Mr. Speaker, I had the honour a few moments ago to table an order in council to formally establish the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and the Haida Heritage Site, both of these under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act.
This is a remarkable achievement, one that this House envisioned some 23 years ago when it passed at that time a unanimous resolution supporting the protection of the lands and the waters around Gwaii Haanas. The House also called for the participation of the Haida in this conservation initiative.
Canada will become the first country to protect a region from the alpine meadows of the mountaintops, to the depths of the ocean floor beyond the continental shelf. For the Haida people, the land does not exist independently of the sea. By protecting some 5,000 square kilometres of water and land, we acknowledge that sacred connection.
We are working with the Haida to protect some of the world's most abundant and diverse marine habitats, home to over 3,500 kinds of marine species alone. It is known by many in the conservation world as the Galapagos of the north.
For hundreds of generations the Haida Nation has lived in harmony with this environment and today this wealth of marine resources continues to sustain local communities as well as recreational and also commercial fisheries. This new national marine conservation area reserve will ensure that this can continue.
With today's tabling, we take a significant step forward, the penultimate step forward, in protecting the incredible biodiversity in the reserves of Gwaii Haanas and we demonstrate world-class leadership in integrated oceans management.
I especially would like to acknowledge the strong and visionary leadership of my good friend, Guujaaw, President of the Haida Council and the many others within the Haida community, the Haida First Nation, who have done so much to make this marine conservation area a reality.
Together the Government of Canada and the Haida are demonstrating remarkable international leadership in protecting the lands and the waters of Gwaii Haanas for future generations, for our children, our grandchildren and their grandchildren.
I also want to acknowledge the oil and gas companies that voluntarily relinquished their petroleum rights in this special place: Petro-Canada, now Suncor Energy, Shell Canada, ExxonMobil Canada and Chevron Canada. Finally, I want to thank the Nature Conservancy of Canada for subsequently surrendering those rights to the federal administrator on behalf of the companies.
Tomorrow, nations around the world celebrate the oceans. It is a time for Canadians to reflect upon our remarkable marine heritage, from the Atlantic to the Arctic to the Pacific. This year we also celebrate 125 years since Canada created its first postage-sized national park, the Banff National Park at that time. What better way to celebrate World Oceans Day than to create a marine protected area that is unique in Canada, in North America and in the world? It is the first time on this planet that we have protected an ecosystem from 2,000 feet below the surface of the ocean to 4,000 feet above it on the mountaintops.
What better way to celebrate the legacy of our park system than by designating Canada's first national marine conservation area under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, a piece of legislation that is now 10 years old?
This year the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity, Canada is bestowing another remarkable gift to the world. With Parliament's support, which started here 23 years ago, Canada will now provide opportunities for visitors to develop their own personal connections with the wilderness area and opportunities to experience and learn the Haida culture, a truly unique experience in the world. Through these experiences, all Canadians can develop a greater appreciation of the inseparable nature of the land, the sea and our people.
Twenty-three years ago, the House unanimously called for action to protect Gwaii Haanas. Parliament responds today with the finalization of the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and the development of a collaborative relationship with the Haida.
Today, on the eve of World Oceans Day, we honour and renew the call to action through an order-in-council to formally establish the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and the Haida Heritage Site. I thank everyone in the House who makes this possible.