Parks Canada

Parks Canada

July 08, 2010 14:31 ET

"Celebrating a Canadian Achievement" By The Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 8, 2010) - Each third Saturday of July, Canada celebrates Parks Day, and Parks Canada specially invites friends and families to come and enjoy our wilderness parks, marine conservation areas and national historic sites.

 As Canadians, we often take these special places for granted. We assume they have always been there to enjoy and will always be there.

In fact, the vast network of parks, sites, and marine conservation areas is a remarkable legacy that began 125 years ago. Canada became one of the first countries in the world to set aside a wilderness area. 

This first Canadian protected area is known today as Banff National Park. Around the world, it has become an icon of who we are as Canadians. Again, it's as if it had always existed. One could not picture Canada without it.

People from other countries are often astonished at the vast expanse of our national parks system – and no wonder. Generation after generation, Canada has added to that original legacy; today we protect a total area about the size of a country like Germany. 

These places help us reconnect to the great natural forces that put our own lives and experiences in a greater context. They help us understand the events that shaped us as Canadians.

Maintaining the wilderness habitats also protects aquifers, mitigates against flooding and drought, and sequesters carbon. These measures help respond to climate change and make our planet a healthier place for everyone, today and tomorrow.

 We set aside these areas not just for our own enjoyment and delight as human visitors. We protect and restore them to help keep an ecological balance for all living things.

For example, for the first time in over 70 years, one of North America's rarest mammals, the black-footed ferret, is enjoying a prairie summer in its new Canadian grasslands home. Ferrets were released last year in Grasslands National Park. At the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Waterton Lakes National Park, we are working with local communities to restore the native plants and the white bark and limber pine forests. Over the past five years, we have improved the health of the aquatic ecosystems in La Mauricie National Park so that the native brook trout could be re-introduced. 

 We humans can celebrate these successes. How can we observe the 125-year legacy of Canada's national parks, marine conservation areas, and historic sites?

 This year, Parks Day falls on July 17 and will feature many activities and programs. Parks Canada will open its doors for free on that day. We have also frozen our visitor entry and camping fees for the second year in a row, so that more people can go out and enjoy Canada's 125-year legacy. 

We have launched another initiative that viewers will soon see on YouTube and other social media. Parks Canada has given 32 college and university students from across Canada their best summer jobs ever. They will work in the Parks Canada field units and video their summer activities for the internet, and for possible screening at the Banff Mountain Film Festival this Fall.

 But perhaps the most important way to celebrate the 125-year legacy is to build upon it.

The Parks Canada system has tremendous growth momentum. In the first hundred years of the system, Canada set aside about 277,000 km2 of lands and waters. In the past four years alone, we have taken steps that will add nearly 90,000 km2 to the existing lands and waters administered by Parks Canada – a 30 percent increase. 

These include some far-reaching initiatives that show Canada's leadership in natural and historic resources conservation. 

  • In partnership with the Dechho First Nation, we expanded the Nahanni National Park Reserve to six times its original size – perhaps the greatest conservation achievement in a generation.

  • In partnership with the Haida First Nation, for the first time in the world, an area has been protected from the alpine meadows of the mountain tops to the depths of the ocean floor beyond the continental shelf off the shores of Haida Gwaii.

  • We are working with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Government of Nunavut toward creating a National Marine Conservation Area in Lancaster Sound – the eastern entrance of the storied Northwest Passage and one of the richest marine mammal areas in the world.

  • An agreement with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will create a national park reserve in the Mealy Mountains, protecting a vast expanse of East Coast boreal forest.

  • An agreement with the Government of Nova Scotia will create a national park in Sable Island, protecting the island's wild horses and the world's largest congregation of breeding Grey seals.

There are many more initiatives underway that will add to the great legacy that began 125 years ago with Banff National Park.

I hope that Canadians across the country will take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate the legacy on Parks Day 2010.

Some of these areas are remote but well worth the trip. For some, Nahanni, Mealy Mountains, or Gwaii Haanas are once-in-a-lifetime visits. They reward the effort to journey there with exceptional experiences that will never be forgotten.

But many of Canada's protected areas are easily accessible, found in every region of the country. Banff, for example, is now a day-trip from the major urban centres that have grown around it in the last 125 years. Saint Lawrence Islands National Park is easily accessible from the Trans-Canada Highway corridor between Toronto and Montréal.

Other parks and sites are located in the heart of our cities themselves: the citadels in Halifax and Quebec City, for example, and historic canals in Montréal and Ottawa.

Canada is a northern nation of spectacular landscape of amazing variety. On July 17, let's celebrate that and rededicate ourselves to building upon the legacy that has made Canadians proud for 125 years.

Happy Parks Day!

Contact Information

  • Parks Canada
    Media Relations