Minister publishes formal response to unprecedented input from Canadians on the future of Parks Canada

Canada’s national parks and protected areas including Jasper National Park play a critical role in shaping our national identity, protecting wildlife and our natural heritage, fighting climate change, and supporting jobs and local economic development across the country. The Government of Canada is committed to preserving Canada’s natural and cultural heritage for generations to come.

Parks Canada photo
Parks Canada photo

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, presented her response to an unprecedented level of public input on the future of Parks Canada, provided through the Minister’s Round Table, Let’s Talk Parks, Canada!.

In response to feedback received from more than 13,000 Canadians, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, has put forward three priorities for Parks Canada:

  1. To Protect and Restore our national parks and historic sites – ensuring ecological integrity is the first priority in considering all aspects of the management of national parks – through focused investments, limiting development, and by working with Indigenous peoples, provinces and territories.
  2. Enable people to further Discover and Connect with our national parks and heritage through innovative ideas that help share these special places with all Canadians.
  3. Sustain for generations to come the incredible value – both ecological and economic – that our national parks and historic sites provide for communities.

Minister McKenna’s response provides direction for the future management of Parks Canada, and progress is already underway on a number of areas identified in the Let’s Talk Parks, Canada!

Through Budget 2018, the Government is making a historic investment of more than $1.3 billion to protect Canada’s nature, parks and wild spaces, which includes funding for Parks Canada to support Canada’s biodiversity goals and help conserve natural ecosystems. In addition, the government is making progress on expanding the system of protected areas in support of Canada’s international commitment to conserve 17 percent of our land and 10 percent of our oceans by 2020. The federal government, in collaboration with Inuit of Nunavut and the Government of Nunavut, is already working to create Canada’s largest protected area in Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound, and plans to establish a national park reserve in the South Okanagan in partnership with Sylix/Okangan Nation and the Government of British Columbia.

To advance reconciliation and contribute to the greater involvement of Indigenous peoples in the management of Parks Canada places, the Minister’s response highlights the importance of recognizing and respecting Indigenous rights, history and cultures, and restoring connections to traditional lands and waters. The Government is investing $23.9 million through Budget 2018 to integrate Indigenous views, history and heritage into national parks, marine conservation areas and historic sites managed by Parks Canada. The Government is also supporting new and existing Indigenous Guardians programs at Parks Canada places and elsewhere, among other initiatives.w

The commemorative integrity of our historic places is also essential. In an effort to strengthen heritage conservation, work is already underway to review legislative measures, financial tools and best practices. Minister McKenna also indicated that an emphasis should be placed on new interpretive programs, digital technologies and partnerships to help tell the stories of our diverse heritage, so future generations can better understand our rich and varied history.

Going forward, programs and initiatives will be developed to encourage a broader diversity of visitors to Parks Canada places, so that more Canadians – particularly youth and people with varying abilities – can experience the outdoors and learn about our heritage.

To further to this goal, starting in 2018 and beyond, the Government is offering free admission to Parks Canada places for youth 17 and under, and free admission for one year for new Canadians. This builds on the success of free admission for all Canadians in celebration of Canada 150. The Minister committed to investing in other initiatives that will make it easier for Canadians to discover nature and connect with history, such as expanding the Learn-to Camp program (up to 70,000 participants in 2017) and further developing the Parks Canada mobile app (with over 170,000 downloads to date).

In her response, Minister McKenna acknowledged the important role that the tourism industry and local businesses play in supporting economic activity and jobs in hundreds of communities located near Parks Canada places – demonstrating clearly how the environment and the economy go together.

The perspectives shared by Canadians during the Minister’s Round Table – Let’s Talk Parks, Canada! will help shape the future of Parks Canada places for decades to come. Parks Canada will review the action items in the Minister’s response and develop plans to implement them, over the short, medium and long-term.