Mr. Speaker, I will not be splitting my time.
It gives me great pleasure today to speak at second reading of Bill C-7, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other acts. The bill would give legislative effect to the government reorganization that was announced on December 12, 2003, as it affects Parks Canada, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of the Environment.
Other hon. members have spoken to the specifics of the bill, of Parks Canada's national parks program and its celebration of our national heritage. I would like to take a moment to talk about Parks Canada's cultural heritage program, the national historic sites program.
Based on the national historic sites of Canada system plan 2000, Parks Canada will continue to mark the historic achievements of Canadians, in particular aboriginal peoples, women and ethnocultural communities. The goal of Parks Canada is to bring about 135 new designations of national historic significance within a five year window, including 55 designations specifically commemorating the history of aboriginal people, ethnocultural communities and women.
It should be understood that while the Minister of the Environment and Parks Canada are responsible for officially honouring the designated places or people, the actual choice of designations is made by the minister on the advice of the independent Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Any Canadian individual, group or government can make a formal submission to the board. That said, it takes time, effort and extensive know-how to learn about the process and to complete the requisite submission. The process is rigorous because Canadians expect any national historic recognition to have deep meaning and importance.
Parks Canada has launched major efforts in the past few years to ensure that more Canadians know how to initiate and complete submissions. A good example is the major outreach program to ethnocultural communities launched last year. The program consists of both information, meetings and user friendly educational material.
Parks Canada is going to communities and asking for their participation rather than waiting for communities to come to it. The agency's recent efforts have ensured that sufficient nominations have been submitted to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board to meet its overall goal of an average of 27 new designations. I know one in my riding, the site of the Klondike River first nation, is an excellent new site.
Parks Canada is confident that it will achieve its targeted goal of 11 new designations a year specifically related to the achievements of ethnocultural communities, women and aboriginal peoples. To achieve these three strategic designated priorities, women, aboriginals and ethnocultural communities identified in the system plan, Parks Canada will maintain its focus on partnership efforts with aboriginal people, building awareness of the commemoration program, expanding its work with ethnocultural communities and strengthening its planning related to the history of women.
The target for designations will be reviewed annually with the aim to ensure that historic achievements of Canadians of both genders and from all backgrounds are appropriately honoured by the nation. As it moves forward with the system plan, Parks Canada can take pride in the achievements to date in celebrating the history of aboriginal peoples through the commemoration of significant people, places and events.
Let us look at a number of these sites in more detail. The Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung national historic site, known as Manitou Mounds, is near Fort Frances, Ontario. Parks Canada's partnership with the Rainy River first nation will ensure that this site, an important aboriginal religious and ceremonial ground for 2,000 years, is conserved and presented to Canadians.
Chiefswood national historic site on the Six Nations Grand River Reserve in southwestern Ontario is the birthplace of famed poet and performer Pauline Johnson. Chiefswood is being developed as a museum by Six Nations Council in partnership with Parks Canada.
Pauline Johnson herself has been designated as a person of national historic significance. As a published poet myself, I can tell members that Pauline Johnson is one of my favourite poets. I recommend to anyone in this chamber or watching on TV who has not read Pauline Johnson's poetry to take a look at some very beautiful renditions.
Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia has also been commemorated as a national historic site of Canada, recognizing first nations use and occupation of lands.
The earliest inhabitants of Kejimkujik were Maritime Archaic Indians about 4,500 years ago. They were followed by the Nomadic Woodland Indians who set up seasonal campsites along Kejimkujik's rivers and lakeshores.
The Mi'kmaq, descendants of these people, have called this area home for the last 2,000 years. It is they who have produced the park's famous petroglyphs that represent the lifestyle, art and observations of the Mi'kmaq people in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The park is administered by Parks Canada for all Canadians but a Mi'kmaw network has been established to provide Parks Canada with advice on Kejimkujik from band members, elders and political and spiritual organizations.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump was designated a national historic site in 1968. It is one of the world's oldest, largest and best preserved buffalo jumps knows to exist. In 1981 it was designated a UNESCO world heritage site. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump has been used continuously by aboriginal peoples of the plains for more than 5,500 years. It is known around the world as a remarkable testimony to pre-contact life.
As a world heritage site, the jump is among such other world attractions as the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge and the Galapagos Islands. Parks Canada is only one of a circle of friends that has provided support for a first nations owned national historic site in Saskatchewan.
Wanuskewin Heritage Park was created to be both a heritage park and a first nations' centre. Wanuskewin became a reality in June 1992, and hundreds of thousands of people have visited this model of cross-cultural partnerships since opening day. Over 14,000 school children participate in cultural and educational programs at Wanuskewin each year.
Batoche was declared a national historic site in 1923. Its commemoration initially focused on the armed conflict between the Canadian government and the Metis provisional government in 1885. Today, Batoche also commemorates the history of the Metis community of Batoche, home of the Metis culture and heritage. Surviving portions of the Carleton Trail and river-lot system, and the roles of first nations in the northwest rebellion and resistance, are also commemorated.
Administered by Parks Canada, the site benefits from a formerly established shared management board with the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan.
Among persons of national historic significance, we might mention Mokwina, not a single man, but several who held the name as a hereditary title given to the chiefs of the Moachaht First Nation confederacy in British Columbia.
[Member spoke in Gwich'in]
Nagwichoonjik national historic site is in the Northwest Territories. It covers that part of the Mackenzie River between Thunder River and Point Separation. It is of national significance due to its prominent position within the Gwichya Gwich'in cultural landscape.
The Gwich'in people, for anyone who may not know, are a people in northern Canada and Alaska. I think there are around 18 communities that are spread across Alaska and northern Yukon, specifically in the Yukon-Old Crow, and then into the Northwest Territories into places that we know as Arctic Red River, Inuvik and Fort Macpherson, et cetera.
These people depend primarily on the Porcupine caribou herd which migrates past all their villages. Canada has made tremendous efforts to ensure that their calving grounds in the 1002 area of the Arctic national wildlife refuge are protected and we will keep up that fight.
The Nagwichoonjik historic site on the Mackenzie River is of national historic significance due to its prominent position within the Gwichya Gwich'in cultural landscape. The Mackenzie River flows through Gwichya Gwich'in traditional homeland and is culturally, socially and spiritually significant to the people. The Gwichya Gwich'in people express the importance of the river through their oral histories, which trace important events from the beginning of the land to the present.
Gwichya Gwich'in history is told through names given along the river, stories associated with these areas and the experience drawn from these stories. The river acted as a transportation route allowing the Gwichya Gwich'in to gather in large numbers to dance, feast and play games during the summer.
Everyone is missing something if they have not been to a Gwich'in square dance. Sometimes each individual dance lasts over an hour with jigging and square dancing. These dances in celebration can go far into the night until four or five in the morning and then the people are up for work at eight in the morning. The good thing about these experiences is that all generations of people are enjoying these celebrations, from the children to the elders who are given great prominence, and everyone has a good time. No one has any bad feelings.
It is an asset of another culture that we must always remember, which is one of the reasons I have worked so hard to protect the Porcupine caribou herd. We are not just protecting the caribou herd, we are protecting a culture in this very diverse and complex world full of conflicts.
We need answers from all cultures to help us survive in this technological age. Therefore it is important to preserve all the cultures that are left today. Some are extinct but ones like these, which can provide such other avenues and methods to provide happiness and a way to live for their people, are well worth preserving.
Archaeological evidence supports the Gwichya Gwich'in oral histories concerning the importance of the Mackenzie River. Sites along the river show extensive precontact fisheries and stone quarries which have ensured the Gwichya Gwich'in survival through the centuries.
Canada's national historic sites are part of a larger family of special heritage places, which include national parks and national marine conservation areas. They stretch from coast to coast to coast, from the Arctic to the Great Lakes, and from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Together the national parks, the national historic sites and the national marine conservation areas tell the story of Canada with each one contributing its own unique story and sense of place and time. These special places have been set aside for the benefit of all Canadians. Protecting our heritage is a national enterprise and can only be achieved through collaborative relationships.
Just as aboriginal people help Parks Canada advance its mandate, Parks Canada endeavours to assist aboriginal communities. Bill C-7 is a good example of just such an initiative and I ask all members of the House to give speedy passage to Bill C-7.
A couple of members mentioned integrity in national parks and integrity in the environment. I cannot agree more that it is a very important aspect of national parks that will be well served by Parks Canada being in the Department of the Environment. I have certainly made that same point as have other members of the House. It is a very important point for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
As for where Parks Canada sits, that depends on the whole structure of government. To be flexible and not to incur the costs that were discussed before of going through this whole exercise again, the way the bill is written it would allow that, but it puts it in a place where I think all parties in the House agree at this time, within this structure of government, is where it should be.
Before I get to the results of some of the discussions earlier relating to the number of parks and protected areas, I should get to the costs. I definitely agree with the comments that there should be sufficient funding for parks for costs inside the scope of available resources to handle the various functions that Parks Canada provides for Canadians. This is a particularly difficult task at the present time because of the recent announcements made by the government concerning a number of new national parks and new national marine areas in Canada.
Those announcements have been celebrated by Canadians and by members of the House that these new national parks and new marine areas will be created, especially parks, to preserve some of the landscapes on the ocean floors that before this time did not have protection. It will also allow us to set aside areas particularly so that all the various species are at least in one place and protected as much as possible. Although erosion of species is a natural process, we need to mitigate as much as possible the man-made effects that exacerbate the diminishment of the number of species on earth. The new parks and marine areas are definitely helping to do that. They are great initiatives but, as members of the opposition say, we have to put adequate funding in those areas.
I am sure the environment committee, when it comes to the estimates, will be looking at those financial commitments to be available because that is where those items would be looked at.
Because I am talking about the heritage aspects of Parks Canada, which would also be transferred through the various attendant amendments in this bill with technical amendments to other acts, that the heritage benefits of these sites are a tremendous asset to my riding. I think there are few people in Canada who have not heard of the world's greatest gold rush in Dawson City. Parks Canada over the years has made tremendous investments to restore historical buildings. One of them, after the Parliament buildings, is the second most valued building in Canada because I believe it was done by the same architect. It brings tremendous knowledge of our history, the preservation of our history, and a lot of foreign currency because the vast majority of the tourists who come to Dawson City, as one area to see that history, would not be there if that history was not preserved.
In recent years there has been investment in a gold dredge. After the hand miners mined the creeks in Dawson during the original gold rush, the huge corporations came in with massive machines called dredges. It is somewhat amazing how they ever got them there without any roads or railways at the time. These huge dredges were part of the history, and recently Parks Canada, with army engineers, has raised one that was stuck in the mud and refurbished it all. It is a great tourist site. As these tourist sites allow Americans and visitors from Germany and other countries to stay longer in Canada and invest in our hospitality industry and learn more about Canada, I do not think anyone would dispute their value.
I fully support the legislation and hope that other people in the House do.