Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate.
Canada's national parks, national marine conservation areas and national historic sites were created for Canadians by the federal government in order to allow them to discover the diversity and natural and cultural riches of our great country.
The Parks Canada Agency has been given the mandate to manage these exceptional sites on behalf of Canadians. Thus, the agency is the steward of a network of protected natural and historic areas that is among the most beautiful and most vast in the entire world.
Parks Canada manages this array of 42 national parks, 4 national marine conservation areas and 167 national historic sites so as to allow everyone to have memorable experiences there, while ensuring that the parks' resources are protected for future generations.
Parks Canada has from its inception continued to evolve. Today, the agency is reaching more and more people, allowing them to have more and more memorable experiences and becoming more relevant in the eyes of Canadians, while continuing to protect our heritage, celebrate our history and encourage the population to explore, wonder and dream about the future.
As the parks are protected and managed on behalf of Canadians, Parks Canada recognizes that the public must be actively engaged in dialogue when the time comes to define the future of these unique sites.
This approach is part of a profound change within Parks Canada and has led to concrete action that is facilitating the reconciliation process with regard to Forillon, and also having an impact throughout the country. By sharing leadership with people from the community, we are obtaining mutually beneficial and more satisfactory outcomes for everyone.
In the case of Forillon National Park, in 2006, when the public consultation on the management plan took place, Parks Canada heard the heartfelt cry of people who wanted their park to listen to them, recognize the past and carve out a place for them in its history. Since 2007, Parks Canada personnel have expended considerable effort to ensure that this page in Forillon National Park's history will be told with respect and to get closer to the expropriated families.
It was in that spirit also that in early 2007, Parks Canada set up an advisory committee to create a setting conducive to communication between area residents and the park's management. One of the top priorities was to tell the story of the expropriation, which is a key chapter in the park's history. To do this, Parks Canada got together with people from the area and some of the expropriated residents, with whom it worked closely in order to determine the best way of telling their story, as a gesture of reconciliation.
Another tangible act by Parks Canada was the organization in 2009 of a reunion day, which was a first step in that reconciliation. Parks Canada made a formal commitment at that time to tell the people of the Gaspé and all Canadians about the events that preceded the creation of Forillon National Park. For many of the 300 people in attendance, that was the first opportunity they had to come back to the place where they had grown up and had lived.
Parks Canada repeated the gesture in 2010 by inviting all of the expropriated people and their families, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the creation of Forillon National Park, to come and rediscover their park and take part in reunion activities.
On that occasion, my colleague, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse, on behalf of the hon. Jim Prentice, who was then the Minister of the Environment and the minister responsible for Parks Canada, inaugurated the exhibit “Gaspesians from Land's End” at Dolbel-Roberts House, located in Forillon National Park. This exhibit is one step in the reconciliation work undertaken by Forillon National Park in order to reconnect with the expropriated owners, their descendants and the former residents who lived on the land when the park was created.
It reflects Parks Canada's desire to underscore the contribution these families and these communities made to the history of the region and the country. This exhibit stands as a permanent record of the life of the families that were expropriated when Forillon National Park was created. A group of expropriated owners took part in all of the steps in the preparation of the exhibit, from the concept to the final product. To respond to their wish to share their story, some moving accounts were recorded and are presented in the hall that is dedicated to them. The exhibit and the work that went into it proved to be a positive exercise, and the group repeatedly expressed its satisfaction with the co-operation of the Parks Canada team.
Everyone feels that the exhibit is dynamic and that the expropriated families are given a large role in it, having enriched its content by adding family photographs, objects and archives. There was a call sent out to the public on community radio, and over 400 photographs were lent and integrated into this exhibit. In the exhibit hall dedicated to the expropriated families, cultural activities and reunions may be held all season long. Various events are planned, such as meetings to share genealogical information, musical evenings and family reunions.
This exhibit is more than a cultural product; it is a social contract entered into by Parks Canada and the Forillon expropriated owners committee. The commitment, openness and sincerity of all parties have constituted a real cornerstone, a solid basis for this project that promises continuity.
The Government of Canada invested close to a million dollars in this exhibit. In addition, this new exhibit will enhance the experience of the many visitors to Forillon National Park and improve the tourism offering of the park and the whole region.
This gesture of reconciliation allows more than 225 families to revisit the area where some of them grew up and where an important part of their history has been brought back to life.
Since 2006, Parks Canada has done much to reach out to the people from the area and work closely with them, particularly the expropriated owners. The actions mentioned previously constitute a solid foundation upon which Parks Canada intends to continue building. Moreover, Parks Canada wants to maintain an ongoing dialogue with all of those who have a strong connection with Forillon National Park. In closing, Parks Canada is very proud of everything that has been achieved up until now and intends to continue its efforts in that regard.
Mr. Speaker, we are proud of the work that has been done in Forillon National Park, and this is a beautiful chapter in the Gaspé region's history that we must continue to tell.