Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-18, which will enhance and protect the Rouge National Urban Park, the first of its kind in our great country.
All across Canada, our national parks play an important role in preserving and protecting an abundance of wildlife, native plants, and heritage areas. Whether it is the valleys, mountains, and glaciers of Banff National Park, or the world's highest tides at Fundy National Park, these national treasures offer the most breathtaking outlooks I have ever seen. Anyone who has spent time in our national parks, taking in the perfection of a still lake, breathing in the luscious green of summer, or feeling the calm of snow-covered evergreens in winter can bear witness to the beauty that is found in our national natural landscapes.
The Rouge Park, a small portion of which is located in my riding of Scarborough North, is indeed a national treasure, home to rare Carolinian forests and over 1,700 species of plants, birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians. This park is a keeper of human history, including some of the oldest aboriginal sites, villages, and travel routes known in our country. That is why I stand today in support of Bill C-18, which will ensure the protection of this important ecosystem and provide guidance on how the park will be managed. This bill will rightfully extend the area of the Rouge Park so that, once it is fully established, it will be one of the world's largest and most protected parks within an urban setting.
Most importantly, this bill would ensure that the park is managed in a way that achieves ecological integrity so that native plants, wildlife, waterways, and ecological processes remain fully intact. Our government has made environmental protection one of its most important priorities. The enlargement and protection of the Rouge Park is certainly a positive step to improving our environmental stewardship.
In 2009, as the local school board trustee, I started a tree-planting program as part of the Rouge Park's restoration project for students across our riding. Working with the Rouge Valley Conservation Centre and the Rouge Valley Naturalists, this annual tree planting project allowed our children, many of whom live in inner city communities, to experience the beauty of nature and how they can protect it.
The location of the Rouge Park makes it accessible to many Canadian families who may not otherwise have the chance to experience such nature. It is within an hour's travel time for seven million Canadians who live in the region. Many areas of the park are also accessible to wheelchairs, strollers, and mobility aids.
The Rouge Park is a treasure trove of natural parklands, waterways, marshlands, nature trails, and farmland. Its forest and wetlands have sustained groups of nomadic hunters, Iroquois farmers, and early European settlers. A national historic site within the park is named Bead Hill, an archeological site with the remains of a 17th century Seneca village. As well, the Rouge Park is the site of some of the best farmland in the country. Generations of farmers are known to have farmed this rare and fertile land since 1799.
When I think about the expansion and preservation of the Rouge Park, I think about future generations of children and youth. Exposure to a natural environment can have a positive influence on people's moods and general outlook. Spending time in a natural setting can reduce stress and anxiety and can improve a young person's capacity to learn. When people have the opportunity to experience the richness of our natural ecosystems, they will develop a lifelong respect for the health of our planet. That is why this bill is so incredibly important. It will ensure that the protection of nature, culture, and agriculture happens today and continues into the future. With all of its natural wonders, the Rouge Park is a part of our home and our backyard, a legacy that will live on for many generations to come.