Madam Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the member Churchill River and the NDP parks critic, I am very glad to speak on Bill C-38, an act to amend the National Parks Act.
The purpose of this bill is to establish the boundaries for a new national park in Canada's western Arctic called Tuktut Nogait. New Democrats support Bill C-38. Tuktut Nogait national park is an important step toward the completion of the Parks Canada objective for national parks, to protect for all time representative natural areas of Canadian significance in a system of national parks and to encourage public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of this natural heritage so as to leave it unimpaired for future generations.
Our system of national parks and national historic sites is one of Canada's, indeed the world's, greatest treasures. This noble effort began a century ago with Banff National Park and continues with Tuktut Nogait today. This vision for the preservation of Canada's natural spaces rests on a fundamental principle to protect a representative sample of each of our special landscapes. Canada was divided into 39 distinct national park natural regions with physiology and vegetation as a basis for policy to achieve this goal.
To date just over 60% of this goal has been completed. A great deal of work and political leadership is required to complete the vision. Unfortunately it is not expected that the noble effort of the national park system will be completed by the Liberal government by the year 2000, another failed promise.
Tuktut Nogait national park is representative of the tundra hills, a unique region of the Canadian shield. This tundra landscape includes spectacular river canyons, areas of scientific interest, archeological sites and abundant wildlife. Elevated areas within the park's boundaries are designated as refugia. A refugium is an area with a population of organisms that can survive through periods of unfavourable conditions. Northern Yukon is the only other comparable area of the mainland Arctic with similar biota. Canadians will recall that this government abandoned a glacial refugium in Alberta.
In this park evidence of human use and occupation over the last millennium exists. Protection of the hundreds of archeological sites is imperative. The knowledge garnered from these sites will provide answers to questions on the development of Thule Inuit culture in the regions and the origins of Inuit society.
Visitors to the park will experience a pristine Arctic wilderness. The wilderness, birds and vegetation cover the spectrum of northern species. Abundant caribou, musk ox, wolves, birds and other northern wildlife will be protected by the national park designation.
It was a community idea to protect this area, a portion of the Melville Hills east of Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, which led to a community prepared conservation plan in 1989. The primary goals contained in the 1996 parks agreement were to protect the Bluenose caribou herd and its calving and post-calving habitat and to protect for all time a representative natural area of Canadian significance.
Paulatuk, the closest community to the park, recognized the importance of this area and acted upon the community wishes to preserve this integral part of its history, culture and livelihood. On behalf of the New Democrats I would like to commend Paulatuk for the initiative, dedication and perseverance to establish Tuktut Nogait.
Seven years of consultation and discussions led to the consensus decision of 1996. The boundaries are set out in Bill C-38 in accordance with the 1996 agreement signed by the Government of Canada, the Northwest Territories, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Inuvialuit Game Council, the Paulatuk Community Corporation and the Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee.
The boundaries for Tuktut Nogait are unique for several reasons. I ask my colleagues to pay attention to what I am about to say on this point. It is important that we understand the very complex origin of this national park to better appreciate the incredible levels of co-operation and consensus building which led to the bill before the House today.
Tuktut Nogait lies within three land claim agreement areas: the Inuvialuit Settlement Region or ISR, which encompasses approximately 58% of the park area; the Nunavut Settlement Region including about 36% of the area; and the Sahtu Dene and Metis claim area including about 6% of the park.
I call upon my colleagues to imagine the consultation, discussions and negotiations that evolved across the years between the different parties united in a common purpose to protect this significant natural area.
Tuktut Nogait national park includes over 16,000 square kilometres. The parties came together around the absolute necessity of protecting the core calving ground vital for the Bluenose herd's survival. The parks name, Tuktut Nogait, means caribou calves in the Siglik dialect, a direct reference to the park's purpose. I also note at this time that this area is important to the Bathurst herd in addition to the Bluenose herd.
The reason for explaining the significance of the consensus forming is relevant when one considers recent efforts to change the boundaries of the park. It is an issue that will arise during committee submissions and will contribute to the final decisions on the ratification of Bill C-38 boundaries as outlined today.
As my colleagues are no doubt aware, there is a magnetic anomaly that straddles the Tuktut Nogait's western boundary. This anomaly is said to rival the Voisey's Bay discovery and, if developed, could be a source of jobs and fiscal rewards to the region and of mineral extraction interests. Some 80% of the anomaly is located outside the park boundaries. In 1994 Darnley Bay Resources Limited of Toronto voluntarily relinquished exploration rights to the remaining 20%, the area within the park boundaries.
Now the developers have changed their minds and Darnley Bay launched a recent effort to delete an approximate 415 square kilometres from the park boundaries.
This may not seem like such a big concern, especially when to most observers looking at a flat map the proposed area the developers wish to delete appears insignificant when compared to the overall scope of the park. Nothing could be further from the truth for several reasons. First and foremost, the thought that it is okay to shrink a national park boundary to permit mineral development is reprehensible.
It would be hypocritical for the government to chastise our American neighbours regarding development impacts upon the Porcupine herd calving grounds in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Reserve while allowing development to harm the Bluenose herd calving grounds.
The second reason is that the location of the proposed deletion is crucial to the overall biodiversity of the park. The deleted area includes a section of the Hornaday River, critical char spawning habitat and acknowledged in company reports as part of Paulatuk's summer and fall fishing areas.
The third reason is that it is the summer and fall caribou harvesting area. A founding principle for the degrees of co-operation exhibited by all participants during the consensus process was the need to ensure the continuing provision of traditional sustenance and subsistence for the Inuvialuit, the Sahtu Dene, the Gwich'in and Metis people.
Also the proposed deletion includes the most probable main entry point to the park. Does a mining interest wish to dictate access to the park or collect gate fees? The proposed deletion area is located in the Inuvialuit settlement area. They are in agreement with the developers and the territorial government for exclusion. The Sahtu Dene and the Gwich'in are opposed to the deletion. They fear the impact such development may have upon the core calving and post-calving grounds.
As parliamentarians it is our duty to question the abrupt change in direction, a switch from the preservation of lands and heritage to a wish for development and its impact upon future generations.
Why the sudden need for a deletion, an exemption by one participant that runs counter to the continuing process and perseverance of the other participants? Are extracted ores more valuable than the survival of the 100,000 strong Bluenose caribou herd?
For centuries this herd has helped support northern peoples across Canada's Arctic, spanning thousands of kilometres and dozens of communities. Does one mineral discovery merit the impact upon all native northern peoples?
Why the sudden need to change the boundaries after seven years of consensus building? Will the addition of an approximate 20% in development areas increase southern investment in the project for the benefit of those lucky shareholders involved?
I will take this moment to state clearly that the New Democratic Party is neither anti-mining nor anti-development. We believe, though, that the development can occur and support projects that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
Contrary to recent decisions by the Liberal government such as the Cheviot decision where a federal minister okayed the destruction of fish habitat, the NDP fully support the sustainable development principles as described by the Brundtland commission in 1987:
Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
I believe the principle of sustainable development is the reason Paulatuk set out to protect this area in 1989 and led to the bill before us today.
I call to the attention of my colleagues that this is not a recent discovery or find. The first clue to the anomaly was identified in 1955, over 40 years ago. In 1969 the geological survey of Canada described the Paulatuk find, titled the Darnley Bay gravity anomaly, as the strongest gravity anomaly in North America.
The following year a magnetic anomaly was identified coincident with the gravity anomaly. I am not a geologist, obviously. However I can understand the excitement in the mining industry during the early 1990s when sampling of basic sills identified minor amounts of copper, nickel and platinum group elements. At that time things were looking pretty good for extraction and the environmental implications on the Bluenose core calving grounds.
After decades of speculation about a significant mineral find surrounding Paulatuk, exploration permits were awarded to Darnley Bay Resources. In 1994, after the sampling results were favourable to extraction, Darnley Bay voluntarily relinquished those permits within the park boundaries.
Why the change? Is it the depressed metals markets? What became of the founding principles for the co-operation to protect critical wildlife habitat and to preserve a representative example of the Tundra Hills natural region?
Those are the questions and answers we still have to discuss at committee. They are some of the questions and answers we will face as parliamentarians as we defend the 1996 boundaries.
I thank the government for displaying a rare instance of intestinal fortitude and moral conscience in an environmental matter. The minister of heritage has changed direction on park commercialization levels on occasion. The lack of Liberal foresight and planning and a lack of respect for Jasper National Park, a world heritage site, resulted in an international condemnation and a terse letter from UNESCO regarding the Cheviot decision.
Liberal ignorance in habitat protection through the Cheviot decision evolved into legal challenges and Canadians learning about another international embarrassment via their morning newspapers and televised news conferences. Canadians are continually learning about poor Liberal habitat policies and the repeated loss of our reputation as protectors of wilderness areas and stewards of a clean environment.
The decision to protect and to honour the 1996 agreement on the Tuktut Nogait national park boundaries is a rare occurrence for the government and a decision that the New Democratic Party will support.
As Bill C-38 is discussed at committee I urge my colleagues not to be swayed by submissions and witnesses that put forward a variety of arguments to promote boundary changes. As a submitter presents facts and data that suggest 5% of the core calving area can be removed, I ask them to question where that 5% is located and the significant effect that a small 5% slice could have upon the overall Bluenose caribou population; the loss of char spawning areas; where muskox will mate; the further loss of Canada's extremely limited refugium areas; and the impact upon fragile wild flowers and lichens where few footsteps have tread.
When jobs are discussed they should remember the capacity for sustainable development and the unforgiving limits the tundra environment allows for habitat and species recovery, and the centuries required to repair basic intrusion.
When socioeconomics are discussed they should remember the benefits that are presented through eco-tourism and the unique variety of enterprises available to the community: bird watching, hiking, camping, natural appreciation, natural and environmental sciences, archeology and photography. The list continues.
Ten years of studies of the Bluenose herd have identified the necessity for the preservation and the location of core calving and post-calving areas. They should not be swayed by pro-development arguments that more studies are required.
We must protect the current boundaries of Bill C-38, the designation of Tuktut Nogait national park in the National Parks Act for generations yet unborn. To shrink a national park boundary to permit mineral development is reprehensible and should not be tolerated.