Frequently asked questions

For thousands of years the Mi’kmaq People have frequented the shores and forests of Prince Edward Island and the Hog Island Sandhills. Known to the Mi’kmaq as Epekwitk, Prince Edward Island has played an important role in the culture and history of the Mi’kmaq People. This connection is as strong today as ever.

Parks Canada has listened to and learned a great deal from First Nations governments, organizations and communities, provincial agencies, local communities, and stakeholders. A national park reserve in this area would be unique and would require innovative approaches that respect and celebrate Mi’kmaq values and traditions, local communities, and the richly biodiverse ecosystems that make this area so special.

The ongoing negotiations towards a national park reserve in the Pituamkek area represents a valuable opportunity to advance reconciliation and for nation-to-nation engagement with the Mi’kmaq First Nations. These discussions also take into consideration the continuation of Mi’kmaq cultural and traditional activities in the region.

The creation of a new protected area is a complex process and the Government of Canada, L’nuey (the Mi’kmaq rights-based initiative), and Government of Prince Edward Island will take the necessary time to ensure that all parties are engaged and that the appropriate consideration is given at each stage of the process.

Where is the proposed study area for a protected area in Prince Edward Island?

The assessment area for the proposed national park reserve is a string of barrier islands located on the northwestern shore of Prince Edward Island. Hog Island, as well as an associated chain of barrier Islands known in English as the Sandhills (Cascumpec Island and Conway Island), stretch for 50 kilometres and represent some of the province’s most significant cultural, ecological, and geographical locations.

Proposed national park reserve study area

Proposed national park reserve study area map.
Proposed national park reserve study area map — Text version

This map shows the proposed working boundary of the proposed national park reserve in Pituamkek.

The study area begins to the east of Alberton, stretching from Oulete's Island in the west to the islands east of Lennox Island, slightly northwest of Malpeque Bay.

Why is it important to protect this area through a national park reserve?

Working together, the Government of Canada and the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils are taking action to protect this iconic natural and cultural landscape for future generations. Equally, these are government-to-government negotiations, and the Government of Canada and the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils are hopeful that this will mark an important step toward meaningful reconciliation.

In collaboration with Indigenous partners, stakeholders, and other levels of government, Canada is committed to protecting biodiversity and conserving 25 percent of land and inland waters and 25 percent of marine and coastal areas by 2025, working toward 30 percent by 2030.

Protecting this area would mean more research into coastal erosion, and more emphasis placed on understanding the impacts of climate change on the shores of P.E.I. It would mean the protection a 50-kilometre-long string of barrier islands along the northwestern coast of P.E.I. The area is also home to a number of threatened or endangered species. Some of these plant and animal species include the little brown bat, northern long-eared bat, the piping plover, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence aster.

When would the area be protected? How long will it take?

The creation of a new protected area is a complex process and the Government of Canada, L’nuey, and Government of Prince Edward Island will take the necessary time to ensure that all parties are engaged and that the appropriate consideration is given at each stage. As the characteristics and considerations of each proposal for a new national park or national park reserve are unique, there is no specific timeframe.

How would you describe Pituamkek to someone who’s never heard of it or been to the area?

Known in the Mi’kmaw language as Pituamkek - which means ‘at the long sand dune’-, is an archipelago and coastal area found on the northwestern shores of Prince Edward Island. The area is home to one of the most ecologically significant coastal dune ecosystems in Eastern Canada. Pituamkek is deeply important to the Epekwitnewaq Mi’kmaq, the Mi’kmaq of Prince Edward Island. It is home to ancient archaeological sites and an ongoing tradition of Mi’kmaw land use. The barrier islands of Pituamkek stretch for 50 kilometres from east to west and form a protective barrier to the north of Malpeque and Cascumpec Bays, which are known around the world for their rich fisheries.

In addition to its rich Mi’kmaq history, the landscapes of Pituamkek are remarkable. These range from coastal dune systems to old-growth forests to Prince Edward Island’s only igneous rock formations, all situated within the Malpeque Bay and in close proximity to the Lennox Island First Nation reserve. The location known as Iron Rock is home to a rare geological feature: P.E.I.’s only igneous rock formation–a volcanic incursion more than 240 million years old.

Will there be any benefits for the local Mi’kmaq communities in protecting this area?

The feasibility assessment will consider, among other things, the social, environmental and economic benefits and impacts of establishing a protected area.

Among its benefits, the establishment of a protected area would protect an important ecological area and the wildlife that calls it home, as well as Mi’kmaq cultural sites, and important archaeological sites for future generations.

Furthermore, a national park reserve would create opportunities for local Mi’kmaq People to participate in the establishment and management of the protected area.

Was Pituamkek badly damaged during Hurricane Fiona, like Prince Edward Island National Park?

Post-tropical storm Fiona caused significant impacts to Pituamkek. Initial surveys and assessments have taken place, with more to be carried out in 2023. Impacts to Pituamkek are similar to much of what has been seen across other northern and coastal parts of Prince Edward Island.

What is a national park reserve?

A national park reserve is an area that is managed like a national park but is subject to one or more Indigenous land claims being negotiated between the federal, provincial/territorial and Indigenous governments. The Canada National Park Act applies to national park reserves and provides the same protections to those of national parks.

Can you tell me about the Guardians program?

Guardian programs supported by Parks Canada are led by Indigenous communities and based in places that are currently or may be administered by Parks Canada in the future. The Pathfinders ran as an interim Guardians program at the proposed Pituamkek National Park Reserve for 12 weeks in the summer of 2022.

There are dozens of Guardian programs in protected areas and national parks across Canada, including at Gwaii Hanaas National Park Reserve (NPR), Thaidene Nene and Pacific Rim NPR. While each program is unique in its offerings, all place strong emphasis on ecological conservation, cultural heritage, and Indigenous leadership.

What do Guardians do on the land?

A Guardian program looks different in every place and each may have a different starting point in developing capacity and community experience to maintain an ongoing presence on the land. These programs are a vital component of an integrated approach to stewardship within Parks Canada heritage places. Guardian programs are developed to nurture the relationship between Indigenous Knowledge systems, cooperative management, shared decision-making, and Indigenous uses of heritage places.

Common activities include the identification, conservation, and interpretation of cultural heritage, ecological monitoring, water quality testing, restoring habitats, training and learning, administration, relationship building.

Can you describe the establishment process used by Parks Canada when proposing a potential new protected area? What makes an area a good site?

A range of factors are reviewed when considering an area as a candidate for a new national park. These include: cultural significance, biodiversity, landscape connectivity, level of representation within the current system plan, support of Indigenous communities and governments, and support of relevant provincial or territorial governments.

There is no rigid process for establishing new national parks. Each proposed project is unique and reflects local circumstances. The standard sequence, however, is framed by five steps:

  1. Identifying representative natural areas
  2. Selecting a potential area
  3. Assessing the feasibility of a national park, including consultations
  4. Negotiating agreements
  5. Establishing a national park under the Canada National Parks Act

The proposed Pituamkek National Park Reserve is currently in step-4.

Each step in the sequence is its own discrete process and takes a varying amount of time. As well, a project may be stopped at any point before reaching step-5.

The Pituamkek process has been very unique because it was proposed and has been championed by the Mi’kmaq throughout.

Find out where we are in the journey of creating a national park reserve in Pituamkek.

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