Evidence of meeting #30 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was conservation.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Rick Bates  Executive Director, Canadian Wildlife Federation
  • Ian Davidson  Executive Director, Nature Canada
  • John Lounds  President and Chief Executive Officer, Nature Conservancy Canada
  • Michael Bradstreet  Vice-President, Conservation, Nature Conservancy Canada
  • David Browne  Director of Conservation, Canadian Wildlife Federation

April 24th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Thank you very much. I have to interrupt you because I don't have very much time.

I am going to talk about the protection of oceans. I am not sure which group is more comfortable with this topic; perhaps Mr. Bates. Right now, only about 1% of marine areas are protected. We have a nice target of 20% by 2017. I love the idea of owning the podium. I am all for it; it is a great recommendation.

Should there be a similar recommendation for protecting marine waters?

4:35 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Wildlife Federation

Rick Bates

Yes, I think it would be very helpful to have clear recommendations and targets for marine-managed areas or protected areas, whatever term we like to use, identifying the most important areas for wildlife in the ocean and being clear about our intentions.

4:35 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nature Conservancy Canada

John Lounds

The Convention on Biological Diversity target is 17% for terrestrial by 2020. It also has a target of 10% for marine by 2020, and Canada has also signed on to that.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Thank you very much.

I would like to briefly talk about a holistic conservation plan rather than a site- or place-specific approach. Do you agree that we should have an ecosystem approach rather than a site-specific approach? Should we have a more holistic approach rather than a single-species approach? Would you agree with an approach like that?

4:35 p.m.

Executive Director, Nature Canada

Ian Davidson

I'll just give you a specific example. I'll go back to a program that we manage in partnership with naturalist organizations across the country. It's called Important Bird Areas and it focuses on conserving a suite or individual bird species. One of the problems with that, when you look at the prairie landscape, the grassland landscape, for example, is that it's really hard to take a species and/or a site-specific approach to conservation. Indeed we need more holistic approaches, so the ecosystem approach, in many respects, across this landscape, this ecosystem, and others across the country is very important.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Do you also agree, Mr. Bates?

4:35 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Wildlife Federation

Rick Bates

Yes. In principle, the ecosystem approach is probably the most efficient. As mentioned before, though, I think you can start from either end and arrive in the same spot. But as a starting spot, the ecosystem approach is excellent, yes.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

In terms of the follow-up to the national conservation plan, there might be some wonderful objectives, but who should be responsible for it? Should Environment Canada, Parks Canada or an independent company do the follow-up to make sure that it is done?

Mr. Lounds can answer.

4:35 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nature Conservancy Canada

John Lounds

As I mentioned in our presentation, I think there are some things that Canada and Environment Canada can do well, and certainly defining what we're counting and determining how we're going to go about that is something you need to bring people together, and facilitating that is clearly something the Government of Canada should be doing. Looking at what the need is and where the gaps are, helping to figure out and set a framework so that others can join in and be involved I think is going to be important. That includes how you work with the provinces and first nations and others in various communities and how we mobilize the private sector to come to the table, both with funds and with interest in the work. That's what we need to do.

So it will involve many different players, and each will have a particular role to play.

4:35 p.m.

Executive Director, Nature Canada

Ian Davidson

I would like to concur with that completely. I think the Government of Canada and Environment Canada is the right place to drive this forward. It wouldn't have happened unless they'd stepped up to the plate to do that.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Thank you so much. Time has expired.

We have Ms. Ambler. You have five minutes.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

And thank you to our witnesses for being here today.

I'd like to discuss today and ask you about ensuring that urban Canadians are a part of this national conservation plan.

Mr. Davidson, you mentioned that nature nation envisions a place where every Canadian feels a personal connection to the natural world and that strengthening a “nature first” ethic is achieved by inspiring and motivating Canadians to value and conserve nature.

How do we ensure that urban Canadians feel this connection? If they're not fortunate enough to have a cottage in northern Ontario or in Muskoka, or if they don't live near a lake or near the banks of a river, how do we do that?

4:40 p.m.

Executive Director, Nature Canada

Ian Davidson

That's an excellent question. If I might even focus that on the young people of this country, we really believe that's where the future is; that's where we need to be spending time. We need to connect, we need to engage, we need to inspire young Canadians to really engage with nature.

There's an initiative in the United States that basically speaks to leaving no children inside. The idea is to get kids out.

I was speaking to my three godsons, and I asked them if they could name me a national park. They're exposed, they've travelled Canada, but they could not name me a national park in Canada, and I was really surprised. I think that is reflective of how young Canadians perhaps see this country.

There are initiatives out there that are trying to engage kids. I believe our national parks are wonderful jewels, fantastic opportunities to dance in these places. Parks Canada has a truly magnificent opportunity to link young people in urban areas with national parks. The project in Toronto, with the Rouge, is a first step towards that. There are other opportunities across this country, and we should be looking at those to engage young Canadians, particularly in those urban areas, because that's where our future is.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

I'm glad you mentioned the Rouge, but as someone from the Toronto area, I know the Rouge Park gets all the attention. There are lots of other great places in the greater Toronto area that are part of the same ecosystem. I was just at an event last week for the Riverwood Conservancy, which is an area in the heart of Mississauga, on the banks of the Credit River, 150 acres. People call it the “lungs” of Mississauga because it's a living laboratory of nature right in the city, and I can tell you that most people in Mississauga don't know it's there.

They have some great programs. One of them is called Hot Chocolate and Wild Birds, and it's for little kids. I notice that Nature Canada has a program called My Parks Pass for eighth-graders. That's also a great idea.

The difficulty is that so often, if we don't start with young children in schools, by the time they reach a certain age they don't have that interest. Their interests change and so on. But if a child doesn't have a parent or grandparent who instills in them those values, how can our plan help toward making sure that future generations do place a premium on loving nature?

4:40 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Wildlife Federation

Rick Bates

If I may, one of the important things is to support the leaders who are there. There are leaders in every community who take the time to take kids outdoors and teach them about camping, just to go camp in a backyard. It doesn't take much, but they need support. It's helpful for them to have support, and they're in every community across our country.