An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (Ojibway National Urban Park of Canada)

Sponsor

Brian Masse  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (House), as of March 21, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-248.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Ojibway ShoresStatements By Members

May 13th, 2022 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I have the privilege of celebrating 20 years of service to my community as its MP. Through the years, I committed to working directly with my constituents to bring their collective voices and concerns to Ottawa. I am making this commitment again today.

We have worked together for a decade now to save the Ojibway shorelands and establish an urban park for Canadians to enjoy and for species to be protected. This is a project that has endangered species and wildlife habitats and will fight the climate change that is right on the doorstep of Windsor, Ontario.

Yesterday, we learned the government is finally taking action on the request from five years ago to transfer Ojibway lands to Parks Canada. It is finally happening, so today we celebrate 20 years of advocacy together.

On behalf of the residents of Windsor West, I respectfully call on parliamentarians to support my bill, Bill C-248, and start making this park a reality. They can consider it an anniversary gift.

I conclude by thanking my partner, Terry Chow, my son, Wade, and my daughter, Alex, who graduated yesterday, for 20 years of blessed support.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2022 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member, as well as Greg and others at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, for their hard work on sea lamprey and getting that accomplished. I appreciate the member's continual work on that for the Great Lakes.

With that, I would like to ask the member about my private member's bill, Bill C-248, which is coming up. It is on a national urban park that would protect one of the last areas of the Great Lakes. It is supported by Caldwell first nation, and was supported unanimously by the City of Windsor just yesterday through a motion. I am hoping we can bring this bill to committee.

I would ask my colleague about how important national urban parks are. Given that this one will not require any funds, as it would be an assembly of public land, will it get the support to go to committee and be investigated for our national urban parks?

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2022 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

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.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2022 / 11:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I did wonder why my party asked me to comment on this bill, and the hilarious member for Drummond replied that my mischievous nature might be the reason that I, as a sovereignist, was asked to speak to the creation of a park in Ontario. I do not really know.

Anyway, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C‑248 in principle. My party also applauds the member for Windsor West's initiative and his commitment to conserving the Ojibway site.

I am told that the member for Windsor West has been championing this cause since 2013. That is certainly commendable. Clearly the member is engaged in his community. Furthermore, I have looked over the information provided by the member, and there seems to be no doubt as to the ecological value of this site and the justification for turning it into a park. I am confident the information provided is accurate, and I am certain this proposal is of significant ecological value. The Liberal government has actually pledged to work with cities to expand urban parks as part of its goal to protect 25% of the country's lands and waters, so this bill is consistent with government policy.

However, the Bloc Québécois's position regarding Bill C‑248 is neutral in the sense that we have no intention of telling Ontarians or the people of Windsor how best to preserve and develop their own territory. Quite frankly, if you ask me, this is another example of centralist federalism. However, one must not bite the hand that feeds. We are all ears, as the saying goes.

Still, this does raise some questions.

I realize that there is no question period for this bill, but perhaps we could discuss it later. I have to wonder why the federal government should be the one to own more and more of our urban spaces.

I think it goes without saying that if the government wants to get involved and be more invested, even though this does not come under its jurisdiction, perhaps the best solution is to offer unconditional funding to Ontario to support this proposal from my colleague from Windsor West.

I think this raises another question that has not yet been answered. I have been listening to my colleagues' speeches this morning. I am wondering why the people of Windsor, the people of Ontario and the member who is sponsoring the bill would trust the federal government more than their own provincial government to create an urban park. Why not leave this up to the body that is supposed to manage the territory, in other words, the Ontario government?

I was saying that we are not necessarily against the bill, but we should acknowledge that it is not the route a sovereignist party would take, nor is it a route for any party that stands up for the provinces. It is not a route that my Conservative friends, who claim to be champions of provincial jurisdictions, would take. I do not see why we would accept having more spaces protected by the federal government. The Bloc Québécois does not think it is the federal government's responsibility to manage urban parks.

Simply put, if my NDP colleague had made a similar proposal about a park in a city in Quebec, the Bloc Québécois would be strongly opposed to the idea and would argue for ownership of the site to be transferred to the Government of Quebec or to a Quebec municipality. That has been the Bloc Québécois's historic position on national parks.

What we are asking is for ownership of all federal parks in Quebec to be transferred to the Government of Quebec or to Quebec municipalities, because the Government of Quebec is solely responsible for land management on Quebec soil. It is not the federal government, but the Government of Quebec, and Quebec's environmental laws, that should protect and enhance our own environment. I would note that in the last Parliament, I introduced a bill on environmental sovereignty.

Take, for example, the Lachine Canal park, which, as we know, is in the heart of Montreal and is a big part of its history, particularly for historically working-class neighbourhoods like Saint‑Henri, Pointe‑Saint‑Charles and Griffintown.

It would be more than appropriate for the City of Montreal and the relevant districts to administer the Lachine Canal park. That way, they could manage and develop it in tandem with the other neighbouring urban development projects.

I feel that the federal government is a level of government that is far from local areas and communities, and its powers should be limited to the state's prerogative powers. In a context of federalism, where the government is responsible for managing borders and conducting foreign, defence and monetary policy, should it also manage the minutiae of day-to-day administration? Quite frankly, I do not see how this is useful. We believe that it is not the federal government's responsibility to manage parks.

I will close by stating that, for me, and this is a criticism that I can direct to my NDP colleagues, this is rather indicative of the centralizing reflex. It is an unfortunate reflex that has led to today's inadequate funding for the health sector. The expectations for this sector continue to rise without the government necessarily providing the resources. With respect to this centralizing reflex, I hope that my NDP colleagues will be aware of it and, above all, of the fact that this is mainly a provincial jurisdiction.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2022 / 11:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the Ojibway national park bill, Bill C-248.

The Conservatives have a long history of supporting the development and expansion of national parks. Most recently, we can talk about Rouge National Urban Park, which is an urban park of 79 square kilometres that was championed by Conservative MPs Paul Calandra and Peter Kent. We recognize the need to preserve these types of urban environments, not just because they are good for the environment, but because they are good for community members, who can then enjoy the time they will spend in these beautiful parks. The Rouge National Urban Park has over 12 kilometres of hiking trails and there is camping. The park is also open year round and is free to access.

An Ojibway national urban park is looking, in some sense, to replicate this model. When we look at what is being discussed, we can see there are six current parks we are talking about, which are Spring Garden Natural Area, Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve, Ojibway Park, Black Oak Heritage Park and Ojibway Shores. Combining these six parcels into a national urban park is something we should be looking at and is something we should absolutely consider. I applaud the member for his hard work in trying to bring this to fruition.

I want to mention that this was pushed prior to the member's bill. This is a long-standing project, and the previous member for Essex, Jeff Watson, was also interested in trying to set up an Ojibway urban national park. I am happy to say that his vision is being incorporated into the current member's vision and that two parties, the Conservatives and the NDP, are working together to form this park.

The total land allotted for an Ojibway national park is approximately 900 acres. All the land is publicly owned, including the current port authority. There is support from the Windsor council and local politicians. I also understand that this is supported by indigenous people as well.

When we look at what this will ultimately become, and I have spoken to the member about this, we do have some concerns because there are major roadways that separate these parks. This is not six contiguous pieces of land that are easily formed together. They are separated by roadways, private land and other things. We do have some concerns about what that is going to mean. We know that one of the roadways is a large commuter roadway that allows people from LaSalle to move for employment to Windsor, and the closing of that roadway for a national urban park could have some unintended consequences. I know that is not fully within what we are debating today, but I have let the member know that it is something we are concerned about and something we would want to try to explore in committee.

I am surprised to hear the speech from the Liberals, who are saying, from what I heard, that they are not going to support this piece of legislation because it is doing something too quickly. From my understanding, the contemplation to proceed with this park goes back already perhaps a dozen to 14 years, so to suggest that this is premature or is moving too quickly does not make a lot of sense to me.

I think perhaps it is time to kick the tires. Let us get this to committee, let us study it and let us see if we can maybe push Parks Canada to accelerate its timetable. I do not think we want to wait another 15, 20 or 30 years for this to come to fruition.

Here on the Conservative side, we are in support of the bill so it can go to committee and be studied. Then everyone will have the full picture of what is going to take place here. I think the member should be commended for his activities to push this bill forward, and we look forward to seeing it, when it comes up, pass through second reading and come to committee, so we can see everything with respect to it.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2022 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, that is right.

We joined the minister and dozens of local partners at Ojibway Park to announce our government’s commitment to create seven new national urban parks, and Ojibway was among them. It was a historic day.

Since that day, we have been busy putting in the work to make Ojibway national urban park a reality. Just this past January, our federal government provided the City of Windsor with $600,000 to begin assessments and consultations and to carry out a joint work plan with Parks Canada.

In short, the first concrete steps toward Ojibway national urban park are already taking place, and that process is being led by the good people at Parks Canada, who have experience and expertise in leading good processes that create good parks. We are not alone in that process.

Windsor is one of five cities where we have signed agreements with municipal governments, and we are working with provincial governments, indigenous partners and stakeholders to develop national urban parks that will form part of a national network in Victoria, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Halifax and Windsor.

The key point is that each of these cities is unique. Each presents specific opportunities and specific challenges in establishing a national urban park. Last August, we announced $130 million to support the creation of national urban parks in the five cities mentioned. This is part of the $2.3 billion over five years committed to Canada’s nature legacy of budget 2021.

Like the Parks Canada process currently under way, Bill C-248 also seeks to create a new national urban park. However, Bill C-248 introduces a flawed process that is not based on public consultation. Instead, it would harm the authentic and organic relationships and engagement required in the successful creation of a new urban park.

Let me talk about the Parks Canada path we are currently on and note how Bill C-248 departs from it. The name Ojibway national urban park refers to parcels of land that, together, are known as the Ojibway Prairie Complex. The first thing one needs to know is that the Ojibway Prairie Complex is an assemblage of properties that includes four municipal parks, a provincial nature reserve and other natural areas in the western part of Windsor.

There is also a desire to include a federally owned parcel of land under the management of the Windsor Port Authority called Ojibway Shores, and potentially other private parcels of land in the surrounding area. As one can see, the area is complex with multiple partners. Bringing the municipal and provincial governments, indigenous partners and other stakeholders together is a complex undertaking, but we are confident Parks Canada has the expertise to bring that about through consultation and engagement.

Bill C-248 would have the effect of unilaterally transferring these parcels to the federal government without any engagement or dialogue. That is simply wrong, and it creates the possibility that constitutional, legal and other issues and challenges may arise.

The Parks Canada approach is different. Our approach is centred on public consultations. We are also exploring a range of governance models in the creation of national urban parks. We are working with other implicated federal departments for a whole-of-government approach to any transfers of land. As well, we are engaging in the breadth of consultation a project of this complexity demands.

First and foremost, that means engaging, in the spirit of reconciliation, in a nation-to-nation dialogue with indigenous partners. Thorough and open consultation with indigenous partners on this proposal is essential.

Bill C-248 presents indigenous partners with a finished design without any consultation. That is a serious omission and error. As one can see, public consultation is at the very heart of the Parks Canada process currently under way. Bill C-248 is a shortcut that skips public consultation in favour of a fait accompli.

Consultations are required not only with indigenous communities but also with many additional levels. At the Ojibway announcement, I talked about the fact the protection of Ojibway has always been a grassroots community effort led by many partners.

For example, the Essex County Field Naturalists' Club completed the first-ever bioblitz of Ojibway back in 2014, which gave us the first true sense of the biodiversity in Ojibway. There is also the Friends of Ojibway Prairie, the Citizens Environment Alliance, the Environment Committee at Unifor Local 444 and the Essex Region Conservation authority.

This also includes folks like Tom Henderson, chair of the Public Advisory Council of the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup, Nancy Panchesan of Save Ojibway, and Jonathan Choquette of Wildlife Preservation Canada.

The Parks Canada path we are currently on is rooted in community and makes sure these diverse voices will be at the centre of its design from the start. Let us remember that the creation of the Rouge National Urban Park, which was led by Parks Canada, only came about after major consultations that included input from over 20,000 Canadians.

This is a legacy project, not to be undertaken lightly. In that regard, we will engage closely with indigenous partners to ensure that national urban parks, wherever they may be, provide space for indigenous stewardship, for voices and stories and for connections to land and water based on indigenous knowledge and values. Together we will define the boundaries, the requirements and the objectives of the park. Together we will find consensus on mechanisms to operate the park.

While I appreciate my colleague’s desire to proceed quickly, process matters. Parks Canada staff are working actively on this as a top priority, moving from assessment to agreement to full designation of an Ojibway national urban park. Bill C-248 is a shortcut that pre-empts and undermines all of the important work that I have outlined. Furthermore, the governance regime it proposes may not be suitable for the Ojibway national urban park, nor for the other urban parks we are working to create for cities across Canada.

Flexibility in governance models is key. Some may end up being administered through Parks Canada. For others, third party administration may be more appropriate. Others may require a hybrid solution. This bill assumes a single governance model, the authority of the Canada National Parks Act, and I would remind the House that for the park to be established under this act, the federal Crown would need a property interest in all lands within the park’s boundaries. We simply do not have that at this point.

This may well be an option worth exploring, but without giving a full hearing to other possibilities, we cannot know whether another option would be more suitable. Reaching agreement on a governance model will require flexibility and compromise, and that selection must be made in a spirit of collaboration, communication and respect, and founded upon mutual interest. Parks Canada already has in place a process to create national urban parks. It is based on the expertise of Parks Canada.

In summary, this private member’s bill presents us with a competing path to creating an Ojibway national urban park and to creating similar urban parks across Canada, but it is a fundamentally flawed process. Let me tell members how the Parks Canada path that we are currently on is better.

First, whereas public consultation is at the heart of the Parks Canada process, Bill C-248 presents a finished product and, as such, is top-down and unilateral. Second, whereas indigenous communities will play a lead role in the design of the Ojibway national urban park through the Parks Canada process, Bill C-248 does harm to that relationship by establishing an urban park without dialogue and consultation with first nations. Third, whereas the Parks Canada process understands that there are different partnership models worth exploring in consultation with local stakeholders, Bill C-248 rejects a bottom-up made-in-Windsor solution.

In short, Bill C-248 is a unilateral declaration that ignores the partnerships and voices necessary for long-term success. I applaud the enthusiasm and initiative of the hon. member for Windsor West, but Bill C-248 leads us away from the Parks Canada process and away from the values of stewardship, collaboration and community that are the very essence of an Ojibway national urban park. I hope he will contribute these efforts to advancing the Parks Canada process.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2022 / 11:15 a.m.
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Windsor—Tecumseh Ontario

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-248, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act, Ojibway national urban park of Canada. I want to begin by acknowledging that the land I am speaking from today is the ancestral and unceded territory of the Three Fires confederacy of first nations: the Ojibwa, the Odawa and the Potawatomi.

The bill in front of us today was introduced by the member for Windsor West, and I share his enthusiasm for the creation of an Ojibway national urban park in Windsor. In fact mere days after my election in 2019, the MP for Windsor West invited me to his office one Friday evening to talk about my new role. Ojibway was one of the things we talked about. We both recognize that Ojibway is a precious gem unlike any other.

Compared to Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto, Ojibway is a postage stamp of land, but in its 300 hectares, Ojibway contains rare Carolinian forest and tall grass prairie. It also has the most biodiversity in all of Canada with hundreds of plants, reptiles and insects, and other wildlife. Eighteen months after my colleague from Windsor West and I met in his office, we joined Minister Karina Gould and dozens of local partners at Ojibway Park to announce our government’s—

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2022 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague, the member for Windsor West, for Bill C-248, his private member's bill.

He spoke specifically to a road map. We have Malden Road and we have Matchette Road, two major arteries from LaSalle, which is in my riding, through to Windsor in the hon. member's riding. In principle I agree with this bill. Would the member please suggest and/or agree with me that, if this goes through, it is vital that those two main arteries remain open?

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2022 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

moved that Bill C-248, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (Ojibway National Urban Park of Canada), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise here on Bill C-248, an act to create a national urban park: Ojibway national urban park in particular. As private member's business, this is an exciting opportunity. We all get a draw in a lottery that determines where we actually get in the standing order. Often, Parliaments change. This being my eighth one, I was lucky to be selected in a favourable position: number seven.

It is an honour. Some of the things that we can do under Private Members' Business, whether they get full legislation completion or they get partial movement, are quite significant for this country. It is the part of our democracy that is intrinsic to keeping it strong because if one party or one small cabal has all the answers, we miss out on great opportunities that are unique. That is what this is. This is a unique opportunity to create a national urban park in the city of Windsor, not only for Essex County and not only for Ontario but for Canada.

The property that I am talking about is very significant. In fact, some of the property has 130 endangered species at risk. It is a hot spot, and it is a connection not only to the United States, which is looking at this legislation in a favourable context as well, but also to other parts of Ontario and Canada. There are migratory patterns and other environmental connections that are very significant. We live in a Carolinian forest area that has very much diversity along the Great Lakes.

For those who are not aware, with regard to national parks, around the world there is a growing sentiment that urban and national parks are becoming important not only for culture, wellness and significance to our economies but also to us as individuals. Nothing demonstrated that more than when, under COVID-19, we saw outdoor spaces being necessary for our wellness and mental health. They supported new connections to our community.

That leads me to Michelle Prior, the president of the National Parks Association of Queensland in Australia, who talked about national parks being a cornerstone of a modern, enlightened society. Not only are world-famous parks important to form our identity, but they also provide an abundance of benefits reclaimed from the past for the future. That is what we are looking at with regard to this national park along the Detroit River and the Great Lakes system that extends into the city of Windsor. They contribute to filling a gap for traditional peoples, which is very important.

We in this territory come from the Three Fires Confederacy first nations, which include the Ojibway, the Odawa and the Potawatomi. We respect the long-standing relationship with these first nations. What is really unique and exciting about this is that it also includes Caldwell First Nation. I will not get into the full details of that, but recently it had a settlement to re-establish itself in this area and it is supporting this project. What is important is that these are some of the heroes of the War of 1812 who were out land-settlement claims that are now being rightly justified. The nation's support of this project and Chief Mary Duckworth is very much appreciated.

This park system would not involve any private property. It would connect several pieces of property together, which I will briefly describe, to create one larger national urban park. We have an example of this: the Rouge National Urban Park in the Toronto area is unique. Just so members are aware, each park has its own distinctive legislation. The government did move forward with a proposal for some urban parks before the last election and committed some money toward them, but they are not fully established national urban parks and they will be deprived of significant resources and deprived of cultural, economic and environmental connections. Each piece of legislation is important because it begs the uniqueness of each park.

This park is critical because of some of the significant pieces of land there. The most significant piece is Ojibway Shores. It is owned by the Windsor Port Authority right now, but the port authority expects City of Windsor taxpayers to foot the bill for multiple millions of dollars for public land that we already own. That area actually has 130 endangered species in it.

The public had to have an uprising several years ago. I talked with the developer who was working in conjunction with the port authority to raze the entire area and smash it down, saying that it was scrub brush and it was nothing. The developer in the project backed down after I talked with them, and then the port authority subsequently put this on to being purchased. However, the public has pushed back so hard that we finally got an inventory of the site. It has over 130 endangered species that are quite significant. This 33-acre part of the park system is important because it brings it into the fold with other parks, including the Ojibway Prairie Complex, for example, which is a collection of five closely situated park systems from the City of Windsor and the Province of Ontario.

These include Ojibway Park, Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, Black Oak Heritage Park and the Spring Garden Natural Area and total approximately 604 acres. This is along the last undeveloped area of the Detroit River in the city of Windsor, and is one of the last places along the Great Lakes as well that is close to an urban setting. It is an area of scientific interest, and it is across from and adjacent to the American heritage river registration and environmental improvements that are significant. Connected to this is the Spring Garden Natural Area. It is an area of significance for the Essex Region Conservation Authority, which has been very helpful in this process.

A number of species have been identified in the area, including butterflies, birds, fauna and trees, and a series of elements that are very important and endangered.

Black Oak Heritage Park is part of this under the City of Windsor. As a city councillor, I was part of that as well. It connects to the Spring Garden Natural Area through a series of other parks. The waterfront area next to it is the property of Ojibway Shores, then there is Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park and Ojibway Park. There are a number of species in this area, such as the red-bellied snake, Butler's gartersnake, the eastern foxsnake and the massasauga rattlesnake. As well, there is slender bush-clover, which was found in 1977, and other types of inventory that are not available in other parks.

As I mentioned, each national park has its own legislation. Point Pelee National Park, which is very close to this proposed park, is an area that would actually see some benefits from it, as well as Rondeau Park. This is important, and I am very pleased that the member for London—Fanshawe is seconding this bill, because it would connect us with southern Ontario very well. We also have Ojibway Park at the edge of the town of LaSalle, which has a new wildlife centre and ecosystem research. The Province of Ontario has looked favourably at this.

The landowners involved in this entire complex are quite significant. We have the port authority with a key piece of property that the public owns. The port authority is an extension of the federal government, and it has public lands. The Province of Ontario has a piece of property as part of this, and the City of Windsor and other municipalities are endorsing the project to make the park come to fruition.

The significance of this opportunity is economically important, because it would be next to an international crossing: The Gordie Howe International Bridge is being built. As a city councillor, I think I had my first public meeting at Marlborough Public School in 1998. It was the first fight to get a new border crossing in this area. Now we have the Gordie Howe International Bridge being developed. At the same time, adjacent to it is all of this property in a green space.

Ironically, on the Detroit side there is Zug Island, which is notorious for its environmental hazards and degradation. What is interesting is that we now have the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, which was created in Detroit in 2001, and there has been more money poured into it.

I want to thank a number of people who came to my town hall held at Southwood Arena about two and a half years ago. We had attendees from the Michigan government and the American federal government. There were others who came over from the United States as well as from the Audubon Society, which is in relation to birds, and so forth because the connections are so strong. Anyone interested in the Great Lakes, the value of their waters and their ecosystem is going to have a high degree of interest in this, as it is one of our last refuges.

In 2004, the U.S. created the Humbug Marsh refuge, which is across the Detroit River and adjacent to this area. This is historic, and the property that we are talking about is giving rise to a series of interesting developments.

As I was doing my constituency work, I had a book from Marty Gervais, Walk in the Woods: Portrait of the Ojibway Prairie Complex. It goes over a series of things that go back to the 1960s. For members who may not know, Marty Gervais is a local historian and celebrated author who has done a number of works on this. We had a calendar and a colouring book of Ojibway Shores.

With what is happening with climate change, I find that the opportunity for people to be engaged has been muted in some ways, because they feel that it is out of their control. They feel that there is no way they can actually have a correlation with it. I am trying to make a difference with this bill. Those who have been in support of it include Unifor, Friends of Ojibway, a series of other environmental individuals who have been involved in this, as well as the tourism industry and the businesses next to the area, because of flood mitigation.

They find that this project is giving them hope and an opportunity to have a real result. As I mentioned earlier, with COVID-19, outdoor public spaces are important. There is some use of these properties' outdoor spaces, but it is not coordinated. They are not coordinated or connected in the way they need to be, but they would be under this bill. That is what is exciting.

Even Parks Canada recently funded $600,000 in inventory for this region, as well as the subsequent affiliated regions, to better build the environment there, but still, without having this legislation, we do not have an official road map. We are missing out on opportunities to get funding. We are missing out on the private sector, which wants to invest heavily in this project to make sure it would be beautiful, beneficial and environmentally protected. This will also help with adjacent properties, as others from outside the region are supportive of the diversification we have down there.

We have seen bald eagles down there and kingfishers. There are all kinds of the different elements that are really important to actually reclaiming our environment in urban settings. That is one of the most important things about this. When I talk to students at schools, different people, it is incredible the response I get. Back in 2017, the Essex County Field Naturalists' Club ran an inventory and found that this was not scrub brush, which is what those at the port had said. They had told me for years that it was not worth saving. What the naturalists found were over 130 endangered species.

We still do not have a plan. What we have is an area that meets nine out of the 10 criteria to save the environment, which is one of the reasons the Province of Ontario was interested in this. It is why it is building a coalition of those there to support it. There are many different groups and organizations that have been a part of this. I have had Dr. David Suzuki down at the property. I have also even had different students and organizations.

When we look at the bill in its entirety, we see we have the opportunity to act. If we sit on our hands feeling sorry for ourselves about not being able to get it done, then we will miss out on unique opportunities.

This one is simple. It is all public land. It is all put together. It is almost ready-made. We need to do this for our future because it is to all our benefit.

Canada National Parks ActRoutine Proceedings

February 9th, 2022 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-248, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (Ojibway National Urban Park of Canada).

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to present this bill that would establish an Ojibway national park. It is the culmination of years, almost a decade, of work to bring this legislation forward. The proposal is to bring an Ojibway national urban park together with the properties of Ojibway Park, Spring Garden Natural Area, Black Oak Heritage Park, the Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, the Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve and Ojibway Shores, a vital 33-acre green space and the last remaining undeveloped national shoreline in Windsor-Detroit.

It is the home of over 130 endangered species. It is also very important as an environmental hot spot, being across from the United States and leading into southern Ontario and the rest of Canada. If connected, this will provide around 900 acres of parkland that will be very important, not just for the residents of our community but also for many people across the country, as national urban parks are strong and good pieces of infrastructure for our future.

I want to thank the drafters of the legislation through the legislative service processes. They did astounding work to get this done and I am very grateful and very excited about this opportunity. This is about positive politics and I am really pleased to be able to be part of this process and this vision, not only for our community but also our country.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)