach that braids both the Saugeen Ojibway Nation’s traditional knowledge system and western science perspectives.
Key issues and focus for the future
Many factors have an impact on the state of oceans and NMCAs, such as invasive species, marine litter, habitat loss, extractive uses, and climate change. Addressing these issues will require a better understanding of how these complex marine and Great Lakes ecosystems function and adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions, and the implications of these changes on NMCAs.
The marine environment is inherently connected, with species distributions and migrations extending over seascapes, so marine conservation must be done collaboratively. Working in collaboration with Indigenous partners and communities, other federal
departments, provincial/territorial governments, coastal communities and others will become increasingly important to effectively manage, protect and conserve NMCAs.
NMCAs are an important element in conserving and restoring coastal and marine ecosystems, and they deliver many socio-economic co-benefits related to fisheries, tourism, coastal protection and disaster risk reduction, food security, carbon sequestration, and climate change adaptation. The monitoring program will support and inform the adaptive management of NMCAs.
Parks Canada manages a complex portfolio of built assets valued at approximately $26.6 billion in 2021. The Agency’s asset portfolio includes irreplaceable heritage structures, such as historic buildings, fortifications, historic canals, lighthouses, and Indigenous fish weirs, as well as contemporary buildings, highways, bridges, dams and other holdings. All of these assets support the delivery of the Agency’s mandate and serve the more than 25 million visitors to Parks Canada sites each year. Certain assets, such as through highways and through waterways, also serve as vital links for Canadian communities supporting both transportation and economic activity.
There are several challenges inherent in managing these assets. Many are located in remote areas across the country, including northern climates, adding to the cost and complexity of operating and maintaining them. In addition, the adverse effects of climate change such as permafrost thawing and the increased frequency of wildfires, floods and avalanches threaten the structural integrity of contemporary assets and cultural resources, resulting in increased rehabilitation costs and loss of built assets in affected regions.
Parks Canada is the custodian of many assets of historical significance that require specialized maintenance and management to ensure their protection and long-term preservation. In addition, the majority of the Agency’s contemporary assets are aging and require significant ongoing investments.
State of assets
After years of deterioration and declining condition, strong progress has been made in addressing serious asset deficiencies and in developing a plan to responsibly manage Parks Canada's assets. A review of the Agency’s assets completed in 2012, highlighted that over half were in poor or very poor condition and required investments in maintenance and rehabilitation. In 2017, a second national asset review was conducted by Parks Canada and validated by an independent third-party to update the inventory of assets and portfolio valuation. It leveraged government and industry standards and best practice for data and modelling for investment targets. In addition, continued improvements to asset data integrity, through data validation exercises, has enabled enhanced decision-making and accuracy of annual reports.
Through investments in assets of approximately $3.1 billion in temporary funding over the last five years, Parks Canada has made significant progress on improving its infrastructure. As of July 13, 2020, 68% of the Agency’s asset portfolio was rated as being in good to fair condition and 32% in poor to very poor condition. The portfolio can be divided into heritage and contemporary assets giving results of 54% in good to fair condition for heritage assets and 75% for contemporary ones. Datasets presenting the condition results, by asset category, for contemporary and heritage assets have been published on the Open Government Portal.
Over the past five years, Parks Canada has invested in more than 900 projects to improve the condition of its asset portfolio. Examples of projects completed and/or underway include:
Conservation and rehabilitation of built heritage assets:
- Multi-year conservation project at Province House National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of the Palace Grand Theatre in Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site
- Detailed assessment and rehabilitation of heritage buildings at Port Royal National Historic Site
- Restoration of several heritage assets including Blanchette House and Grande-Grave wharf in Forillon National Park
- Restoration of several heritage buildings at Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site
- Restoration work of the building at Maison Maillou National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of heritage buildings and historic walls at Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of the lighthouse dome at Cape Spear National Historic Site
- Restoration of Old Wash House at Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site
- Fire protection improvements of heritage buildings at Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial, Fort Langley and Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Sites
- Rehabilitation of the North front fortifications at Halifax Citadel National Historic Site
- Stabilization of heritage buildings such as the Tower at Fort Mississauga National Historic Site, Merrickville Depot Building at Rideau Canal National Historic Site and Banff Park Museum National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of Counterscarp Walls at Fort Henry National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation work at Fortifications of Québec including sections of wall, the West ravelin counterscarp wall of the Citadel, the structural envelope and masonry of the Dauphine Redoubt, and the Dufferin Terrace balustrade
- Restoration of several heritage buildings at Manoir Papineau National Historic Site
Rehabilitation and improvement of visitor experience and recreation assets:
- Campground rehabilitation or improvement at Jasper, Cape Breton Highlands, Prince Edward Island, Riding Mountain, Banff, Fundy, and La Mauricie National Parks
- Day use area improvements at Thousand Islands and Waterton Lakes National Parks
- Rehabilitation of trail networks at Point Pelee, Bruce Peninsula, Gros Morne, Prince Edward Island and Wood Buffalo National Parks, as well as Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Signal Hill National Historic Site
- Improvement of ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (formerly Pacific Traverse Trail) in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
- Rehabilitation of beach complex facilities at Prince Edward Island National Park
- Rehabilitation of Cyprus Lake Campground at Bruce Peninsula National Park
- Rehabilitation of the visitor reception centres at Port au Choix, Motherwell Homestead, and Red Bay National Historic Sites and Waterton Lakes, Elk Island, Terra Nova, and Pukaskwa National Parks
- Rehabilitation of Discovery Centre at Gros Morne National Park, Observation Centre at Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, Heritage Experience Centre at Halifax Citadel National Historic Site and Interpretation Centre at Forillon National Park
- Rehabilitation or improvements to visitor experience facilities at Grasslands, Banff, Terra Nova, and Prince Albert National Parks and Gitwangak Battle Hill National Historic Site
- Recapitalization of park entrances at Terra Nova National Park, East gate, third lane construction at Jasper National Park, park entrances and kiosks at Prince Edward Island National Park and entrance gate (Niblock) at Banff National Park
- Rehabilitation of administrative and operational assets at Fundy, Pukaskwa, Terra Nova, Mauricie, and Forillon National Parks and Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
Rehabilitation and improvement of waterways and marine assets:
- Replacement of the Bolsover Dam, Talbot Dam and Mississauga Lake Dam on the Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of the Poonamalie Dam at Rideau Canal National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of Loon Lake Dam, Drag Lake North Dam, Kennesis Dam, Meyers Dam 8, Bayview Dam and Coboconk Dam in Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of Thompsons Bay, Curtis and Hurdons Earth Dams in Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of Edmunds spillway dam, weir and lock at the Rideau Canal National Historic Site
- Replacement of Hogs Back fixed bridge and rehabilitation of Kingston Mills Swing Bridge on the Rideau Canal National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of Glen Ross and Hastings swing bridges, Port Severn fixed bridges, Swift Rapids road bridges on the Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site
- Replacement of the upper and lower wharves at Black Rapids and Lower Nicholsons Lock Stations in Rideau Canal National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of Smiths Falls basin walls in Rideau Canal National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of Northern Sector Locks 39, 40, 41 and of lower approach for Kawartha Sector Locks 22,23,24,25,26 in Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of Lock 7 and Healey Falls Locks 16 and 17 at the Trent-Severn National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of Narrows Lock, Poonamalie Lock #32, Old Slys Locks 26 and 27, and Newboro Lock 36 at the Rideau Canal National Historic Site
- Replacement of Nassau guard gate at the Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site
Rehabilitation and improvement of land transportation assets:
- Rehabilitation and improvements to the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Parks
- Rehabilitation of provincially numbered highways including Highway 5 in Wood Buffalo National Park, Highway 114 in Fundy National Park, Highway 263 in Prince Albert National Park, Route 132 in Forillon National Park, Route 301 in Terra Nova National Park
- Rehabilitation of Big Brook Bridge along the Trans-Canada Highway in Terra Nova National Park
- Replacement of Deer Arm Bridge on Highway 430 in Gros Morne National Park, and Clyburn Brook Bridge and Effies Brook Bridge on the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park
- Rehabilitation of road, bridge and trail infrastructure from flood event at Gros Morne National Park
- Rehabilitation of special attraction roadways including Highway 93 North in Banff National Park, Panoramic Route in La Mauricie National Park
- Rehabilitation of access roadways in Grasslands National Park, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation and improvement of Utilities assets:
- Improvements to water and wastewater systems in Prince Edward Island National Park, Lake Louise townsite and Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site
- Rehabilitation of wastewater treatment infrastructure at Prince Albert, Riding Mountain and Elk Island National Parks
- Replacement of drinking water distribution networks at La Mauricie National Park
- Rehabilitation of waste transfer station in Jasper National Park
- Rehabilitation of radio communication systems at Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site and Wood Buffalo National Park
Parks Canada has made a concerted effort to validate and update information related to its inventory of heritage assets as captured in the Agency’s asset information management system. Additionally, system updates have enabled a more efficient linkage between heritage assets and corresponding heritage designations in the Directory of Federal Heritage Designations.
The Agency periodically assesses and updates the condition of its heritage assets. Updates are also made following an inspection or upon completion of major work on the asset. The Agency also developed a cultural fixed asset prioritization framework to guide decision-making related to investments in built cultural resources owned or administered by Parks Canada based on their strategic potential.
The Agency increased employee training related to the Incident Command System, as well as training in wildfire-related emergency response to improve the Agency’s ability to respond to emergencies and natural disasters. For example, Parks Canada promoted Fire Smart programs to reduce wildfire risk through mechanical vegetation management and the use of prescribed fire.
The Kenow Wildfire of September 2017 burned 38,000 hectares including 19,303 hectares in Waterton Lakes National Park. It is one of the most significant environmental emergencies in the Agency’s history. The park was severely impacted by the fire with over 38% of the park burned and significant assets heavily damaged or destroyed.
In September 2019, post-tropical storm Dorian heavily impacted the Maritimes. In Prince Edward Island National Park, Cavendish Campground lost over 80% of its trees and between two and four metres of coastline were eroded from the storm surge. Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site were also heavily impacted with 97 km of backcountry trail, as well as backcountry sites, closed due to wind-fallen trees and debris.
Parks Canada undertook assessment, planning and monitoring work to identify potential threats to heritage places due to climate change. Action to mitigate impacts included undertaking risk assessments, conducting climate change adaptation workshops, and developing and sharing knowledge and best practices for heritage place stewardship in the context of climate change.
In the reporting period, the Agency updated and enhanced its project approval prioritization tool based on lessons learned and feedback from stakeholders and to better reflect Government of Canada and Agency priorities such as greening and accessibility.Parks Canada also continued to make improvements to its national asset information management system to ensure that comprehensive, accurate and timely information on assets is available to support decision-making at all levels of the organization. Information captured in the system includes location, asset category and type, heritage value, current replacement value, asset condition and capital and maintenance interventions. The quality of asset information was enhanced through active maintenance of the information for the entire built asset inventory, thus improving the Agency’s ability to plan and prioritize capital work as well as operational and maintenance activities. In addition, a new set of applications in the asset information management system were enabled for the planning, tracking and monitoring of mandatory legislated inspection, testing and maintenance activities. The Agency’s asset community was engaged through regularly scheduled workshops to ensure consistent and timely training of system users.
Key issues and focus for the future
Owing to significant investment in infrastructure over the past five years, Parks Canada successfully renewed a sizeable portion of its built asset inventory. Supported by available funding, the Agency will continue to implement infrastructure projects to make progress on its remaining deferred work and on improving or maintaining the condition of its contemporary assets and heritage structures.
Federal asset custodians are being encouraged to develop long-term strategies to support a forward-looking and strategic management approach to real property assets. Developed in 2020–21, Parks Canada’s first Real Property Portfolio Strategy (RPPS) establishes the long-term strategic direction and priorities for the Agency’s real property portfolio and will help direct investments and support sustainable and appropriate capital asset management. Investment decision-making will be prioritized to not only consider asset condition, but also building back better by ensuring that key Government of Canada priorities are incorporated, including greenhouse gas reduction and climate change resilience, accessibility, inclusivity, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.The Agency's ability to maintain its built asset portfolio in accordance with industry standards and to enable program and service delivery requires sustainable long-term funding. In support of meeting the goals set out in its RPPS, the Agency will continue developing a long-term asset sustainability strategy and associated implementation plan for the management of its built asset portfolio and to support program and service delivery for the long term.
Parks Canada’s mandate is not only focused on protecting and caring for national heritage places, but also to enabling Canadians and visitors from around the world to enjoy them. Parks Canada facilitates the enjoyment of national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas in many ways. It offers digital experiences and the opportunity to share the stories of these places through partners and media. “Visitor experience” refers to people’s interactions in the context of a physical visit to places administered by Parks Canada. It covers the whole visitor cycle, including the initial inspiration to visit, the planning of the trip, the arrival and experiences during the visit, the departure and fond memories of the experience itself, as well as the sharing of experiences with family and friends.
Memorable visitor experiences, based on quality services, activities and programs delivered by skilled, passionate and knowledgeable staff, help to strengthen the connection that Canadians and international visitors alike, feel toward places administered by Parks Canada. These experiences can also lead to learning, personal growth and mental and physical health benefits. By strengthening the connection Canadians feel to national heritage places, Parks Canada is helping to foster enthusiasm for Canada’s natural and cultural heritage and to create a culture of stewardship and care for these places.
State of visitor experience
By encouraging Canadians to visit places administered by Parks Canada, and by providing visitors with the information and means to enjoy them, Parks Canada empowers Canadians to develop a lifelong connection to natural and cultural heritage.
People visit Canada’s national heritage places for a variety of reasons. For many, these places offer an engaging space for spending time with friends or family, or provide new avenues for adventure or learning. For some, a visit to a national park or national historic site provides a place to relax and rejuvenate, while for others, a visit is the trip of a lifetime or a celebration of one of life’s milestones in an iconic destination. Regardless of the motivation, Parks Canada enables thousands of visitors to enjoy Canada’s national heritage places every day. In the last five years, national heritage places experienced their highest and lowest levels of visitation in two decades. Person-visits in 2016-17 were 24.7 million. Visitation rose to 27.3 million in 2017-18, when admission was free as part of the Government of Canada’s national celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Person-visits stabilized at approximately 25 million in 2018-19 (25.1 million) and 2019-20 (24.9 million) before declining to their lowest level in decades in 2020–21 (17.0 million) due to public health requirements and adjustments to Parks Canada services that were necessary to minimize the risks related to the COVID-19 pandemic for visitors and employees. Overall, visitation remained generally stable during the five-year period, with two years of extraordinary circumstances which influenced person-visits in exceptional ways. Parks Canada uses four indicators to measure the state of visitor experience: 1) visitation, 2) visitor enjoyment, 3) visitor satisfaction, 4) visitor learning. These are measured at select places.
Visitor satisfaction, visitor enjoyment, and visitor learning are interrelated, and all help to connect people with heritage places and build support for heritage conservation, yet each of these indicators measures a different aspect of the visitor experience. Enjoyment is associated with whether a visitor feels they benefited (i.e. spiritually, physically, intellectually, and emotionally) from their experiences, while satisfaction is a subjective measure based on an individual’s personal assessment of how well their overall visit met their expectations. Learning is associated with whether a person feels they gained knowledge while visiting a heritage place. Opportunities to relax and stimulate the senses with beautiful scenery, along with recreation, are the key drivers for enjoyment for visitors to national parks. People who come to national historic sites particularly enjoy the interaction with staff and the learning opportunities.
During the last five years, Parks Canada measured performance at the local level in 2016, 2018 and 2019 and at the national level in 2017 and 2020. Average performance for local assessments was 96% for satisfaction, 96% for enjoyment, and 75% for learning (66% at national parks and 92% at national historic sites).
In 2017 and 2020, both satisfaction and enjoyment were high. Satisfaction and enjoyment were 90% and 94% respectively in 2017, while they were 91% and 89% respectively in 2020. Learning was 62% in 2017, with 54% for national parks and 76% for national historic sites, although learning by first time visitors was appreciably higher at both – 74% and 90% respectively. It was, however, difficult to measure learning in 2017 due to delays between actual visit and timing of measurement. Learning was not measured in 2020 due to limited access to onsite interpretive activities stemming from measures necessary to limit the risks of COVID-19 to visitors and employees.
The outdoors became a refuge for millions of Canadians in 2020. The Government of Canada made national parks and national historic sites accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing Canadians with an outlet during the pandemic. Most visitors felt that these places provided a sense of normalcy (82%) during a stressful time and access was important for fostering positive mental health (80%). Visitors chose to visit these places in 2020 because they considered them safe (87%), and the majority were satisfied with the onsite health and safety measures (84%) Parks Canada put in place to keep employees, visitors and the general public healthy and safe.
Parks Canada undertakes programs that serve broad audiences, but also delivers programming designed to welcome people of all backgrounds to national parks and national historic sites. For example, through a collaboration with Mohawk College, the HMCS Haida National Historic Site offered interpretive programming in multiple languages as a means to connect with local visitors whose first language was neither English nor French. At Bethune Memorial House National Historic Site, a self-guided tour was offered in Mandarin as a means to connect with the many Chinese Canadians and visitors from outside of Canada who come to Bethune House every year.
Parks Canada also works closely with Indigenous communities and partners to provide Indigenous cultural experiences at locations across the country. The Agency also facilitates Indigenous use of national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas. Indigenous cultural experiences acknowledge and honour that Indigenous peoples have been stewards of the lands, waters and ice of what is now Canada since time immemorial. These experiences help visitors to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of Indigenous cultures and history as well as of Indigenous science, knowledge, and traditions. Facilitating the use of heritage places by Indigenous peoples helps to re-establish connections to traditional territories and can rejuvenate culture and knowledge and their transfer across generations.
Youth and families are important audiences for Parks Canada. The Xplorer program, a learning activity, continues to connect children and their parents with heritage places in a family-friendly manner; some families even make it a family goal to explore as many national parks and national historic sites as possible to participate in the program. The Learn to Camp Program was expanded over the past five years to help more Canadian families and youth acquire the skills, knowledge, and confidence to experience Canada’s outdoors safely and confidently. In the past five years, over 300,000 Canadians have participated in over 2,300 Learn-to Camp activities across the country.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 2017, the Government of Canada provided free entry to all national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas for one year. This was an unparalleled opportunity to engage with millions of people and facilitate a lifelong connection to heritage places, whether they visited or not. Hundreds of millions of connections – through impressions, likes, newsletter opt-ins, contest entries, and phone calls – facilitated by outreach, celebration, collaborations, and media initiatives had Canadians showcasing their pride for national heritage places. Approximately one in five Canadian households proudly displayed a Parks Canada Discovery Pass on their car dashboard. Digital and other media content also helped encourage Canadians to get off the beaten path and explore lesser known and less visited heritage places.
Interest and engagement with nature and culture begin at an early age. Parks Canada introduced free admission for all visitors under the age of 18 in 2018. Parks Canada also continues its collaboration with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, whereby, after receiving citizenship, new Canadian citizens are offered complimentary admission to national heritage places for one year through the Institute’s Canoo program and mobile app. By providing free entry to youth and new citizens, the Government of Canada is fostering future generations of stewards of Canada's heritage treasures and helping strengthen the connection of new citizens to their country’s natural and cultural heritage.
Parks Canada plays a vital role in the communities and livelihoods of Canadians. It remains heavily engaged with local partners, businesses, service providers and industry leaders to manage visitation in sustainable ways and provide quality experiences. The Agency works with a variety of partners at local and national levels to support sustainable tourism, including Destination Canada, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, and the Travel Media Association of Canada.
Key issues and focus for the future
Visitation to national heritage places has been generally stable over the last five years following many years of growth—although 2017 and 2020 brought extraordinary circumstances which led to short-term increases and decreases in visitors. Careful planning helped the Agency manage each of these circumstances. In fact, Parks Canada was recognized in national media outlets for its depth of planning and preparation for visitor management in 2017. In 2020, media also recognized the measures put in place by Parks Canada to minimize health and safety risks to visitors arising from the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Parks Canada continues to develop new and innovative programs and services to encourage Canadians, including youth, families and newcomers, to experience and engage with nature, history and culture. To provide high quality experiences, the Agency will continue to renew and diversify visitor experience opportunities and collaborate with others to respond to public expectations and needs. It will continue to renew interpretive programming with an emphasis on fostering meaningful connections with nature and history. Parks Canada is also investing to provide welcoming inclusive and accessible places, products and experiences, no matter the ability, identity or socio-demographic circumstances of visitors. In addition, the Agency will continue to upgrade visitor-related infrastructure and offer safe and enjoyable experiences while incorporating green solutions to strengthen climate resilience of its operations.
Parks Canada is responsible for the most extensive network of natural and cultural heritage sites in Canada. These iconic destinations attract visitors from across the country and around the world, contributing to local, regional, and national economies. As an important participant in local and regional tourism, Parks Canada has a responsibility to keep up with trends and changes in the tourism sector and advancements in service delivery. The Agency will continue to innovate in its offer to visitors and work to effectively collaborate and partner with local tourism providers and communities across the country. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a significant negative impact on Canada’s tourism industry, one that will take years to overcome. Parks Canada will work collaboratively with federal and local partners over the next few years to help the industry, and the livelihood of local businesses and community members, to recover.
Public appreciation, support and awareness of heritage places
Parks Canada raises public awareness of natural and cultural heritage places and connection to them by reaching Canadians where they live and work. By encouraging Canadians to visit these places and in providing them with the information and means to enjoy them, Parks Canada allows more Canadians to experience the outdoors and learn about their heritage. Engaging Canadian youth, urban Canadians and new Canadians is a strategic priority for the Agency. Through proper and effective heritage place promotion and engagement initiatives, Parks Canada is working to strengthen Canadians’ awareness and appreciation of their national heritage places and Parks Canada’s important mandate to protect and present these places. By engaging in outreach and promotional activities, Parks Canada is developing a deeper understanding of and stronger connection between Canadians and their national heritage places.
State of public appreciation and support
To discover and appreciate heritage places, Canadians need to know about them. Over the past five years, the proportion of Canadians that have heard of Parks Canada reached its highest levels since tracking began in 2010. Canadians’ awareness of Parks Canada and the Agency’s work increased from 83% in June 2016 to 90% in March 2020, just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The trend highlights that a strong and constant presence helps keep Parks Canada top of mind for Canadians. Promotion and advertising campaigns, multimedia content, outreach initiatives, celebrations, and proactive media relations across multiple digital and in- person platforms help raise awareness and connect Canadians to nature and history in different ways, helping foster appreciation and support.
|Jun 2016||Sep 2016||Dec 2016||Mar 2017||Jun 2017||Sep 2017||Dec 2017||Mar 2018||Jun 2018||Sep 2018||Dec 2018||Mar 2019||Jun 2019||Mar 2020||Mar 2021|
Parks Canada measured public appreciation and support through indices that track knowledge, behaviour, and values on a multi-year cycle from 2009 to 2018. From 2014 to 2018, both appreciation and support of Park Canada improved among Canadians. In 2014, 66% of Canadians appreciated the significance of heritage places and 82% supported their protection and presentation. As of 2018, 72% of Canadians appreciated the significance of heritage places while 90% were in favour of their protection and presentation.
The Agency has made great strides in growing and diversifying interest and support for conservation. It is also leveraging the expertise and resources of partners to engage and connect with Canadians where they live, work and play. Successes over the last few years have elevated Parks Canada’s reach and influence, which has been positive for engaging Canadians and others on conservation and history. With the help of client-centered design, Parks Canada’s website is among the most visited websites in the Government of Canada and is the Agency’s most popular destination. Social media reach has also increased over the past five years; two social media campaigns in 2017 alone yielded 20 million contacts in reach. To maintain the momentum and the positive profile achieved following celebrations and free admission in 2017, Parks Canada launched a two-year (2018-2020) national promotional campaign (450 000 square kilometres of memories) which reached an estimated 30 million people. In cooperation with Google Street View, more than a billion people around the world learned about one of Canada’s most remote parks, Quttinirpaaq National Park in Nunavut. The Discover Canada Contest, a national contest for a trip for four to Parks Canada destinations that aims to raise awareness of natural and cultural heritage, has reached over two million people since its inception in 2017
To leverage its growing reach and engage Canadians on nature issues, Parks Canada implemented a science and conservation promotional campaign in 2018 called "The Parks Insider". This innovative approach successfully brought attention to and encouraged public interest and enthusiasm for the Agency’s science and conservation work. This campaign took Canadians deep into the heart of Parks Canada’s conservation landscape by showcasing both people and their stories. The Parks Insider reached two million people and the related videos had more than two million views through social media.
Parks Canada continues to reach Canadians where they live, work and play through outreach and education programs in major urban centres and smaller cities across Canada. In 2018, these efforts allowed Parks Canada to interact directly with more than half a million Canadians. National youth programs (e.g., Parks Canada Youth Ambassadors, Campus Clubs and #ParksLife social media channels) allowed tens of thousands more young Canadians to connect with and learn about Parks Canada and heritage places.
Additionally, Parks Canada has worked to extend its reach through collaborations with organizations such as Students on Ice and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, among others. The COVID-19 pandemic halted most in-person outreach and education activities, creating a need for the Agency to pivot in how it engages with Canadians. Through the use of live video programs, tens of thousands of people interacted with Parks Canada staff and explored heritage places. The Cross-Canada Virtual Road Trip, a collaborative program, brought stories of natural and cultural heritage into homes and classrooms of an estimated 65,000 school-aged children.
By volunteering at heritage places, Canadians continue to express their passion for them. More than 519,000 volunteer hours were donated between 2016 and 2020. Through volunteering opportunities, Canadians can participate in special events, historical re-enactments, conservation, archaeological excavations, and species at risk monitoring among many other activities. Parks Canada is grateful to the countless volunteers that help to conserve, renew, and share national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas with Canadians and the world.
Each year, Parks Canada recognizes anniversaries of national significance to promote knowledge and understanding for all. These anniversaries help Canadians connect to their history, their heritage and the shared accomplishments that have shaped the country. Historical designations, commemorative programming and community outreach initiatives, like Hometown Heroes, bring history to life for millions of Canadians every year. Since its inception, Hometown Heroes has recognized over 120 individuals representing a cross-section of Canadian society during the world wars, including men and women of different ages, ethnicities, and wartime experience. Commemoration means helping Canadians connect to history and heritage, including Canada’s Indigenous heritage.
Key issues and focus for the future
To capture the imagination of Canadians and create the spark of enthusiasm that connects them to their national heritage places, Parks Canada will endeavour to reach Canadians where they live, work or play. Canada is an increasingly urban and diverse nation and Parks Canada will continue engage Canadians in urban centres and those with diverse backgrounds and experiences. The Agency will continue to leverage strategic partnering initiatives, special events, anniversaries and celebrations, and targeted media activities to bring stories embedded in heritage places to Canadians in meaningful ways.
Over the last five years, Parks Canada built a strong following among Canadians. It improved and increased engagement with its followers in digital media, strengthening the Parks Canada brand, and growing the number of subscribers to its various social media accounts and electronic newsletters. This reach provides Parks Canada with an enviable position to engage on issues related to nature and history. Parks Canada will enhance its stories and content related to science, climate change, and history across digital and traditional platforms, and integrate them into outreach programming to encourage learning and exploration of Canada’s past and present. Parks Canada will also engage with Indigenous communities on opportunities for communities to share their stories, perspectives, and contributions to the country’s natural and cultural heritage.
The proportion of Canadians who can do the following: a) name Parks Canada as the organization responsible for the heritage places (unaided awareness); b) indicate that they have heard of Parks Canada (aided awareness).
The condition or state of a national historic site when the site has retained the heritage value for which it was designated. This is the desired state for a national historic site. A national historic site possesses commemorative integrity when: the resources directly related to the reasons for designation as a national historic site are not impaired or under threat; the reasons for designation as a national historic site are effectively communicated to the public; and the site’s heritage values (including those not related to the reasons for designation as a national historic site) are respected in all decisions and actions affecting the site.
A human work, an object, or a place that is determined, on the basis of its heritage value, to be directly associated with one or several important aspects of human history and culture. The heritage value of a cultural resource is embodied in tangible or intangible character-defining elements. Cultural resources associated with Parks Canada protected heritage places are divided into two categories:
- Cultural resources of national historic significance: cultural resources that have a direct relationship with the reasons for designation of a national historic site.
- Cultural resources of other heritage value: cultural resources that do not have a direct relationship with the reasons for designation of a national historic site but that relate to important aspects of the human history or cultural significance of a Parks Canada protected heritage place.
With respect to a park, a condition that is determined to be characteristic of its natural region and likely to persist, including abiotic components and the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes. Canada National Parks Act, s. 2(1).
The proportion of visitors who enjoyed their visit to a heritage place administered by Parks Canada. Enjoyment is associated with whether an individual feels they benefited (i.e. spiritually, physically, intellectually, emotionally) from their experiences.
Indigenous protected and conserved areas
Lands, waters, and ice where Indigenous leadership is a defining attribute in the decisions and actions that protect and conserve an area.
The proportion of visitors who considered that they gained knowledge about the natural or cultural components of a place administered by Parks Canada.
The proportion of Canadians who appreciate the significance of the heritage places administered by Parks Canada.
The proportion of Canadians who support the protection and presentation of heritage places administered by Parks Canada.
The proportion of Parks Canada stakeholders and partners that support the protection and presentation of heritage places administered by Parks Canada.
The proportion of visitors who were satisfied, a subjective measure based on an individual’s personal assessment of how well their overall visit to a heritage place administered by Parks Canada met their own predetermined expectations.
The number of people who visit a heritage place administered by Parks Canada in a given year. For this report visitation numbers are from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2021.
Definition of condition for buildings and engineering works
|Condition||Commemorative integrity assessment||Asset management services|
|Good||Stable. No appreciable deterioration or loss of critical components (e.g., foundations, walls, roofing, drainage), including character-defining elements.||Identified deficiencies have no or negligible impact on the functional performance (or level of service) of the asset. No foreseeable rehabilitation work required as long as regular preventive maintenance and minor corrective maintenance work is carried out in a timely manner.|
|Fair||Minor deterioration or loss of critical components (including character-defining elements) requiring some level of corrective work; other components placed at minor risk if condition not improved in required time frame.||Identified deficiencies have a significant impact on the functional performance (or level of service) of the asset. The known deficiencies in each of the asset's components are unrelated so that there are no or negligible compounding and detrimental effect on one another. One or more of the asset's components need rehabilitation work, but do not entail prolonged closure of the asset.|
|Poor||Critical components (including character-defining elements) no longer maintain level of original design or purpose (where that original purpose or performance is relevant to the heritage value of the resource), or is substandard to the point where operation of resource should be suspended until condition is improved; other components will suffer if condition not rectified within required time frame; abnormal or accelerated deterioration is evident.||One or more components need rehabilitation work to the extent that a major intervention is required to stabilize, consolidate, reinforce or reconstruct the asset. The known deficiencies in each of the components will have a compounding detrimental effect on one another.|
|Very Poor||Not applicable||The asset is currently unsafe, unstable or unusable and recapitalization of the asset is likely equal or in excess of the replacement cost.|
Definition of condition for archaeological sites and objects
|Good||Stable. No appreciable damage to or deterioration of known archaeological resources. In general, 71% or more of the site and its archaeological resources, since managed by Parks Canada, are preserved.||Stable. Object is structurally, physically and chemically sound. Preventive conservation and preservation measures such as monitoring, use of proper storage and display materials, security measures and regular cleaning, assessment of object compatibility for display/ storage and routine maintenance of mechanized objects have been or must be applied.|
|Fair|| Minor damage to or deterioration of known archaeological resources. In general, 30% – 70% of the site and its archaeological resources, since managed by Parks Canada, are preserved.
Stable (↔): No mitigation measures required. No active threat.
Threatened (↓): May require preservation, enhanced monitoring, or mitigation.
|Object has lost some of its stability (minor loss, damage or deterioration) but can be stabilized to good through the implementation of preventive conservation, preservation measures and/or remedial conservation. Issue may have to be dealt with immediately, especially if the cause is still active or if the safety of the object and the visitor is at risk.|
|Poor|| Major damage to or deterioration of known archaeological resources. In general, 1% - 29% of the site and its archaeological resources, since managed by Parks Canada, are preserved.
Stable (↔): No mitigation measures required. No active threat.
Threatened (↓): Requires urgent preservation or mitigation (e.g. salvage).
Object is unstable. It has suffered important loss (structurally, physically or chemically).|
The degree of intervention will vary:
Organizational contact information
Parks Canada National Office
30 Victoria Street
Telephone:888-773-8888 (General inquiries)
Telephone — international:819-420-9486 (General inquiries — international)
- The state of Canada's natural and historic places
- State of Canada's natural and cultural heritage places, 2021 — Annex I — State of national historic sites administered by Parks Canada
- State of Canada's natural and cultural heritage places, 2021 — Annex II — State of national parks administered by Parks Canada
- State of Canada's natural and cultural heritage places, 2021 — Annex III — National marine conservation areas
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the President & Chief Executive Officer of the Parks Canada Agency, 2021
Catalogue No.: R61-63/2021E-PDF
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