Evidence of meeting #30 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 parks.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Roger Hunka  Director, Intergovernmental Affairs, Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council
Anna Metaxas  Professor, As an Individual
Chris Miller  National Conservation Biologist, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
Karen Jans  Field Unit Superintendent Prince Edward Island, Parks Canada Agency
Kevin McNamee  Director, Protected Areas Establishment Branch, Parks Canada Agency
Joshua McNeely  Ikanawtiket Executive Director, Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council

October 20th, 2016 / 3:35 p.m.


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

I call the meeting to order.

Before we get started with our witnesses, I want to ask a couple of things, because I know some people have to leave a bit early, so I want to make sure we get these things sorted out.

I want you all to know that I have sent thank-you letters to all of those who helped us on our trip and were there showing us around and organizing the excellent experiences and the meetings that we had there. On behalf of the committee, we've sent letters out to all of the groups.

We also have letters going out to all the committees, asking them to study the work that the minister has done with the new strategy and talking about needing to embed the sustainable development principles through a whole-of-government approach to ensure significant progress. Anyway, we sent a letter in the hope that it will catch their attention and interest them in doing a little bit of work on that too.

We've just had Darren's bill come through to the committee. I would propose that we have that in front of the committee after we do the drafting instructions at the beginning of November. That would put it on Tuesday, November 15, and it's an act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. We're going to have one session. I think we can manage it in one session, unless things really go sideways.

3:35 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

We can call the Bloc as a witness.

3:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

All right, all right; we are in public.

The sponsor, Darren, is going to present as a witness. I think the normal process is that he presents to us and then the department will present.

Are there any other witnesses that people feel are necessary to bring forward on this, or can we just have the two of them present and then do a line by line examination? Is that good?

3:35 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Do you need a character witness?

3:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

All right, I haven't seen any opposition, so we're going to go forward with it that way.

The other issue is that the Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council has given us many documents. They are all in English. They are a great resource to review, but we don't have them in French and it would really be a massive undertaking to try to get them all done. We wouldn't be able to do it in time, so is there any issue with anyone around the table if we distribute these documents? They are only in English. Does anybody have any problem with that?

3:35 p.m.

An hon. member


3:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Then we'll be distributing those. Thank you very much. That was the business of the meeting.

Go ahead, Mr. Eglinski.

3:35 p.m.


Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Chair, again, we received another piece of correspondence late in the morning, and I know it's not the staff. I believe the witnesses are supposed to send the documentation in ahead—

3:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Well, not necessarily; we ask that they do, but it's not mandatory.

3:35 p.m.


Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

It's not mandatory. It just makes it so difficult for us to look at it and try to study it and maybe do a little research when we have such little time.

3:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

The witnesses are here to make statements in front of us. It's extra, a bonus, if we get their submissions ahead of time. It's not something we're requesting our people to do. We ask to have them, if they can provide them, but as you know, many of them don't have a lot of time between when we ask them to come and when they appear. They spend a lot of time preparing these statements, and some of them are working on them right up to the last minute before they come before us.

I hear you, and where they can, I know they do try. It's not always possible, but thanks, Jim. We do try. We do ask them to send it if they have it.

3:35 p.m.


Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

I'm just a little bit older and I read a little more slowly than I used to.

3:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

That's okay. I'm right there with you.

Are there any other comments before we get into a session with our guests?

I'd like to welcome our guests. We have three from the Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council. We have Roger Hunka. Is that how you say it? I want to make sure I am saying it right, but I'm probably not.

3:35 p.m.

Roger Hunka Director, Intergovernmental Affairs, Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council

It's just like the song: a hunka-hunka—

3:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Okay. Welcome, Roger.

We also have Jessica Seward and Joshua McNeely. Thank you very much for being here with us today.

We have a couple of people by video conference. We have Anna Metaxas on my right. Welcome, Anna. Thank you for being here with us.

From Parks Canada, we have Kevin McNamee. Did I get it right? I got it wrong on Tuesday and I do apologize for that. He's the director of protected areas establishment branch. We also have Karen Jans, who is a field unit superintendent from Prince Edward Island. Thank you very much for being here.

We also have Chris Miller. He's also on video conference with us and he's the national conservation biologist for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Thank you for joining us as well today.

We have lots of witnesses in front of us and we have a lot or work to do, so we'll get started. If everyone's all right, we'll get started with the Maritime Aboriginal People's Council.

3:35 p.m.

Director, Intergovernmental Affairs, Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council

Roger Hunka

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Our presentation is fairly lengthy. We did hand out the presentation, so I will not read it throughout; however, I will comment on some paragraphs—it's produced in paragraph form—and I'll leave the rest for you to read during your leisure.

Again, on behalf of the chief and president of the Native Council of Nova Scotia, the chief and president of the New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council, as well as the chief and president of the Native Council of Prince Edward Island, and on behalf of Joshua McNeely, the executive director of Ikanawtiket, and Jessica Seward, who is our species at risk specialist, thank you for inviting us to this important panel.

I will skip paragraphs 1 through 9, which basically give a fairly good extensive background about the councils and their work, as well as a number of publications that we have produced over time. In paragraph 11 specifically we present the panel with some reports on the case study of the eastern Scotian Shelf integrated management plan, known as ESSIM, as well as some samples of other work we have done. We have also included a map of population numbers so you can understand the on-reserve population as well as the off-reserve population. The maps will be speaking about the experiences of the off-reserve aboriginal peoples in the three maritime provinces.

Again, we'll skip paragraphs 12 through 16 and go to paragraph 17. It's a quote, but it's an important quote that will help you understand where we're coming from:

There is a conflict of values and a diversion of interests between the homocentric western oriented Canadian (worldview) and the ecocentric Indian Nations of Peoples (worldview). At the heart of this problem lies the fundamental issue of value perceptions.

Paragraph 19 says we would like to share and speak on a few fundamental issues.

Paragraph 20 says that it is trite, but worthy to repeat, that mainstreaming sustainable development at all levels, “through the whole of all governments within the Federation of Canada”, is an absolute necessity, as is the need to integrate the aspects of economics, civil society, and the environment.

These three—and we should also submit a fourth necessity, visionary leadership—are prerequisites to begin to adopt sustainable development in all of its dimensions and demonstrate respect for Mother Earth and her natural resources and her natural forces, which sustain all life forms on Mother Earth.

I will skip through paragraph 21, which ends by saying that aboriginal people's knowledge reveals that the future of humanity hinges on establishing a living life pattern based on a culture of life. Foremost to achieving this mind shift and this ethics shift is that states need to replace their current material-focused development models with models that place life, complementariness, reciprocity, respect for cultural diversity and sustainable use of natural resources, as the principal priorities of progress over individual greed, indulgence, and materialism.

From an indigenous person's perspective, no one person is able to comprehend the enormity of creation and the purpose and place of personkind on earth except the Creator, who has created all. It is from the divine that this great mystery emerges.

In paragraph 23 I'm going to relate a little insight into an aboriginal teaching, which may shed, again, more light to you.

It is told that a great bear came in a vision to the grandmother of the Mi'kmaq Nation. The bear spoke about the love of the Creator for the L'nu and said the Creator would never allow the true human to be destroyed on earth. The prayers of remorse have been heard, she was told, and the L'nu must accept a new teaching to be saved on earth. The bear said to the grandmother, “Creator has given to each true human three spirits. They each have a name and a purpose. The names are ‘safe journey’, ‘wise council’ and ‘full provision.’”

"Safe journey" is given for protection and worship. Life on earth is a sacred journey. "Wise council" is given for peace and community. A time will come when all of the L'nu will live in community with one another. "Full provision" is given for assurance that everything the L'nu need for a good life has been provided to them on their land.

Moving to paragraph 26, we learn that a task that escapes reality escapes a fundamental truth: to preserve or sustain for the future, we ourselves must be prepared to sacrifice and drop our greed, giving thanks for what we have to sustain us rather than amassing and regaling ourselves with gold and trinkets and the fallacy of wealth creation as a culture guaranteeing eternal life.

Why does Canada set aside lands and waters as protected areas? If Canada is a society that truly believes in conservation and sustainable use with equitable sharing, as Canadians everywhere believe they do, then what is the purpose of designating 17% of our land mass and 10% of our water mass to be protected? What of the other 83% and 90%? Are they not protected, and why not?

Skipping to paragraph 31, what recommendations could possibly result from an itemization of national parks, protected areas, etc., when every day all of us in this room and every person in this federation of the peoples of Canada can point to an activity, works, project, or development that is not sustainable and that continues to reveal repercussions from the approval decisions—irreparable harm to biodiversity, scarred habitats, changed landscapes, polluted lakes and rivers, the renaming of lakes to become toxic effluent tailings ponds, wetlands diverted by channels to become dry and barren, and on and on? We shake our heads and wonder when it will end and how we can return to celebrate the culture of life as the eternal truth of our belonging to Mother Earth.

The Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council has been involved and continues to be involved in marine protected areas in the Maritimes. For 10 years after we started on the voyage and for four years since, DFO submitted the St. Anns Bank for approval to Ottawa. They're still awaiting an answer.

During the intervening period, Ottawa cancelled the eastern Scotian Shelf integrated management planning initiative, ESSIM, which had been brought forward and worked on by governments, industry, academics, aboriginal rights holders, and members of the public for several years to be the umbrella management mechanism under which other initiatives, such as MPA planning, would fit. During the intervening years, Ottawa had also begun the dismantling of DFO science and putting any talk about MPA selection management on a slow back burner.

St. Anns Bank alone could account for 4,364 square kilometres of protected area. It is true that MPA development by a true group of interests for a true purpose with a true intent of stakeholders and rights holders, with DFO leadership, was driven upwards, but thus far it has been denied from the top.

I'll move to paragraph 37. We would hope that 44 years after the Stockholm declaration, 29 years after the Brundtland commission, 24 years after Rio Agenda 21, and 14 years after the Johannesburg declaration, we would be able to say that 100% of Canada is conserved and sustainably used and that the benefits of Canada's vast resources are fairly and equitably shared. Obviously, we are not there. Tallying the results of your assessments and their acreages won't get us there either. How are we to achieve Aichi target 11 when we are not even talking in Canada about Aichi Targets 1, 2, 3, and 4?

We leave you with a thought from a leading expert on marine protected areas, Dr. Peter Lawless of New Zealand, who recently visited Canada, the United States, and Australia to compare and contrast those states' methods for engaging their citizens in marine protected areas conservation, such as Canada's experiences with the Gully off the coast of Nova Scotia with those of New Zealand, such as the New Zealand government's engagement of the Maori for the conservation, sustainable use, and equitable sharing of benefits from the Hikurangi marine protected area and the Marlborough marine area.

His visit also included an extensive meeting with MAPC. Thereafter, Mr. Lawless concluded:

The Mi 'kmaq experience is very familiar in outline with the Ngati Kuri history of occupation. Their current situation, however, reflects the complexity of the Canadian relationship with their indigenous citizens and a relative failure to fully grasp the nettle of reconciliation and recompense. It is notable that all parties operate in a far more legally focused frame than New Zealanders would be accustomed to. In the absence of an equivalent of the Waitangi Tribunal, the parties fall back on the courts, which are not really well constituted to research and resolve historical grievances. Policy, networking, [and] the methodology for marine protected areas formation are all weak, and the targets set by the Liberal Government are impractical without a brutal, top-down approach that would offend against its other principles of collaboration.

We have also provided the committee with a fair amount of documentation that you can review.

Marine protected areas or terrestrial protected areas require citizens' engagement. It is citizens who make it happen, not government alone. It's not a legal prescript that will do anything; we need to have it bottom-up and approved at the top, not the other way around.

With that, wela'lin.

We're prepared to answer any questions, or add more, or read more—whatever you wish.

Thank you very much.

3:50 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much, Mr. Hunka

We're going to hear from everybody, and then we'll open up to questions.

Thank you.

We'll move to Anna Metaxas, please.

3:50 p.m.

Dr. Anna Metaxas Professor, As an Individual

Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee, for the invitation to speak before you as part of your study.

I have been conducting fundamental research that relates directly to key principles used in the design of marine protected areas—in particular, connectivity—as well as doing more applied research that directly pertains to particular areas under consideration or existing for about 20 years.

Most recently, my research group provided the data that led to the closures of Eastern Jordan Basin and Corsair and Georges Canyons as sensitive benthic areas in the Maritimes.

In addition to my research, I regularly provide advice to national and international fora, such as the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat process on the design of marine protected areas, the Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents Area Technical Advisory Committee, and the European Commission on the development of a strategic environmental management plan for the Atlantic Ocean.

In my opening statement today I want to focus on three main points about the science of marine protected areas.

I would like to start with the fact that extensive evidence that is published in the scientific literature supports the design of networks of MPAs that encompass at least 10% of the ocean, include a variety of ecosystems and habitats, and constitute a coherent assemblage of individual but linked MPAs.

The scientific literature has shown that a target of 30% is needed to effectively protect both the biodiversity and the ecosystem services that the ocean provides. In fact, in 2014, the World Parks Congress also recommended a target of 30% no-take MPA coverage worldwide.

The level of protection within an MPA will determine its effectiveness. Full protection is more effective than partial protection. Zoning of MPAs can allow some portions to be completely protected from any human activities and maximize benefits.

Protection should be provided for the long term, in perpetuity. The scientific literature has indicated that recovery of ecosystems can take many years and depend on a number of factors, such as the types of organisms, the uniqueness of the habitat, and the isolation of the MPA. For example, in our work we have shown that recovery of deepwater corals was not consistent after 11 years of protection. A review of the global scientific literature on MPAs indicated that it was only after 15 years that the positive effects of protection on fish became consistent.

MPAs are meant to protect a variety of species, habitats, and ecosystems, each with different characteristics. Therefore, MPAs cannot all be created equal. For example, the coastal and offshore environments have very different spatial extents, species, linkages with neighbouring habitats, and remoteness. Species can have very different lifestyles, occupy areas of different size, and move over different distances. Habitats can be unique and vulnerable, or not. Connections between areas can exist because of animal movement or because of exchange of resources and materials. All these factors will be important in deciding the size of individual MPAs, as well as the spacing between MPAs in a network.

It is important to remember that a network is defined as a collection of individual MPAs or reserves operating co-operatively and synergistically, at various spatial scales, and with a range of protection levels that are designed to meet objectives that a single reserve on its own cannot.

The second point I would like to make is to stress the importance of monitoring, which is the collection of data in a regular and systematic way to assess the effectiveness of MPAs in meeting their conservation targets.

Monitoring requires clear and measurable targets such as a percentage increase in a population within an MPA, or a difference in average size of a species, or a population inside versus outside the MPA. It requires the collection of data in an unbiased, scientific way that can directly measure change. Monitoring before the establishment of MPAs can collect baseline data in areas with little to no available information on habitats and ecosystems. Monitoring must be spatially and temporally efficient to balance available capacity with sufficient data.

According to DFO, Canada’s ocean estate covers a surface area of approximately 7.1 million square kilometres. Of that, 10% is 710,000 square kilometres; and 30% is more than 2.1 million square kilometres. That's a vast expanse.

Some MPAs will be placed in remote locations, such as offshore or in the Arctic. Clearly, monitoring must be planned carefully, because it can consume many resources, but without monitoring we will not know how we are doing. We will not have a scorecard.

The third point I would like to make is that the scientific literature points to adaptive management as the best way to address ineffective protection. Adaptive management is an iterative process of decision-making that aims to reduce uncertainty by continuously evaluating new information in light of the conservation objectives and, if needed, making adjustments—that is, learning by doing. For example, if the precautionary approach is used in the initial design because of data gaps, the design can be modified as data come in. Boundaries may be adjusted or zoning considerations may be revisited if the proposed zoning proves ineffective.

Adaptive management is an extremely useful tool, because it can be applied when monitoring indicates that management action does not meet its targets or when information availability increases in areas with initially low baseline data or when conditions change as a result of local human pressures or climate change.

To be successful, adaptive management requires effective monitoring and transparency, but if adopted, it allows for network design to proceed even in the absence of extensive data, because adjustments can be made along the way.

To summarize, extensive scientific evidence exists to inform the design of networks of MPAs, to support efficient monitoring of the effectiveness of MPAs, and to recommend adaptive management of MPAs.

Next, I would like to present three suggestions on the way forward.

One has to do with a management plan.

Each MPA and MPA network should have a clear management plan that ensures efficient monitoring and evidence-based assessment of effectiveness. To determine effectiveness, MPAs must have clear conservation priorities and measurable targets, as well as criteria for determining whether the targets are being met. Additional targets should be defined for the network of MPAs in a region, reflecting the conservation priorities that can be achieved only by the interconnectedness of individual MPAs. Systematic monitoring will measure targets and assess them using indicators of effectiveness. There are a large range of indicators recommended in the scientific literature, and an effective management plan should select the ones that are most appropriate for the particular conservation priority.

As I mentioned before, it should be recognized that evidence will need to be collected over long periods—likely more than a decade—to determine effectiveness.

The second recommendation has to do with counting toward the 10% and beyond.

It is very unlikely that Canada will meet the 10% target by 2020 using MPAs established only under the Oceans Act. Current MPAs, as well as areas proposed by DFO, Parks Canada, and Environment Canada, cover only approximately 1.5%. It is my understanding from discussions with ocean managers that it takes an average of seven years to establish an MPA under the Oceans Act. Inclusion of other effective area-based conservation measures needs to be considered. However, the appropriateness of each of these measures must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Specific questions that need to be addressed include the following: Do these areas fall under the federal marine protected area strategy following the strategic priorities of any of the three core federal programs? Additionally, are these areas spatially defined? Do they have clear conservation objectives and targets? Are they managed year-round, over the long term, or in perpetuity?

Here I would also like to reiterate that the scientific evidence recommends a target of 30%, not 10%. Our only chance to meet this more effective target within a reasonable time frame is to give these other measures serious consideration for inclusion.

The third point has already been suggested, which is to increase public engagement. Relevant government agencies should use a systematic approach to provide the Canadian public with the current scientific evidence on MPAs. Specifically, they should provide information on the current status of MPAs in Canada: What are the targets we have committed to, and what is the proposed timeline for achieving them? How close are we currently to our target? What are the conservation priorities for MPAs? What are the different types of MPAs, and who is responsible for managing them?

They should present the scientific evidence on important design elements for effective MPAs, such as size, location, and full versus partial protection. They should also present the scientific evidence on the benefits of effective MPAs, such as increased biodiversity, increased biomass, and protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems and critical habitat.

A recent study with a survey of Canadians on their perception on 10 ocean-derived benefits reported that “clean waters” is highly important to them, and 83% of Canadians favoured non-extractive rather than extractive benefits from the ocean. Informed Canadians can better assess ecological, sociological, and economic trade-offs and decide on their willingness to pay for MPAs.

In closing, I would be happy to address any comments or any questions by the committee.

Thank you.

4 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much. We will definitely have questions, but we're going to hear from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society first.

4 p.m.

Dr. Chris Miller National Conservation Biologist, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today.

My name is Chris Miller. I'm the national conservation biologist with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, based in Halifax.

I've worked on protected area issues in Nova Scotia for about 20 years. This work has included a lot of collaboration with the provincial government, but it has also involved working closely with local communities as well as forest companies that have expressed an interest in protected areas.

Over that time, I’ve seen Nova Scotia make big strides in expanding its system of protected areas. The province has risen from near the bottom of the pack for total percentage of land allocated for protected areas to its current position as third in Canada, behind only British Columbia and Alberta.

If you look at Atlantic Canada as a whole, generally this part of the country lags behind in the creation of new protected areas. At the moment, jurisdictions with the lowest percentages of protected areas in Canada are Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

There are reasons for that. In the Maritimes, there is much less public land than elsewhere in Canada, so establishing large tracts of public lands as protected wilderness can be more challenging. It often requires significant investments by the provincial governments to acquire private lands for conservation. The Maritimes also lacks that vast northern area that every other jurisdiction in Canada has. This makes it difficult to achieve protected area targets using a few very large protected areas. Instead, lots of smaller sites need to be established, which can require a considerably longer time to do the necessary analysis and consultations.

Despite that, Nova Scotia has managed to outperform a number of other provinces that don’t have such obstacles, such as Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba. I’d like to explore some of the reasons for that, but first it should be noted that Newfoundland and Labrador is a bit of an exception in this regard. It does have a lot of public land and it does have a vast northern region that can support very large protected areas, yet it still has a very poor track record.

The reasons for that are harder to explain, but I remain optimistic. The provincial government in Newfoundland and Labrador has taken a number of important steps in the past few years to improve their performance on protected areas. They formalized the completion of the Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve in Labrador, which increased the total amount of protected areas in the province by nearly 50%. This is also now the largest protected area in eastern North America. The provincial government has also indicated that it will finally establish the natural areas systems plan, which is a long-stalled system of protected areas that was created in the 1990’s but was never formally designated. We are still waiting to see the details on that.

In Nova Scotia, the provincial government has committed to establishing about 200 new protected areas, totalling a quarter of a million hectares. It has also invested several hundred million dollars to acquire ecologically significant lands for conservation through direct land purchases and also by setting up a conservation fund to support land trusts.

These are big numbers for a small province. I was part of the small team of experts who selected those protected areas, working directly with provincial government staff, so I can attest to their conservation significance. They are good sites that are important for conservation. They are not the easy sites of low conservation value.

There are many reasons for the success in Nova Scotia. First of all, protected area targets and timelines were enshrined in a piece of provincial legislation called the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act. This legislation requires annual reporting on progress toward environmental goals, so it's very helpful in ensuring that the government remains on track to achieve its protected area targets.

The Nova Scotia government was also open to collaboration with stakeholders early on. In our case, several environmental groups reached out to the forest industry and worked together to develop a jointly supported protected area proposal. This process was called the Colin Stewart Forest Forum and was a made-in-Nova Scotia solution to our poor performance on protected areas. The provincial government agreed early on to embed our joint ENGO and industry process within the formal provincial government process to create new protected areas.

The Nova Scotia government also agreed to do systematic conservation planning rather than take a piecemeal approach. Designating protected areas one at a time is a recipe for slow implementation and missed targets. Instead, Nova Scotia selected 200 protected areas all at once, as a system, and is now proceeding to designate these areas in batches.

I think it's also important to note that there is deep public support for conservation in Nova Scotia that transcends the political spectrum. The initial protected area targets and timelines were set by the Progressive Conservatives in 2007. The final plan was developed and approved by the NDP in 2013, and the current Liberal government is now proceeding with implementation and officially creating the new protected areas.

I hope that the review being undertaken by this committee will take a close look at some of the successes in Nova Scotia and learn from our work. This is the biggest contribution that Nova Scotia can make toward the national 17% protected areas target. Full implementation of the Nova Scotia protected areas plan will not move the national protected area levels very much—we are a small province—but despite the obstacles in our way toward creating new protected areas, Nova Scotia has found a path toward meaningful contributions and has done a lot of heavy lifting to show how this can be done.

What specific help is needed from the federal government right now for protected areas in Nova Scotia?

The first is about marine protected areas. Please be ambitious with marine conservation and support the marine protected areas planning that's under way by DFO. Ensure that the minimum 10% targets are achieved and surpassed in the marine areas on the east coast. This is the single most important thing that the federal government can do in Atlantic Canada to help achieve the national protected areas targets.

Second, in 2013 the federal government protected Sable Island as a national park reserve but unfortunately failed to close a loophole that allows oil and gas exploration to occur inside the national park boundary. Please close that loophole. No oil and gas exploration should be occurring here. Nova Scotians care deeply about Sable Island.

Third, there is a very special place near Halifax called the Birch Cove Lakes. This near-urban wilderness area is very important to Haligonians. The provincial government has protected the public lands in this area, and the municipal government has declared that it wants this wilderness to become a regional park. Unfortunately, the city has failed to acquire the necessary private lands to make the park a reality, with developers owning a key piece of the future park. The federal government should help the city acquire those lands. This is a critical piece of green infrastructure for Halifax and would be compatible with the federal legislation that created Rouge National Urban Park near Toronto and the protection of Gatineau Park near Ottawa.

With that, I'll end my remarks. I would be happy to take questions.

Thank you.

4:10 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much.

We're going to hear from one more witness. We're going to hear from Karen Jans.

Go ahead, please.

4:10 p.m.

Karen Jans Field Unit Superintendent Prince Edward Island, Parks Canada Agency

Thank you and good afternoon, Madam Chair, distinguished members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen.

It’s an honour to be with you today to share how Parks Canada Agency protects and presents nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, including one of Canada’s smallest and most visited national parks, Prince Edward Island National Park.

I’ll first provide you with a brief contextual summary of the characteristics of our national park and the environment in which it is located. I will then share with you examples of how we work with our local stakeholders and communities to address challenges and explore opportunities of mutual interest.

Established in 1937, Prince Edward Island National Park encompasses an area of approximately 22.2 square kilometres. This includes 16.4 square kilometres of land that has already been protected under the Canada National Parks Act, as well as an additional 5.8 square kilometres of land on the Greenwich peninsula, which will be protected under the act within the next 10 years. An additional 13.3 square kilometres of federal crown land adjacent to the park is also managed by Parks Canada. Since the 1950s, Parks Canada has been acquiring these adjacent lands in order to buffer the park from development and to compensate for the loss of coastal lands that are eroding from natural causes.

The park hugs the north shore of Prince Edward Island in three distinct sections: Cavendish in the west, Brackley-Dalvay in the centre, and Greenwich in the east. Parcels of adjacent federal crown land in the Cavendish area of the park are leased to local farmers to farm, contributing to the cultural landscape characteristic of Prince Edward Island.

Known for its warm sandy beaches, beautiful scenery, network of trails, and popular campgrounds, Prince Edward National Park is a major tourism attraction on Prince Edward Island. The beaches in the park are the premier attraction and have been valued as recreational areas for more than a century. The park also includes Dalvay-by-the-Sea National Historic Site, as well as Green Gables Heritage Place, the inspiration for Lucy Maud Montgomery’s internationally renowned Anne of Green Gables. On average, the park hosts more than 450,000 visitors annually, concentrated within an 8- to 10-week period during the peak summer season.

Developing new and innovative programs and services allows more Canadians, including youth and newcomers, to experience the outdoors and learn about our environment and history. For example, hiking and cycling have increased in popularity within the park with the development of an extensive network of trails.

As Canada’s largest provider of natural and cultural tourism, Parks Canada’s destinations form important cornerstones for Canada’s local, regional, and national tourism industry, and this is certainly true in Prince Edward Island. Given that tourism represents close to 7% of the gross domestic product of P.E.I.’s seasonal economy, Parks Canada plays a critical role within this sector.

I would now like to share with you examples of how we work with our local stakeholders and communities to address challenges and explore opportunities of mutual interest.

There are two partner Mi’kmaq first nations on Prince Edward Island. The Lennox Island and the Abegweit bands together have incorporated as the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of Prince Edward Island to work on their behalf and advance their common goals.

Parks Canada is privileged to partner with the Mi’kmaq Confederacy through an memorandum of understanding. We enjoy a highly collaborative relationship where we cost-share a salaried position, meet regularly to discuss issues and opportunities, and define joint projects to undertake.

One of the more recent high-profile joint initiatives is the very successful travelling exhibition entitled “Ni’n na L’nu: The Mi’kmaq of Prince Edward Island”. The Canadian Museum of History has honoured this exhibition by including it in its prestigious international travelling exhibition catalogue.

Another example is the staging of Mi'kmaq Legends in the park, a performance-based interpretative experience developed and delivered by first nations youth.

In 2013, Parks Canada created the Parks Canada-Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island advisory group to facilitate effective and timely communications, as well as to provide a regularized forum for strategic engagement. All new visitor experience investment initiatives are developed within a fully integrated framework.

A prime example of that approach is the recently completed Robinsons Island multi-use trail. This initiative saw the decommissioning of an old 1950s campground, restoration of the land, and the creation of an eight-kilometre looped trail designed to attract young families. The trail includes mountain biking technical features, interactive interpretive nodes conveying Mi’kmaq connection to the land, key natural and cultural heritage features, and stakeholder stories.

The trail was designed in consultation with the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of Prince Edward Island, stakeholders, and special interest groups such as Cycling PEI, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Island Nature Trust, and Nature PEI.

We have engaged youth groups, including the Girl Guides and environmental study students from the University of Prince Edward Island, as volunteers in the planting of thousands of tree seedlings as part of the effort to restore the Acadian forest on Robinsons Island and throughout the national park.

In 2015, Parks Canada entered into a memorandum of understanding with the University of Prince Edward Island. Undergraduate students, faculty, and graduate researchers in the areas of environmental studies, climate change, and sustainable design engineering engage with our staff to use the park as a living laboratory. Together with the university, we continue to explore how we may build on this very successful collaboration to enable evidence-based decisions that advance adaptive management and resilience of cultural and natural ecosystems in a dynamic coastal environment.

Finally, Madam Chair, I will address the ecological integrity of the national park.

Maintenance and restoration of ecological integrity is the first priority of national parks. Studies have indicated that between 1990 and 2010, due to coastal erosion, we have lost approximately 9.3 hectares of gazetted parkland per year, for a total of 186 hectares. The term “coastal squeeze” best describes the impact of a coastline that is migrating inland while infrastructure remains static.

Prince Edward Island National Park is reducing the impacts of visitation and infrastructure footprint by concentrating investments on improving those facilities most used by visitors or required for operations, repurposing or decommissioning the remainder, and restoring the land.

Since 2008, the infrastructure footprint has been reduced in the forested ecosystem by 156,000 square metres and in the coastal ecosystem by 3,200 square metres.

Parks Canada is currently in the process of consulting with Canadians on a new 10-year Prince Edward Island National Park management plan.

Parks Canada's many partners and stakeholders, including the Mi'kmaq first nations, have helped to create the draft plan, which sets clear strategic direction for the management and operation of the park by articulating a vision, key strategies, and objectives. It recognizes that improved park stewardship can only be truly achieved by working together, by creating connections for visitors and Canadians to the natural and cultural environment, and by embracing new and innovative approaches to sharing the stories of the people, the sea, and the land.

Once consultations have been completed in the fall of 2016, the plan will be revised and the final version will be tabled in Parliament in the spring of 2017.

In conclusion, Madam Chair, I trust that committee members will acknowledge that while Prince Edward Island National Park is a small national park within a small province, it undoubtedly has a large span of influence and consequence from both the cultural and natural heritage protection and the socio-economic perspectives.

Canada's national parks and national historic sites enable Canadians to experience their rich history and heritage in a special way, and these will play a big part in the celebration of Canada's 150th birthday next year.

Thank you for the privilege of presenting today.

4:15 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much. I really appreciate the time and depth of information that you've all brought forward today.

We'll start with questions.

Mr. Gerretsen is first.

4:15 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I have a number of questions, so I apologize in advance if I cut you off. I really need to move through them.

My first one is for Mr. Miller.

You spoke about Sable Island and the oil exploration that's occurring and things that could be done to improve the situation, and you talked about closing a loophole.

Can you explain a little more what that loophole is and perhaps provide some feedback as to why it has not been closed, to this point?

4:15 p.m.

National Conservation Biologist, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Dr. Chris Miller

Thank you.

Because Sable Island is a fairly new national park, the legislation that created it is only a few years old; it was from 2013. Predating that was the Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act, which guides the exploration of oil and gas off the coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. That particular piece of legislation contains a paramountcy clause, which says that legislation prevails over all other legislation.

Whereas the Canada National Parks Act is very clear that oil and gas exploration is not allowed to occur inside national park boundaries, in the single case of Sable Island in this case, another piece of legislation overrides it.

At the time Sable Island was being designated—and perhaps Kevin McNamee from Parks Canada might want to elaborate, as this was one of his files—CPAWS proposed a number of amendments to the offshore accord implementation act that matches the intention of the Canada National Parks Act—a very simple amendment that would say that oil and gas exploration is not allowed to occur on the island.