moved that Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, the government is taking important steps to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act, and the Canada National Parks Act. This demonstrates our commitment to preserving our national parks, and enhancing Canada's first national urban park.
Parks Canada protects and preserves national parks because they tell stories of who we are, including the history, cultures, and contributions of indigenous peoples.
Rouge National Urban Park has been included in the newest category of protected areas within the Parks Canada family, alongside national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas.
As a large-scale, federally-designated protected area with its own legislation, this new national urban park celebrates the Rouge’s natural and cultural landscapes, its vibrant farming community, and the traditional use of this special place by indigenous people.
The park offers opportunities for Canadians to engage with it through events, educational programming, and involvement in ecological restoration projects. Parks Canada programs and services at Rouge Park will enable more Canadians, including young Canadians and newcomers to Canada, to experience the outdoors and learn about our history.
Rouge National Urban Park has been included within the Parks Canada family of protected areas, alongside national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas. As a large-scale federally designated protected area with its own legislation, this new national urban park celebrates the Rouge's natural and cultural landscapes, its vibrant farming community, and indigenous peoples' traditional use of the space. The park offers opportunities for Canadians to connect with the park through events, educational programming, and involvement in ecological restoration projects. Parks Canada programs and services at the Rouge will allow more Canadians, including young Canadians and newcomers to Canada, to experience the outdoors and learn about our history.
The creation of the park and the protection of its natural, cultural, and agricultural resources are the result of hard work, dedication, and collaboration. The park would not be here if not for the work of the local community, conservation groups, non-governmental organizations, three levels of government—municipal, provincial, and federal—and indigenous communities.
Parks Canada is committed to developing a system of national heritage places that recognizes the role of indigenous peoples in Canada. Recently I was in the greater Toronto area, where I had the honour of meeting with Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. I was very pleased that Chief Laforme expressed his support for the creation of Rouge National Urban Park. Chief Laforme and the Mississaugas of the New Credit, along with nine other first nations, have been working closely with Parks Canada since 2011, when Parks Canada formed a 10-member first nations advisory circle to help guide the creation of the park. This important relationship, based on a culture of respect and appreciation, has helped shape the park's vision and direction, and has led the way to an ongoing collaboration that celebrates over 10,000 years of indigenous peoples' history and culture in Rouge National Urban Park.
Along with its important ecosystems and farming communities, the park will also protect significant indigenous sites such as Bead Hill National Historic Site and the Carrying Place Trail National Historic Event. This is but one example of a collaboration that has enabled the Government of Canada to realize the vision of a federally protected area, managed by Parks Canada, in a major urban centre.
Rouge Park is Canada’s premiere “learn-to” park.
It is a gateway to discovering nature for 20% of Canada's population. It provides unprecedented opportunities for Canadians to experience nature and learn about our cultural and agricultural heritage. It is a place to gather and recreate, and a place to enhance the lives of urban residents through access to nature. New Canadians and young urban families may not know the joy of canoeing, roasting marshmallows, or taking a hike through the woods to learn about local plants and animals. Rouge National Urban Park is a place to have amazing experiences and build memories.
The proposed amendments would strengthen the Rouge National Urban Park Act and allow the Government of Canada to complete Rouge National Urban Park. Our government made a commitment to Canadians that we would work with the Ontario government to enhance the country's first urban national park. This includes improved legislation to protect this important ecosystem and guide how the park will be managed.
One of the proposed amendments to the Rouge National Urban Park Act will ensure that when it comes to managing the park, ecological integrity is the first priority.
The proposed definition of ecological integrity is the same definition used in the Canada National Parks Act, and will be specifically added to the act.
“Ecological integrity” means that ecosystems have integrity when their native components, including wildlife, native plants, waters, and ecological processes, are intact. Over the last year, Parks Canada has worked in partnership to complete 15 ecological restoration, farmland enhancement, and scientific research projects in the park. Ecological integrity will be applied in a unique context to the parks, in a way that respects the reasons the parks were created: to protect nature, culture, and agriculture in an integrated way.
Parks Canada is a recognized world leader in conservation. Through its conservation and restoration program, Parks Canada takes actions to preserve national parks and contribute to the recovery of species at risk.
Last winter I visited the Toronto Zoo to learn about a very interesting project. At the zoo they were restoring Blanding's turtles, a species-at-risk, to Rouge National Urban Park. In partnership with the zoo, Parks Canada is helping to re-establish a healthy, local population of this threatened species. It was inspirational to meet the team working hard to ensure this species has a future.
Like the incredible nature and indigenous stories, agriculture is also tied to the history of the Rouge.
Not far from Toronto city centre, we find class 1 soil, some of the rarest and most fertile farmland in Canada. Working farms are protected in Rouge National Urban Park, and this is unique in a system of federally protected areas. This provides an engaging opportunity to share information with visitors about the important role our farmers play both in food production for the greater Toronto area and as stewards of the environment.
The proposed amendment to the Rouge National Urban Park Act clarifies that ecological integrity will not prevent the carrying out of agricultural activities.
These amendments address the requirements of the Province of Ontario, while providing greater certainty to park farmers who will be able to continue carrying out agricultural activities within the park and with leases of up to 30 years. This will provide long-term stability for park farmers and their families, some of whom have been farming in the Rouge Valley since 1799. Farmers can continue carrying out agricultural activities within the park. They provide an important source of locally grown food to the Greater Toronto Area.
The final amendment to the Rouge National Urban Park Act would see 17.1 square kilometres added to the act's schedule. Located in the northern part of the park, this land is part of the first block of land transferred from Transport Canada to Rouge National Urban Park in 2015. This is a small but vital change to the act, as we are seeing parcels of land previously transferred to Parks Canada now officially becoming part of Rouge National Urban Park. This unique park, located within one hour's drive of seven million Canadians, will give people the opportunity to connect with and enjoy nature where they live, learn, work, and play.
By encouraging Canadians to visit our national treasures, like the Rouge, and providing them with the information and means to enjoy them, Parks Canada allows more Canadians, including young Canadians and newcomers to Canada, to experience the outdoors and learn about our environment and history.
By building these connections, we can create a community of stewards, people who know and care about these irreplaceable treasures.
I would like to thank the municipalities and community residents that surround Rouge National Urban Park for their enduring and passionate support for its creation.
Through the amendments to the Rouge National Urban Park Act, our government is following on its commitment to enhance the Rouge National Urban Park and protect its important ecosystems and heritage. We are taking steps to strengthen ecological protections for the Rouge, while continuing to respect and promote a vibrant farming community within the park.
We are confident that this will lead to the timely transfer of lands from the Province of Ontario and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. These amendments pave the way for the completion of Canada's very first national urban park.
Canada’s national parks protect Canada’s diverse ecosystems, maintaining or restoring the ecological integrity of these places for present and future generations. They also provide opportunities for public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the natural world.
Indigenous peoples, local communities, provincial and territorial governments, and the Canadian public expect the government to preserve Canada’s natural heritage, and Parks Canada is mandated to protect and present these special places on behalf of all Canadians.
The government is committed to completing the national park system, which was first developed in the 1970s, and the national marine conservation area system, which followed in 1986. These systems support the protection of representative examples of Canada’s diverse terrestrial and marine environments.
The new parks and historic sites account is one tool the government uses in the development of national parks and national marine conservation areas. This account was established as a specified purpose, a non-lapsing account funded from appropriations, the sale of property and immovable assets, and from donations made by the public.
In order to deliver on the government's commitments to preserve and expand the system of protected areas and protect the commemorative integrity of historic sites, the proposed amendments to the Parks Canada Agency Act would allow the new parks and historic sites account to be used in a broader manner.
Currently, the act restricts the use of the account to national parks and protected areas that are not yet fully operational. The proposed amendment would allow the government to use the account and the public to donate funds to expand or complete Canada's protected natural and cultural heritage areas that have attained full operational status. This includes national parks, national marine conservation areas, and national historic sites, as well as other protected heritage areas, including Rouge National Urban Park.
This is important because without the ability to act quickly, the government could lose the opportunity to acquire significant representative areas and heritage assets that may not be on the market again for several generations. The proposed amendment would provide Parks Canada with the flexibility to be nimble in purchasing land and cultural and historical assets as soon as they come on the market.
Parks Canada manages one of the finest and most extensive systems of protected natural and cultural heritage areas in the world. This measure would support the government’s commitment to develop Canada’s world-class network of heritage areas.
It would, for example, make the new parks and historic sites account available for parks that are fully operational such as Bruce Peninsula and Grasslands national parks. These and other parks are missing pieces of land from the final boundaries originally envisioned when the parks were established. However, as they are already fully operational, land purchases to complete the parks cannot be made through the account. The proposed amendment would address this gap in the legislation.
This bill would also amend the Canada National Parks Act to modify the boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park in order to create the Garden River Indian Reserve and contribute to Canada's reconciliation with indigenous peoples. By using lands from Wood Buffalo National Park to create the Garden River Indian Reserve, the Government of Canada would be honouring its commitment to the Little Red River Cree Nation. The creation of the Garden River Indian Reserve would build on the government's commitments to reconciliation and nation-to-nation relationships with indigenous peoples based on a recognition of the rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.
These amendments to the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act, and the Canada National Parks Act are important and positive steps to strengthen the legislative framework that protects one of the finest and most extensive systems of protected natural and cultural areas in the world. Parks Canada places belong to all Canadians. National parks, historic sites, national marine conservation areas, and the Rouge National Urban Park simply represent the very best that Canada has to offer and their important ecosystems and heritage must be protected.