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.