Mr. Speaker, I rise today to lend support on behalf of the New Democratic Party to Bill C-38, an act to establish a national park and establish the boundaries of Tuktut Nogait.
The process began with a letter on March 10, 1989.
The Wildlife Management Advisory Council of the Northwest Territories wrote to the minister responsible for Parks Canada and proposed a study to consider the possibility of creating a national park in the vicinity of Bluenose Lake.
The context of the request was for the Paulatuk community conservation plan. The plan identified caribou and particularly the protection of the calving grounds of the bluenose herd as the foremost conservation concern for a community that has for generations depended for their livelihood on the caribou herd. Indeed, as mentioned throughout the debate on this bill, the park name, Tuktut Nogait, means caribou calves in the Siglik dialect of the Inuvialukton.
Seven years of analysis, consultation and negotiation followed. There were extensive discussions with local stakeholders, including the Paulatuk community corporation, the Paulatuk trappers and hunters committee, the elders committee, the government of the Northwest Territories, the Inuvialuit regional corporation and the Inuvialuit game council. These consultations led to an agreement signed in Paulatuk on June 28, 1996.
The federal government and the territorial government, together with the four other parties, agreed and the boundaries were set. That was the start of the birth of a park.
Then, after much fanfare, nothing happened. The federal government moved on with more paper signing, without follow up or action.
Suddenly Tuktut Nogait became an issue again. Over the winter the mining company that had removed exploration from within the park boundaries changed its mind. The anomaly proved to be a worthwhile investment within the boundaries.
Suddenly some of the local stakeholders who were looking at the environmental impact it would have on their communities were willing to take a risk on an economic venture into mining, and stating this whole concern under a park agreement, as the parties had agreed they wanted to make a change. It was quite a confusing state of affairs.
But the main problem was created by the government dragging its heels, especially when it knew that money would have to be spent to start the park. The government was not fulfilling the promise it had made.
The risks were not limited to the potential loss of critical area within the proposed park. The principle of developing within national park boundaries has opened up a great issue.
Canada witnessed just last fall the Cheviot mine case in which a huge strip mine will be developed beside the national Jasper Park, a very prestigious world heritage site. That brought a terse response from UNESCO, asking the government to reconsider and reverse its decision to allow a mine to be located at such close proximity to a pristine valley.
In this decision the minister used his discretion and as a result the fish habitat was damaged. It was the spawning ground for the western bull trout and it has been a sacred tenet of environmental protection to keep such a crucial species in this country.
This brings us to an important point as parliamentarians today consider Bill C-38. We must consider the remaining natural regions that are not protected. Failure to do so would be a great demise.
I bring members back to the Tuktut Nogait National Park. The existing park boundaries, as presented in Bill C-38, will create a park inside a settlement region, the Inuvialuit settlement region.
This region and the majority of its community members have compromised their settlement of lands to create a national park. But the federal government and the parks agency people, as they will soon be called if the parks agency bill is passed, have promised that Tuktut Nogait will protect the integrity of the bluenose herd.
There are other proposed boundaries to this park which involve the Nunavut settlement region and the Sahtu Dene settlement region. Why are those proposed regions not included in the bill? Why does it not state that the Tuktut Nogait National Park will be a huge protected area involving three settlement regions?
Principles of co-management are part of the commitments the government is making with the people of northern Canada, especially in the northern region where economic wealth is based on traditional lifestyle. For the economy to change to an eco-tourism based economy for the protection and enhancement of the national park with potential mineral development in that area, co-management and community involvement are required.
The agreement included a parks agreement which stated that the Inuit impact and benefits agreement would be considered when this national park comes into being. Employment and training opportunities must be considered.
All these issues will have a major impact on this community and on the northern region. The integrity of the ecology, the history and the biodiversity of our country must be protected for future generations as we create national parks. Development is a crucial risk for these national parks. We are witnessing decisions on requests being made for the Banff National Park. We must take these into serious consideration and not make decisions for the sake of the economy.
The root of the word economy is eco, which means your home. We know what money means, so it means the home of your money. But ecology means the home of your environment. Without this environment and this vast country we call Canada there would be no money made, there would be no people calling it their home.
This environment and this land must be respected. The national parks are a sacred way of protecting this land for future generations. They keep in tact the many generations of sustainable development that the aboriginal peoples of this world and this land have retained for their people. That sustainable development or that non-parasitic way of utilizing the land and resources for our own immediate needs without putting back is a crucial lesson for future generations.
I call upon other parties to take heed. The investments we make as a nation are not necessarily from park created revenues. As the Reform Party was quick to point out, the integrity of a park should be maintained by revenues created from within it. We must find investment from other sources within this country to maintain the integrity of the national parks of the far north which will never have the same revenue base which Jasper, Banff and other national parks have the privilege of creating.
This federal government has dragged its feet in creating this park, which has resulted in some controversy in a community that has other vested interests for economic reasons. It must also deal with the inequity. It must deal with the Nunavut settlement region and the Sahtu Dene settlement region to include the whole park boundary as originally proposed and not just within the Inuvialuit settlement region.
I am happy to state that we are in support of Bill C-38 which would begin the creation of the Tuktut Nogait National Park. The other settlement regions will contribute further boundaries and further vast tracts of land to protect the integrity of the bluenose herds and the integrity and the biodiversity of that land, so that it will remain sustainable for future generations of the north. May the ecology of this country not be compromised for the sake of the economy.