Changing nature of protected areas in Canada

Petition: 391

Issue(s): Biological diversity, governance, human/environmental health

Petitioner(s): Resident of Canada

Petitioner Location(s): Victoria, British Columbia and Vancouver, British Columbia

Date Received: 23 February 2016

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition asserts that nature conservation in Canada is changing, particularly in the national parks system. The petition raises concerns about the underfunding, the loss of capacity, and the changing of priorities within Parks Canada, resulting in a decline in environmental protection in national parks.

The petition expresses concerns that Parks Canada is underfunded to manage the ecological integrity functions at its parks. The petition asks about the amount that Parks Canada has spent on different programs, such as the Heritage Places Establishment, and on elements such as ecological integrity monitoring and resource management, from 2005 to 2015.

The petition references the 2000 Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada’s National Parks, which concluded that Parks Canada lacked the capacity for maintaining ecological integrity. The petition asks how many scientists were employed and how many employees were terminated at national parks, at both regional and national offices, from 2000 to 2015.

The Canada National Parks Act stipulates that ecological integrity is the main priority for park management. The petition raises concerns about how Parks Canada has changed its priorities and become more focused on the visitor experience than on the ecological integrity of Canada’s national parks.

The petition also discusses the accountability and governance framework of Parks Canada since it became an agency in 1998.

Finally, the petition states that there is an increasing emphasis on private land conservation. Programs such as the Ecological Gifts Program (managed by Environment and Climate Change Canada) and the Natural Areas Conservation Program have allowed private land trust organizations to acquire ecologically sensitive lands. The petition questions the purpose of the Natural Areas Conservation Program and asks about the impact of the Ecological Gifts Program, its participants, and the cost to taxpayers.

Federal departments responsible for reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada, Parks Canada