Mr. Speaker, I rise to join my colleagues as we resume debate on Bill C-248 this evening. As members are well aware, this is in act to amend the Canada National Parks Act or the Ojibway national urban park of Canada. It is a great honour to join all of my colleagues here this evening.
Allow me to begin by acknowledging that I am joining this discussion from the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe.
In earlier contributions we saw in the debate with respect to this park, as well as what we have heard this evening, what has certainly emerged is that there is consensus in this chamber that it is imperative that we move forward with this specific park. I must say that it is great, on an evening like this, to see that there is consensus in this chamber.
It is important to emphasize that Windsor is one of seven cities where work is currently under way to create national urban parks. In fact, it falls under a new $130-million program that has the aim of designating up to six new national urban parks across Canada by the year 2026. Canadians expect us to be bold, and that is why we are fully committed to moving in the right direction with a time frame in place by 2026.
The national urban parks program is being led by Parks Canada and I should emphasize that it cannot be short-circuited. At the heart of the process led by Parks Canada, in this particular case and in others, is the premise that we should not forget that there needs to be partnership and collaboration between stakeholders and communities. Every one of us is committed to partnering and working hand in hand to explore opportunities and define boundaries and governance structures, as well as to achieve a shared vision. The process must be grassroots and bottom-up as well.
Since this process began, Parks Canada has been actively collaborating with key partners in the Windsor area, including, as was alluded to, the City of Windsor, Caldwell First Nation and Walpole Island First Nation. Engagement with key stakeholders has also begun, including with conservation and heritage groups, as well as universities, tourism stakeholders and economic development shareholders. I emphasize engagement and collaboration because I want to highlight one of the obvious weaknesses of the bill before us.
Though I think we can all agree the bill has very good, laudable intentions, the process is top-down and totally bypasses grassroots and bottom-up engagement. The failure to undertake appropriate engagement with indigenous peoples specifically on whose traditional lands the proposed park will occur violates the very spirit of reconciliation and risks undermining new relationships and the requisite trust that must always underpin such developments. Creating a national urban park without proper engagement with indigenous partners from the very start would be an unfortunate setback and would get in the way of achieving an important objective.
Bringing together communities and stakeholders to develop a shared vision would ensure that a national urban park is created that endures as a special place that would allow all of us to come together for generations. At this preliminary stage, key decisions require careful consideration and engagement, particularly with respect to the extent of lands to be included within the boundaries. The bill before us prematurely presupposes the precise limits of the park. Furthermore, the bill's identification of these lands, which includes lands currently owned by the provincial government, amounts to a taking of lands without consent and without consultation.
I re-emphasize that a robust, consultative process is being short-circuited. Imagine supporting a bill, for example, in which Ottawa automatically takes control of a park in Quebec or in one of our western provinces without a single conversation or negotiation with the relevant provincial authorities. This is not the spirit with which to launch an enduring national urban park, and it lacks respect for key partners who have ensured the conservation of the subject lands in the face of significant urban development pressures.
Although the lands identified in the bill may be those that should be included in the park, we must take the time and work collaboratively with our local partners to properly assess this question and to explore whether there are other lands that might be considered. This needs to happen before the boundaries of a proposed park are finalized. The bill before us defines the boundaries prematurely. It also closes the door on the possibility that private landowners or adjacent municipalities may identify lands that could be added to the Ojibway footprint. The bill would close the door to that.
We are already building an Ojibway national urban park. Last summer, over 50 local partners stood in Ojibway with my colleagues, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the Minister of Families, to declare our ironclad commitment to establish an Ojibway national urban park. A few months later, we announced over $580,000 in Parks Canada funding for the City of Windsor to begin pre-consultations. Just two weeks ago, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced to the House of Commons that we have an MOU in place between Parks Canada and Transport Canada to work together on transferring the Ojibway Shores lands from the Windsor Port Authority to Parks Canada for inclusion in the eventual Ojibway national urban park.
Ojibway Shores is the last remaining underdeveloped shoreline and natural habitat along the Detroit River, and it would connect the Ojibway Prairie Complex to the Detroit River. It has significant environmental value. It is an essential ecological gem and concentrates in its 33 acres some of the most diverse plants, as was alluded to earlier this evening, insects and animal species in North America. Many of them are rare and at risk.
The Windsor community has been fighting for 20 years to preserve Ojibway Shores. Our government got it done. Ojibway Shores will be preserved forever, and it will be part of a national urban park for generations of residents and visitors to enjoy.
This MOU that I refer to is a major step forward. It underscores the importance and the value of collaboration and consultation in setting the ground work for the national urban park. We are on the cusp of achieving something that everyone wants: A national urban park that will benefit the people of Windsor and all Canadians, contribute to our ongoing efforts to protect the environment and advance reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
Bill C-248 is well-meaning, but it is contemplating the wrong approach, and it sends the wrong message. That is why the House should not support this piece of legislation.