Evidence of meeting #27 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was target.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Sue Milburn-Hopwood  Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment
Nadine Crookes  Executive Director, Natural Resource Conservation Branch, Parks Canada Agency
Rob Prosper  Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency
Mark Hopkins  Director General, Natural Resources and Environment Branch, Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Philippe Morel  Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Jeff MacDonald  Director General, Oceans and Fisheries Policy, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

3:40 p.m.


The Chair (Mrs. Deborah Schulte (King—Vaughan, Lib.)) Liberal Deb Schulte

Good afternoon. Welcome. It looks like we have everybody in the room, so we'll get started.

Sorry for the delay. We had a small delay with votes.

I would like to introduce all of those who are here to present to us today.

I'll start with the Department of the Environment: Sue Milburn-Hopwood, assistant deputy minister, Canadian Wildlife Service; Grant Hogg, director, stewardship and regional operations, Canadian Wildlife Service; and Olaf Jensen, manager, protected areas coordination, stewardship and regional operations, Canadian Wildlife Service.

From the Parks Canada Agency we have Nadine Crookes, executive director, natural resources conservation branch. We also have Rob Prosper, who is on a teleconference with us. He is vice-president, protected areas establishment and conservation.

From the Department of Fisheries and Oceans we have Philippe Morel, assistant deputy minister, ecosystems and fisheries management; and Jeff MacDonald, director general of oceans and fisheries policy.

From the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development we have Mark Hopkins, director general, natural resources and environment branch, northern affairs.

There you are. Thank you. Welcome to you all and thank you for joining us today.

I understand that the Department of the Environment is going to go first.

Thank you so much.

We'll turn it over to Ms. Milburn-Hopwood. Thank you.

3:40 p.m.

Sue Milburn-Hopwood Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment

Thank you very much.

Good afternoon, members of the committee. It's my pleasure to be back here with you.

My name is Sue Milburn-Hopwood. I am the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

I appeared before this Committee in May when I outlined the full range of federal protected areas and how they are integrated to achieve national and international conservation targets.

I am here today with my colleagues from Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, and Indigenous and Northern Affairs to build on that presentation and to answer your request to describe the progress that has been made in establishing protected areas, as well as to give you an update on our plans to meet Canada’s protected areas target:

By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.

With regard to the other questions we received from the committee, I anticipate that my remarks will answer those directed at Environment and Climate Change Canada, and I'll be happy to answer any follow-up questions you may have.

Since I was last here in May, the department published the third edition of “Canadian Protected Areas Status Report”, which covers the period from January 2012 to December 2015. I think the report was distributed to you with the remarks. I have a copy here. That's a really valuable document, with a lot of information in it. This report details the extent of protected areas across the country. It summarizes actions taken by governments to protect representative ecosystems, conserve biodiversity, safeguard ecosystem services, and improve connectivity. It also describes how we both plan and manage protected areas in co-operation with indigenous peoples and stakeholders. I would like to highlight some of the main findings from the report.

Protected areas have been established nationwide and can be found in each province and territory, as well as in all three oceans. The distribution of this protection varies across the country. For example, Canada comprises 18 terrestrial ecozones, 12 marine ecozones, and one freshwater ecozone, all of which have been protected to some degree. The percentage of protected terrestrial or marine area varies by ecozone, and in general terrestrial ecozones are more protected than marine ecozones. Additionally, southern regions of Canada have a higher concentration of small protected areas, while those in the north tend to be larger and more widely dispersed.

The establishment of protected areas continues to fall predominantly under government purview, with approximately 95% of Canada’s terrestrial and marine protected areas being governed by federal, provincial, or territorial governments. At the end of 2015, 10.6% of Canada's terrestrial area and 0.9% of its marine territory were recognized as protected. According to the report, Canadian governments have made firm commitments that are expected to increase these numbers to 11.8% and 2.3%, respectively.

For both terrestrial and marine areas, there are other opportunities to make further progress, but we don't yet have firm commitments. Since December 2015, new commitments have been made by the federal government with respect to marine protected areas. Philippe Morel of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Rob Prosper will speak to these later.

The report shows that over half of the reporting jurisdictions had strategies in place to guide the development and implementation of a network of protected areas. At the national level, there is a framework to guide the development and implementation of a network of marine protected areas; however, no such equivalent national framework exists for a terrestrial network. Rob Prosper will speak to efforts being made to develop such a framework for the terrestrial network.

Management planning, which is the setting of objectives and plans for achieving conservation targets within a protected area, is an important component of protected areas management. The report found that most governments made progress on the development and implementation of protected areas management, but the number of areas with up-to-date management plans remains low. Nearly all organizations identified challenges related to the management of protected areas, with the top challenges being a lack of staff for site management and a lack of resources for site monitoring in both the terrestrial and marine biomes.

Last, all governments emphasize the importance of collaboration with other governments, including indigenous governments and indigenous peoples, as well as with local communities and stakeholders in the establishment of protected areas. Notably, most had formal arrangements in place to engage these groups in the planning and management of protected areas.

At Environment and Climate Change Canada, we are continuing to work to establish two protected areas: the Edéhzhíe national wildlife area in the Northwest Territories and the Scott Islands marine national wildlife area off the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

Once established, the 14,250 square kilometre Edéhzhíe will be managed in co-operation with the Dehcho First Nation and the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Scott Islands will protect 11,546 square kilometres of marine habitat in one of the most productive and biologically diverse marine ecosystems, particularly for seabirds, on the Canadian Pacific coast.

While traditional protected areas such as ours play an important role in conserving Canada's biodiversity, actions taken by other sectors of society should not be overlooked. We recognize that other effective conservation measures could and should be counted toward Canada's terrestrial target, if these areas can be shown to effectively conserve biodiversity. For example, the conservation of privately owned land remains an important strategy, and it can be effective in conserving high-value land that is rich in biodiversity.

Environment and Climate Change Canada oversees the natural areas conservation program, which provides funding to the Nature Conservancy of Canada and other qualified organizations to acquire land for conservation purposes.

The government's habitat stewardship program for species at risk provides approximately $17 million every year to a number of organizations, including land trusts, to conserve, manage, and restore habitat.

The ecological gifts program offers tax benefits to land owners who donate land, or a partial interest in land, to a qualified conservation organization.

In addition to efforts of other sectors of society to conserve biodiversity, there is a global movement to create and recognize indigenous and community conservation areas, and Canada is well-positioned to make progress in this area. Since 1973, Canada has signed approximately 26 comprehensive land claim and self-government agreements, resulting in indigenous ownership of approximately 587,409 square kilometres of land, which is an area almost the size of Manitoba.

Indigenous peoples are increasingly playing a leadership role in the creation and management of protected areas. For example, the Wehexlaxodiale was established as a protected area in 2012 through the Tlicho land use plan law. Its 976 square kilometres are governed by the Tlicho people of the Northwest Territories and counts toward Canada's terrestrial targets.

At Environment and Climate Change Canada, all eight migratory bird sanctuaries and five national wildlife areas in the Nunavut settlement area are co-managed with Inuit people under the terms of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement.

In addition, the Nisutlin River Delta national wildlife area in Yukon was established as a result of the Teslin Tlingit Council Final Agreement, and it is co-managed with the Teslin Tlingit people. We collaborate because of our mutual interest in wildlife conservation.

The 2020 biodiversity goals and targets for Canada were developed collaboratively with the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, with input from national indigenous organizations, non-government organizations, businesses, scholars, and individual members of the public. Reaching these targets will require contributions by all of these groups, and more. When we look forward to 2020, it is evident that a concerted effort by governments and other sectors will be needed to reach our protected areas biodiversity targets.

On that note of collaboration and collective action, I will now turn to my colleagues with the Parks Canada Agency, who will, among other topics, inform you of a federal, provincial and territorial process to develop a pathway to achieve target one of the 2020 biodiversity goals and targets for Canada.

Thank you, committee.

3:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you.

Ms. Crookes, please proceed.

3:55 p.m.

Nadine Crookes Executive Director, Natural Resource Conservation Branch, Parks Canada Agency

Sorry, I think Rob is on the phone.

3:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Rob, you're up.

3:55 p.m.

Rob Prosper Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency

Madam Chair, thank you for the opportunity to appear again before this committee.

Our presentation will provide further details on the pathway to achieving target 1 of the 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada, and a status report on Parks Canada’s work to expand the national park and national marine conservation area systems.

3:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Can we have you stop for a minute? It looks like we've lost the translation. Hold on a moment.

Try that again. Just start from the top, please, and let's see if the translation is working.

3:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency

Rob Prosper

Our presentation will provide further details...

I think I'll just continue in English, because I hear the translation coming back at me.

3:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Actually, we have the translation. It's now working, so please, whatever language you'd like to proceed in would be fine. Thanks.

3:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency

Rob Prosper


Our presentation will provide further details on the pathway to achieving Canada target one of the 2020 biodiversity goals and targets for Canada and a status report on Parks Canada’s work to expand the national park and national marine conservation area systems.

I will first summarize the key points made to the committee during your visit to Jasper National Park on the development of a pathway to Canada target one, including protecting 17% of Canada’s terrestrial areas by 2020. As noted in our Jasper presentation, six of 13 provinces and territories, plus Parks Canada, have almost completed their park systems, and yet only 10.6% of Canada’s terrestrial and inland waters are currently protected. Clearly, much work is urgently required to reach the 17% target and to develop the next set of conservation targets for beyond 2020.

The vast majority of this percentage will need to come from provincial and territorial jurisdictions—this is where the opportunities lie—in the form of traditional protection means, as well as potentially new area-based tools that contribute to biodiversity, such as the emerging emphasis on indigenous protected areas. Federal, provincial, and territorial deputy ministers responsible for parks have established a national steering committee to develop a pathway to Canada target one, which is also known as Aichi target 11. This initiative will address the terrestrial target, while Fisheries and Oceans Canada will lead the work on the marine target of 10%.

Parks Canada and Alberta Parks are co-chairing the national steering committee, whose membership also includes directors from Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Environment and Climate Change Canada. We will complete the membership of the committee with representatives from three national indigenous organizations and one municipality. The national steering committee recognizes that other effective area-based conservation measures and indigenous protected areas could contribute significantly to achieving the 17% target and a national network of conservation areas.

The committee understands that the solutions to achieve Canada target one will only be found through collaboration and collective action. Governments, indigenous organizations, communities, and organizations across Canada have a significant interest in the outputs from this process. Accordingly, the national steering committee hopes to consult broadly with individuals who can provide a spectrum of perspectives, including indigenous organizations, academia, youth, industry, and non-governmental groups, perhaps in the form of a national panel.

As mentioned before, the pathway will include implementation guidance that will address the qualitative themes associated with Canada target one, Aichi target 11, including other effective conservation measures, indigenous conservation areas, ecological representation, important areas for biodiversity and ecological services, effective and equitable management, and connecting conservation areas and integrating them into the wider landscape. We can envision the need for expert groups to undertake targeted analysis to be considered by the steering committee and form part of the broader engagement with the spectrum of interested and implicated parties. The pathway will make full use of existing guidance prepared by the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, and by provinces and territories.

The national steering committee is aiming to deliver the pathway to Canada target one by the end of March 2018, but we also expect that this collaborative federal, provincial and territorial process will build the necessary momentum to generate the action required to achieve the target.

Finally, I want to affirm that we believe formal recognition of indigenous protected areas could contribute significantly to Canada target one. We are confident that the process we have described would support a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples based on respect, co-operation, partnership, and the recognition of rights.

I will now turn to the status of Parks Canada's terrestrial and marine systems plans.

Under the Parks Canada Agency Act, Parliament directed Parks Canada to maintain long-term plans for establishing systems of national parks and national marine conservation areas, NMCAs. The act confirms that Parks Canada is responsible for negotiating and recommending to our minister the establishment of new national parks and NMCAs. When it comes to expanding the national park and NMCA systems, Parliament was clear that we are to pursue new national parks under the Canada National Parks Act and NMCAs under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act. Thus, Parks Canada has not pursued other forms of protected areas to represent the 39 park regions and the 29 marine regions.

We have, however, adopted new ways of doing business, in particular with indigenous governments and organizations within the legal framework of our park and NMCA legislation, as well as with land claim agreements. This has allowed us to make substantive progress over the last 15 years, including establishing seven national parks totalling 82,437 square kilometres, establishing two new NMCAs totalling 14,380 square kilometres, and significantly expanding several existing parks by almost 32,000 square kilometres.

With respect to the national park system, 30 of 39 natural regions are represented by one or more national parks. Negotiations for the proposed Thaidene Nëné national park reserve, once concluded, will result in representation of the northwestern boreal uplands natural region. We are close to completing establishment agreements with the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation and the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, and we have started negotiation of an establishment agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Budget 2016 announced funding to establish Thaidene Nene as Canada’s 47th national park. To that end, we hope to achieve the signing and celebration of these three establishment agreements in 2017 as a gift to Canadians in our sesquicentennial year. Parks Canada is also advancing work on a proposed national park in the Manitoba lowlands. Should we secure the support of provincial and territorial governments and indigenous groups, we hope to engage on three additional proposals in the interior dry plateau of B.C., the northern interior plateaux and mountains region that straddles the B.C.-Yukon border, and the Southampton plains in Hudson Bay. If new national parks are achieved in all five of these regions, they will contribute up to 0.5% toward the 17% target. Currently, Parks Canada has no plans to abandon the existing national park system plan, but we may investigate how the system plan could be updated through the work of the target one subcommittee in “Beyond 2020: Setting the Stage for Future Conservation Targets”.

With respect to the NMCA systems plan, five of the 29 marine regions are represented by NMCAs. We have identified potential NMCAs in the 24 remaining regions, except for one on the west coast, and we have confirmed candidate sites in 11 of the 24 unrepresented marine regions. Of these 11, three are in the feasibility phase, and we are in discussions with the Cree Nation government with respect to a potential NMCA project in James Bay.

Budget 2016 also announced funding to establish an NMCA to protect the internationally significant Lancaster Sound. Parks Canada is working with the Nunavut government and the Qikitani Inuit Association to finalize recommendations on this proposal, including a proposed boundary.

In a significant development, on World Oceans Day this past June 8, Shell Canada Limited announced it had voluntarily relinquished a block of 30 exploratory permits covering more than 8,600 square kilometres to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which then returned them to the Government of Canada. These permits were located east of the 2010 federal boundary proposal, but within an area that Inuit communities want to see added to the NMCA.

We are working toward a substantive announcement in 2017 to mark Canada's sesquicentennial and to contribute to the government's goal of protecting 5% of Canada's marine estate by 2017.

That concludes my remarks, Madam. Thank you.

4:05 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much, Mr. Prosper.

We'll turn it over to Mr. Hopkins, with Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

4:05 p.m.

Mark Hopkins Director General, Natural Resources and Environment Branch, Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear here today.

When my colleague Allan MacDonald appeared here last May, he acknowledged that indigenous peoples' relationships to Canada's lands, waters, and natural resources are integral to their cultures and livelihoods. You've heard from a broad cross-section of witnesses, including government, industry, environmental non-governmental organizations, and indigenous organizations, and I have no doubt that a recurring theme has been how closely we all need to work with indigenous people in ensuring Canada's conservation goals are met.

Some of my colleagues here today are speaking to how they're engaging with indigenous peoples as they move forward on conservation initiatives within their own mandates. They're not only fulfilling the obligations they have under the Constitution and treaty agreements to consult with indigenous peoples, but they're also seeking for those consultations to be a meaningful and respectful dialogue that recognizes the importance of protecting aboriginal rights and balancing indigenous interests with other societal interests. It is in the development of that respectful relationship and dialogue that reconciliation between the crown and indigenous peoples is being advanced.

Each department with the responsibility for the creation and management or co-management of protected areas has, through their own practical experience with indigenous communities, developed the mechanisms and processes that work for those departments and communities.

INAC can provide advice to departments with respect to indigenous communities that may have rights or interests in their proposed protected areas, and where appropriate can advise on consultation requirements or expectations for a particular community. On-the-ground support for engaging with indigenous peoples may also be provided through regional offices, but each department is encouraged to work directly to develop their own relationships with indigenous communities.

I'd like to detail for the committee some of the work going on in the north that can contribute to Canada's conservation goals.

The north, as you've heard today and previously, is special, in no small part because most of the territories are covered by modern-day treaty agreements. These agreements modify how the federal government implements its own tools. They also provide tools for indigenous groups, in co-operation with territorial and federal governments, to plan for conservation and development through regional land use planning.

Under the Gwich’in and Sahtu agreements of the Northwest Territories and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, regional planning is carried out by a planning board that includes appointments from the indigenous groups, the federal government, and the territorial government. The board prepares a draft plan, and the two governments and indigenous organizations consider whether to approve it. Once the plan is approved, it is required to be implemented by federal and territorial regulators and landowners, including indigenous landowners.

To give you a sense of the importance of regional land use plans to achieving conservation goals, in the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories, an approved land use plan is in place that covers almost 284,000 square kilometres of the central part of the Northwest Territories, which is an area almost four times the size of New Brunswick. In that area, roughly 30,000 square kilometres are zoned for conservation, which is 10.5% of the Sahtu region that is identified through the land use plan as significant traditional, cultural, heritage, and ecological areas, and where land uses, such as mineral and oil and gas development, power development, forestry, and quarrying are not permitted.

In the Gwich’in region of the Northwest Territories, slightly to the north, the approved land use plan has also zoned roughly 10% as conservation for similar reasons and with similar restrictions on the activities that can take place in those zones.

A land use plan for all of Nunavut is under development that covers over two million square kilometres, or 20% of Canada's land mass. The plan is still being reviewed by stakeholders and indigenous communities.

It's important to note that the development and approval of the Nunavut-wide land use plan involves a complicated discussion of socio-economic and environmental interests with the intention of securing the long-term health of this land and its people.

To this end, it must be noted that land use prohibitions in the land use plan are only part of the environmental management system. The Inuit, the territorial government, and the federal government must ultimately agree concurrently on the right balance of conservation and economic activities for this land as demonstrated through the approval of the land use plan.

Regional land use plans are periodically reviewed and amended. This means they can also be responsive as new scientific or traditional knowledge comes to light that could indicate the amount of protection that is required for ecological or cultural values.

The plans can also be amended to account for the establishment of new federal conservation areas.

In short, in the territories where regional land use planning is established under modern treaties, the result has been and will continue to be a significant contribution to conserving lands and waters for ecological and cultural protection. Indigenous people, working in co-operation with governments, have identified significant tracts of land and water for effective protection.

On a broader scale, I would like to mention briefly the process established by the minister through a special representative. In March 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama issued a joint statement on climate, energy, and Arctic leadership, on the occasion of the state visit. In response to the commitments made in that statement, the Government of Canada has launched a process to engage partners in the development of a shared Arctic leadership model, part of which constitutes a new, ambitious conservation goal for the Arctic.

In August 2016, Canada appointed Ms. Mary Simon to provide advice on how to meet Canada's commitments under the joint statement. Ms. Simon is currently undertaking an engagement with a broad range of Arctic partners, including indigenous groups, territorial and provincial governments, industry, academia, and non-governmental organizations. This fall, the first phase of Ms. Simon's work will focus on developing advice on a new, ambitious conservation goal for the Arctic. In the winter, the second phase of Ms. Simon's work will continue in order to reach a final consensus on conservation goals and the development of a shared Arctic leadership model to address broader social, economic, and environmental issues raised during the engagement process.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today.

4:10 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much.

You actually went quite quickly. There is quite a bit of time left, but if you're willing, we'll move to Mr. Morel, from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

4:10 p.m.

Philippe Morel Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee.

Good afternoon. I would first like to thank you for inviting us today. We are pleased to support your interest in the government's efforts to protect our three oceans.

As you are aware, on June 8, 2016, as part of World Oceans Day celebrations, Ministers LeBlanc, McKenna and Bennett announced the government's five-point plan to meet its targets to increase marine and coastal protection to 5% by 2017 and 10% by 2020.

The background presentation circulated to you outlines how we will meet the targets and responds to several of the questions we were asked in advance of today’s session regarding the Government’s plan. You have also been provided with a written presentation to support my presentation today.

Before I outline the five elements of the plan, I would like to respond to many of your other questions regarding how we work with government partners, indigenous groups, marine industries, and others. To do so, let me take you on a quick tour of the country with a few examples of how we work with others.

In the Pacific, a major consultation was held in Richmond, B.C., in September to advance discussions about MPA, marine protected area, network development on the Pacific north coast to work towards identifying areas that will be protected by 2020.

In the Arctic, we held preliminary discussions with the co-management partners and local communities to gauge support for pursuing new sites in the Beaufort Sea by the 2020 target.

In the eastern Arctic, the department is meeting with Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated to discuss MPA establishment. This is an important step because MPAs will be subject to provisions in the land claim agreement. The department also worked with the INAC minister's special representative who will identify a new conservation target for the Arctic.

In the Newfoundland and Labrador shelves marine bioregion, we are discussing potential sites to support the 2020 target with the province's energy company, Nalcor Energy, with provincial officials and the fishing industry.

The department is consulting widely on the development of the MPA network on the Scotian Shelf which will produce two new MPA sites by 2020.

The department is also working closely with Quebec through the groupe bilatérale to advance MPA network development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and to establish the proposed Banc des Américains MPA and possibly the proposed St. Lawrence Estuary MPA.

Nationally, we continue to engage with indigenous organizations, provinces and territories, conservation groups, and others.

Now I would like to outline the five areas of our plan under which all of this robust collaboration takes place.

My colleague from Environment and Climate Change Canada has explained the important contribution of the Scott Islands marine national wildlife area, and my colleague from Parks Canada has explained also the important contribution of the Lancaster Sound national marine conservation area to this element as the 5% and 10% contributions.

First, in addition to these two initiatives, we are advancing a suite of five proposed marine protected areas under the Oceans Act. They are Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound glass sponge reefs in the Pacific, Anguniaqvia niqiqyuam, also known as Darnley Bay in the Arctic, St. Anns Bank in the eastern Scotian Shelf, the Laurentian Channel in the Newfoundland-Labrador shelves, and Banc des Américains located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

In addition to finishing what we started, we will also pursue the establishment of new large Oceans Act MPAs in pristine offshore areas. This is the second element of our plan. Large is considered to be more than 100,000 square kilometres.

Science is showing that there are benefits to protecting large pristine areas in a proactive and precautionary manner. While these areas are not currently facing significant pressures from human activities, the future interest in and future technological capability of marine industries to access offshore resources is likely.

Marine protection in such areas is a new avenue for Canada. Therefore, we are looking at international best practices from the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

We will determine the exact location and size of these areas in consultation with our partners, indigenous groups, marine industries, and other stakeholders.

Through continued work to advance the MPA network in priority bioregions, we will establish additional Oceans Act MPAs in areas under pressure from human activities.

The international marine conservation target allows countries to count the contribution made to marine biodiversity by other effective area-based conservation measures that we call “other measures”. Our approach for this fourth pillar of our plan to “other measures” is based on the 2016 Canadian science advisory secretariat advice, and considers guidance from the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN, task force on “other measures”.

We are currently finalizing our science-based criteria to assess how current measures, such as fishery closures, contribute to biodiversity conservation and to meeting our targets. “Other measures” may also include certain area-based species at risk critical habitat, and they may include some indigenous and community conservation areas.

As you may be aware, on September 16, at the Our Ocean Conference in Washington, Parliamentary Secretary Serge Cormier announced two new fishery closures that protect sensitive benthic areas that are home to deep sea coral species. These closures, Corsair and Georges canyons and Jordan Basin, are located in the Scotian Shelf bioregion. There are currently no oil and gas activities in those two areas. These areas are only lightly fished due to their difficult terrain and depth.

We recognize that the MPA establishment process under the Oceans Act from start to finish often takes more than five years. Therefore, for the last element of our plan, we are exploring how the Oceans Act can be updated to speed up the designation process for marine protected areas without sacrificing sound decision-making.

We will also look at how to improve the act's ability to implement the precautionary approach while incorporating the best available science. We are looking to streamline the current MPA designation process to create process efficiencies.

Consultations on the proposed amendments to the Oceans Act are planned for later this fall, with a view to tabling a draft bill in the spring of 2017.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to provide this briefing on the Government’s plan to meet its marine conservation targets.

We are pleased to respond to any questions you may have.

4:20 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much to all of you.

We'll open it up to questions, starting with Mr. Amos.

4:20 p.m.


William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Witnesses, it's wonderful to have you here, and in some cases, again.

Thank you, Ms. Crookes, for taking the time during our tour out west to meet with our group.

I have so many questions, I'll just jump right into it.

I'm thinking particularly of the complementary role that the Canadian wildlife service can play as regards the development of a representative series of protected areas across the country. Of course, the Canadian Wildlife Service doesn't deal with national parks. They deal with other protection mechanisms.

I wonder what specific steps have been taken by CWS to develop a proactive conservation protected area program. Is there a desire to put in place a more aggressive approach to achieve protection using the mechanisms that CWS is responsible for, recognizing that it's much easier to establish a national wildlife area than it is a national park?

4:20 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment

Sue Milburn-Hopwood

Thank you for your question.

There are a variety of things that I think we're doing that goes to the point you're getting at. First of all, we are working hard to get the Scott Islands and the Edéhzhíe established, and it's our top priority to get those into the system formally. Of course, the Scott Islands will be our first marine national wildlife area.

There are a number of other things we're doing that are outside of the national wildlife migratory birds area that are also contributing, but perhaps not on the same kind of scale, through programs like the aboriginal fund for species at risk, the habitat stewardship program, our ecological gifts program, and the natural areas conservation program. We are also investing in protection, largely on private lands, but not only on private lands. Perhaps that is some of the highest quality biodiversity that we're protecting.

Our future steps are going to be guided by two pieces moving forward. One will be the pathway to 17%, and the work we do with provinces and territories. We are also engaging stakeholders and indigenous people to figure out where we need to go to make sure that the appropriate parts of the country are covered, that we have the right quality, and that we have the connectivity that we need. That 17% process will be one of the important vehicles we look at to figure out where we need to go from there.

The second area relates to our fulfilling our mandate, which is related to migratory birds and species at risk. Within the Canadian wildlife service, we became a branch last spring. We are developing a strategic plan that is going to guide our future endeavours and particularly where we're going to focus our work. That will be going to areas that have high value for preserving species at risk or migratory birds. It will be a bit different to our approach with the south and the north because of the different situations.

The 17% along with our own strategic plan focused on migratory birds and species at risk will guide our future activities.

4:25 p.m.


William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

As a follow-up to that, this question is budgetary in nature. It's my understanding that the amount provided in budget 2016 for national park establishment was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $25 million. I'm not sure what the budget for the establishment of a national wildlife area or a migratory bird sanctuary area is, but I am aware that the amounts for the natural area conservation plan, the NACP you mentioned before, are far more significant.

Number one, is that, in your opinion, the appropriate weighting of investments?

Number two, is it fair to say that with more significant federal investments, whether it's in NWAs, migratory bird protected areas, or national parks, that we could move more quickly, more expeditiously, and more successfully toward protected areas across the board at Environment Canada?

4:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment

Sue Milburn-Hopwood

I think what we need to do is very much the process we've laid out here of a large federal, provincial and territorial process to figure out the plans, and to develop that framework for terrestrial area protection. Then I think it's time for us to think about the investments that we need, but I think we need the plan first.

4:25 p.m.


William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

I'm just thinking what my constituents would tell me. They would probably tell me that you can plan all you like, but there's a parks establishment plan that's in place, and has been for years, so let's get going and let's invest more. I know the parks don't happen overnight, but there are many protected areas we visited where they simply said that if there was money there and enough civil servants available to work with them toward achieving this, then they could go ahead. Would you disagree with that characterization, that the issue of resources is in...? Would you suggest that resources are in no way constraining park establishment, NWA establishment, or migratory bird area establishment?

4:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment

Sue Milburn-Hopwood

I'll repeat my point. We need to plan. We have enough resources to establish the two ones that we have.

4:25 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much.

Mr. Sopuck.

4:25 p.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Ms. Milburn-Hopwood, you used the phrase “recognized as protected”. Should private lands that are part of conservation programs such as the NACP, the habitat stewardship program, and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan be recognized as protected?

4:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment

Sue Milburn-Hopwood

We currently have a database where we are counting the areas that are what we consider protected. Those are the numbers that are in the report. That's a bit of a work in progress. We're increasingly working toward getting the private lands into that database, and the extent to which they're in it depends on the jurisdiction.

Many of the private lands is a very small contribution. They're very important contributions but in terms of a percentage, we haven't got all of them, and we're in various stages of working on that with the different provinces and territories.

I do think—

4:30 p.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

If I could interrupt as I don't have much time, and I apologize.

I vehemently disagree with your conclusion that private land, although small in area, contributes a small amount. Some of these in the southern working landscape are the most valuable and endangered landscapes in the entire country, so I think you might want to rethink that.

As to the management practices in these protected areas, what management practices are currently in place or do you envisage to protect ecological values? I'm thinking of things like burrowing owls, which require grazed lands. Do you see active management as being part of the protected areas program?