Madam Speaker, I am so pleased and very grateful today to rise in this place to speak to Bill C-248, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act and create the Ojibway national urban park of Canada.
I would like to sincerely thank my hon. colleague from Windsor West for introducing the legislation and for his tireless advocacy for the creation of this national urban park in the Windsor region.
Before becoming a member of Parliament, I had the honour of working for an NDP MP for Essex, and so I know about the regional community's desire for this park and the dedication with which the member for Windsor West has fought to create this special ecosystem. The introduction of this bill to establish Ojibway national park is the culmination of years, if not decades, of work by my colleague, but of course, we never do this work alone. Many residents in the Windsor and Essex region have spent years fighting to protect this unique urban park in one of the most heavily developed areas in the country.
The proposed Ojibway national park would include Ojibway Park, Spring Garden Natural Area, Black Oak Heritage Park, the Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, the Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve and Ojibway Shores, which is a vital 33-acre green space and the last remaining undeveloped natural shoreline in Windsor-Detroit. It is home to hundreds of endangered species that rely on migration through surrounding local parks for survival.
If connected, this area of approximately 900 acres, including the Detroit River, would become truly significant. It serves not only as a home and larger ecosystem to several endangered species, but also provides mitigation of flooding due to climate change and provides natural heritage areas that the community can enjoy, appreciate and use for healthy living space and ecotourism.
As a member of Parliament, I am often approached by constituents in my riding who wish to preserve historical or environmentally sensitive areas. I support the member for Windsor West in doing just that. By establishing the Ojibway national urban park, the House can help him and his community protect a rare ecosystem within the city of Windsor and ensure that it remains unchanged by human development.
It is also worth noting here that our colleague spoke of the overwhelming consensus with which his community supports the creation of this urban park. For so many in Windsor to be in agreement on this issue is also unique. The creation of the park and the inclusion of Ojibway Shores speaks specifically to two issues that I am passionate about and am working on in my own riding of London—Fanshawe.
The first is about the protection of our fresh water in Canada. Twice now I have reintroduced an important piece of legislation in the House, which is now Bill C-217, an act respecting the development of a national strategy in relation to fresh water. l have worked with the former NDP MP for Essex on this legislation and again in the Windsor-Essex region. In all of our communities, people know the significant role fresh water plays in our lives and how important its preservation is. In my riding too, we are greatly impacted by the Great Lakes and the Thames River, which supply people with fresh drinking water but also provide all communities with environmental benefits that deserve targeted protection and sustainable planning.
While Canada has seemingly abundant freshwater resources, very little of it is actually renewable, and Bill C-217 works to modernize Canada's freshwater strategy. It has been over 20 years since the government established a policy on fresh water, and environmental conditions have dramatically changed since 1987.
My bill asks the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to study, review and adopt a national water policy. The review would work to establish national drinking water standards, ensure that water is protected in international agreements, protect groundwater, evaluate the readiness of water and wastewater infrastructure to handle climate change impacts and reduce eutrophication.
Fresh water is vital, whether for tourism, agriculture, recreational use, health or household needs. It plays an important role in all of our communities. Southwestern Ontario benefits significantly from numerous lakes, rivers, wetlands and tributaries. The health of our water is instrumental to our region's sustained growth, environmental stability and safety, and the safety of people.
I hope that all sides will support this important effort to protect our fresh water for generations to come and I believe my bill and this bill, Bill C-248, complement each other so well.
The second issue that I believe greatly aligns with both private member's bills is the protection of environmentally significant areas. The city of London has 12 designated environmentally significant areas, and three are in my riding of London—Fanshawe. I am so privileged to live between two of them, Westminster Ponds and Meadowlily Woods.
Today I wanted to talk specifically about Meadowlily, because this area is under threat of development. Meadowlily Woods is situated on the south side of the south branch of the Thames River. The area contains flood plain woods, deep ravines, mature woodlands and some active and retired agricultural fields that are now meadows.
Along the Thames, west of Meadowlily Road, is the Meadowlily Nature Preserve, owned by the Thames Talbot Land Trust. The public are allowed to hike the trail through these publicly owned lands, which cover 60 hectares. Meadowlily is unique due to its variety of rare trees, plants and wildlife. It also boasts a significant number of endangered species and almost 10,000 different species of plant and animal life. The site has a mix of wetland and upland forest species.
To paint a picture for members of how beautiful it is, along the river basswood, hackberry, willow and dogwood dominate. White cattails and marsh plants grow near the water. In the summer colourful wildflowers can be found, including the blue flag iris, turtlehead and great lobelia. The upland areas are dominated by sugar maple, American beech, black cherry and red oak. In the spring the woods are carpeted with varieties of flowers, including trilliums, trout lilies, bloodroot, violets and spring beauty, and the cool north-facing ravines are home to eastern hemlock, yellow birch and over a dozen fern species. The meadows and young woods are full of asters and goldenrod in the fall. Invasive species management and ecological restoration, carried out by volunteers, is funded by the City of London to protect the ecological integrity of this area.
Over 110 species of migratory and breeding birds have been observed in Meadowlily Woods. Due to its large size and location along the river, the forest supports the forest interior's sensitive species, such as the pileated woodpecker and ovenbird. We have red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, belted kingfishers and American goldfinches. We have animal life including coyotes, red foxes, white-tailed deer and beavers. We have so much in this area: leopard frogs, spring peepers, eastern redback salamanders and midland painted turtles. The list goes on and on.
I have to also mention that London is located in the traditional territory of the Attawandaron, Anishinabe, Haudenosaunee, and Lunaapeewak peoples. Over 60 archaeological sites are documented in the Meadowlily area, especially on the Ingersoll moraine. The sites span the entire 11,000 years of the prehistory of the area and include everything from indigenous camps to villages. The selling off and development of this land by settlers began in the early part of the 19th century. Private homes were built for commissioned officers of the military on land taken from indigenous people.
I am sure members can imagine that this area is gorgeous and peaceful and in an area of prime real estate—prime real estate in a time of a housing crisis. The land that surrounds this incredible area is currently planned for development. That is the reason a dedicated group of volunteers and community activists have formed a not-for-profit association called The Friends of Meadowlily Woods. They are fighting to protect against the further development and degradation of this larger natural area. Like the member for Windsor West and what he is trying to protect by creating a national urban park in his region to protect those endangered species and environmentally sensitive areas, these folks in my area are working to protect their environmental treasure. Ojibway Shores and Meadowlily are so similar in terms of what is needed to protect our future. We must do everything we can in this House to preserve precious natural habitats, water systems and ecologically delicate areas. We need to learn the balance between growing communities and our natural world for the sake of our future and the future of our children.