Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your intervention and I accept it.
The panel also wanted to share with a broader audience the fundamental substance of their findings and the thrust of their recommendations.The panel's report has two volumes:
Volume I: A Call to Action is an umbrella document that describes the serious threats that beset our national parks, presents an overview of values that may be lost if the threats are not resolved—
Volume II: Setting a New Direction for Canada's National Parks identifies specific issues and problems and makes equally specific recommendations to the Minister and to Parks Canada on how these issues could be addressed.
This is the text of the letter written by Mr. Jacques Gérin, the president of the panel.
I would like to refer to the substance of the report, first by referring to the panel and its composition because it gives a very broad picture of Canadians across the nation who were involved in this particular panel. The panel was composed of: Louis Bélanger; Stephanie Cairns; Jacques Gérin, the chair; Louise Hermanutz; Michael Hough; Henry Lickers, a well known ecologist; Thomas Nudds; Juri Peepre; Paul Wilkinson; Stephen Woodley; and Pamela Wright, the vice-chair.
The report puts forward challenges, first of all, and then highlights. I would like put on record the challenges that were discovered and outlined in the first volume. The challenges break down into a number of thoughts that are summarized, beginning with this task:
To empower the spirit of ecological integrity within Canada's national parks.
To create a spirit of learning and teaching for everyone in the Parks Canada family, to understand and acknowledge your responsibility for ecological integrity.
To examine the manner in which you work and to look for new ways of keeping your responsibility to ecological integrity.
To forge new tools to protect ecological integrity by knowing the land, questing for knowledge, and maintaining the spirit of ecological integrity.
To integrate Aboriginal peoples into the family of Parks Canada as trusted and knowledgeable friends within the spirit of ecological integrity.
To inspire in your neighbours an understanding of your responsibility to ecological integrity within national parks.
To build a spirit of ecological integrity which will unite the isolated places of the land into a mosaic that protects ecological integrity.
To bring into being a way of teaching about the land that strengthens the spirit of ecological integrity.
To welcome responsible activities that generate a greater spirit of ecological integrity while discouraging uses that create disharmony.
The next point is a beautiful one because it is almost poetic:
To walk softly upon the land in all actions and deeds.
To generate the needed equity to strengthen the spirit of ecological integrity, without which your responsibility to the land cannot be fulfilled.
To conclude this series of tasks,--and members must have noticed that the words “ecological integrity” are repeated regularly--it reads:
We, the Panel on Ecological Integrity, are willing to work with you to meet these challenges.
This is the essence of volume one of this report.
Volume two, which carries the same title “Unimpaired for Future Generations?”, with the subtitle of “Setting a New Direction for Canada's National Parks”, has quite a number of highlights and recommendations. The panel recommended that:
Parks Canada transform itself, by confirming ecological integrity as the priority for Canada's national parks and as the explicit responsibility of every staff member through new training, staffing, decision-making and accountability structures.
I believe that everybody in this chamber would be fully supportive of this particular recommendation. Next:
Parks Canada revise and streamline its planning system to focus on ecological integrity as the core of strategic and operational plans.
The Minister direct Parks Canada to take immediate action to convert existing wilderness zones in national parks into legally designated wildernesses, as provided by the National Parks Act.
This is a very important key recommendation which we as parliamentarians ought to take very seriously. Next:
Parks Canada significantly enhance capacity in natural and social sciences, planning and interpretation, to effectively manage for, and educate society about, ecological integrity in national parks. Develop partnerships with universities, industries, Aboriginal peoples, and other learning-based agencies.
Parks Canada undertake active management where there are reasonable grounds that maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity will be compromised without it. Key actions are required in the areas of site restoration, fire restoration, species management and harvest.
Parks Canada initiate a process of healing with Aboriginal peoples. Adopt clear policies to encourage and support the development of genuine partnerships with Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
Today's Bill C-28 does exactly that. We welcome that development. Next:
Parks Canada develop partnerships that encourage the conservation of parks as part of larger regional ecosystems. Seek provincial and territorial co-operation to establish a comprehensive protected areas network. Work with other jurisdictions, industry and the public to find solutions on maintaining ecological integrity. Support these solutions with a fund dedicated to conservation efforts in the greater park ecosystems. Advocate for park values and interests in the greater ecosystems.
Parks Canada develop an interpretation strategy that presents clear and consistent messages about ecological integrity.
This next recommendation is very important:
Parks Canada cease product marketing to increase overall use of parks and concentrate instead on social policy marketing and demarketing when appropriate.
I am sure this is a very controversial recommendation, which is still being examined and discussed. Next:
Parks Canada develop a policy and implement a program for assessing allowable and appropriate activities in national parks, with ecological integrity as the determining factor.
This is also a very important and difficult recommendation to implement. Next:
Parks Canada reduce the human footprint on national parks so that parks become models and showcases of environmental design and management.
This is another very ambitious recommendation which will require very thoughtful implementation and will not be an easy one to put into practice. Nevertheless, it is a very important one.
The final recommendation states:
Following the taking of first steps to improve the broader management framework for ecological integrity within Parks Canada, allocate substantial new and additional resources to implement the Panel's recommendations on improving science and planning capacity, active management, monitoring, partnerships with Aboriginal peoples, stewardship initiatives in greater park ecosystems, and interpretation. Fund the establishment and operation of new parks from new resources. Enable management decisions in support of ecological integrity to be separated from revenue implications.
Here, there are quite a number of recommendations to implement.
As members can see, this report is far reaching. It looks at the long term. It places an enormous emphasis on ecological integrity because this term runs through the entire content of those reports. As I mentioned to Parks Canada, it probably makes the Parks Canada system unique in the world in that it is a fantastic approach. It commands a lot of attention and respect. Also, the chair of this panel, Jacques Gérin, was a deputy minister of the environment in the eighties and a very loyal and devoted public servant.
There is a passage in the first volume which is interesting. It offers an example of what is happening because of growth of population and other factors. It is devoted to the species loss in Point Pelee National Park, which as we know is at the very tip of Ontario along the shore of Lake Ontario. This is what it says:
An example of the major issues facing Canada’s national parks can be seen in the changes in biodiversity in Point Pelee National Park. Located in Ontario, Point Pelee is among Canada’s smallest national parks.
It is virtually an island. It is a minute piece of real estate the size of a postage stamp.
It goes on to say:
Since 1900, approximately 20 species of reptiles and amphibians have been lost from the park area. There are numerous reasons for this dramatic decline in species but in many cases the disappearances are not fully understood. Factors in species loss include:area and isolation-- the park is too small to support viable populations of some species. Point Pelee is isolated by intensive agriculture, roads and housing that surround the park. It is the only island of Carolinian forest protected within a national park.
--pollutants--DDT was used extensively in the 1960s to control mosquitoes, and higher residual levels may account for the loss of some species. Groundwater and sewage system monitoring programs indicate that excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous compounds have been transported by groundwater to pollute the park's marshlands. Excessive nutrients in some areas may be a direct result of past cottage development, high visitation and the associated high density of sewage facilities depositing nutrients into the groundwater via outdated sceptic systems.
--over-use--with past visitations rates of over 750,000 visitors a year [which is three quarters of a million visitors] and the current visitation rates of over 400,000, human use continues to have a significant impact on this small park. Efforts in recent years to reduce trail development and consolidate facilities in services have improved the situation--and resulted in a deliberate reduction in the number of visitors--but impacts continue due to the still high volume of people in the park.
Therefore, it is the pressure by visitors that is being addressed as one of the reasons for species loss. It goes on to say:
Among the species loss from Point Pelee is the once-common bullfrog. Only a few years ago, visitors to the park could walk on the marsh boardwalk and hear a chorus of droning bullfrogs. Today that chorus is silent.
Perhaps we cannot address the global problems directly, but we can certainly take care of those stresses that we have created ourselves and that directly affect our protected areas. Until we have put our own house in order, we will have little credibility in advocating for global change.
I thought members might find it interesting to hear these quotations from volume I, “A Call to Action”, by the panel which I mentioned in this intervention.
It is an important document and it seems to me appropriate that it would be good timing to put this information on the record and bring it to the attention of hon. members. Because of the high quality of our parks in the country and because the ecological protection, significance and integrity of these parks, future generations of Canadians may want to pay attention to them to preserve their unique characters, be they in highly or nearby highly inhabited parts of the country or in remote parts of the country.
We have a network that is of unique beauty. It seems to me that the debate on Bill C-28 makes room for an intervention of this kind in order to bring these considerations to the attention of the House.