|Formed||May 19, 1911|
|Jurisdiction||Government of Canada|
|Headquarters||Gatineau, Quebec, Canada|
|Employees||5566 (Full-time Equivalent; 2018-19)|
|Annual budget||$1.5 billion (CAD; 2018-19)|
Parks Canada (PC; French: Parcs Canada; legally incorporated as the Parks Canada Agency (French: Agence Parcs Canada)), is an agency of the Government of Canada run by a chief executive who answers to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. Parks Canada is mandated to "protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage, and foster public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment in ways that ensure their ecological and commemorative integrity for present and future generations". Parks Canada manages 48 National Parks, three National Marine Conservation Areas, 171 National Historic Sites, one National Urban Park, and one National Landmark. The agency also administers lands and waters set aside as potential national parklands, including eight National Park Reserves and one National Marine Conservation Area Reserve. More than 450,000 km2 (170,000 sq mi) of lands and waters in national parks and national marine conservation areas has been set aside for such purposes. Parks Canada Agency cooperatively manages a large majority of their protected areas and heritage sites with Indigenous partners. The Canadian Register of Historic Places is supported and managed by Parks Canada, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments and other federal bodies. The agency is also the working arm of the national Historic Sites and Monuments Board, which recommends National Historic Sites, Events, and Persons.
Parks Canada was established on May 19, 1911, as the Dominion Parks Branch under the Department of the Interior, becoming the world's first national park service. Since its creation, its name has changed, known variously as the Dominion Parks Branch, National Parks Branch, Parks Canada, Environment Canada – Parks Branch, and the Canadian Parks Service, before a return to Parks Canada in 1998. The service's activities are regulated under legislation such as the Canada National Parks Act, and the Parks Canada Agency Act, which established the current legal incorporation of the agency in 1998.
The Parks Canada Agency was established as a separate service entity in 1998 and falls under the responsibility of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Before 2003, Parks Canada (under various names) fell under the jurisdiction of the Department of Canadian Heritage, where it had been since 1994. From 1979 to 1994, Parks Canada was part of the Department of Environment, and before it was part of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (1966 to 1978), and the Department of the Interior. With the organizational shifts and political leadership in Canada, the priorities of Parks Canada have shifted over the years more towards conservation and away from development. Starting in the 1960s, Parks Canada has also moved to decentralize its operations.
Parks Canada is currently headed by Ron Hallman following Daniel Watson, who was appointed in August 2015, following the retirement of Alan Latourelle, who had been reappointed on August 7, 2007. As of 2004, the annual budget for Parks Canada is approximately $500 million, and the agency has 4,000 employees.
|J. B. Harkin||1911–1936|
|J. A. Hutchison||1953–1957|
|J. K. B. Coleman||1957–1968|
|J. D. Collinson||1985–1990|
Legislation, regulations and boards
- Parks Canada Agency Act (S.C. 1998, c. 31);
- Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (S.C. 2008, c. 16);
- Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4), which empowers the
- Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 52), which makes such structures fall under the Historic Sites and Monuments Board;
- Canadian Heritage Rivers System, which is defined under the Parks Canada Agency Act, and which governs
- 37 Canadian Heritage Rivers
- Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, which governs the
- Canada National Parks Act, which creates
- Laurier House Act, R.S.C. 1952, c. 163
- Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Act
- Historic Canals Regulations, which governs the
Public safety and enforcement
Park Wardens protect natural and cultural resources by conducting patrols of National Parks, National Historic sites and National Marine Conservation Areas. They ensure the safety of staff, visitors and residents, and conduct strategic enforcement activities aimed at public peace maintenance, resource protection, visitor enjoyment and administrative compliance. They are designated under section 18 of the Canada National Parks Act as Park Wardens and are peace officers pursuant to the Criminal Code of Canada. They carry firearms and non-lethal intervention options.
The Minister may also designate provincial and local enforcement officers under section 19 of the Act for the purpose of enforcing laws within the specified parks. These officers have the power of peace officers only in relation to the Act.
In May 2012, it was reported that Park Wardens may be cross designated to enforce certain wildlife acts administered by Environment Canada. Should the designations go ahead it would only be for Park Wardens that are stationed near existing migratory bird sanctuaries.
Essentially the intent of the change is to allow for a faster and lower-cost response to environmental enforcement incidents, particularly in remote areas in the north where Environment Canada does not have an ongoing presence, but Parks Canada has a Park Warden nearby who could act on its behalf, rather than have Environment Canada responded from a farther office.
Ecological Integrity Monitoring
According to Panel on Ecological Integrity Report in 2000, "the idea of conserving nature unimpaired has been part of national parks’ legal mandate since 1930". The term “ecological integrity” was put into the 1988 amendments to the National Parks Act but was in park policy as early as 1979. The Panel on Ecological Integrity Report proposed the following definition: "An ecosystem has integrity when it is deemed characteristic for its natural region, including the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes". There is a significant amount of debate surrounding the definition of ecological integrity. As can be seen through the evolution of the term, ecological integrity is deeply rooted in notions of symbiosis, sustainability, and holistic management practices. There is a fair amount of debate surrounding the definition of the term in the academic world as well. For example, "[ecological integrity]has a high degree of linguistic elasticity and should there ever be a legal challenge to its use, there are no precise and clear definitions for it". Regardless of the fluidity of the term, there are some common elements, "There are, however, certain common elements found in many definitions: naturalness, wholeness, continuity through time".
According to the most recent iteration of the Canada National Parks Act S.C. 2000, c.32., Parks Canada Agency is responsible for the ecological integrity of all national parks. To cite section 8 (2): “Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of park” (Canada National Parks Act, 2000). This law put additional onus on Parks Canada Agency to implement a robust science-based conservation and monitoring program.
Following the publication of the Panel on Ecological Integrity Report in 2000, Parks Canada Agency released Status on Agency Progress since First Priority in 2008 as a response. One major stride mentioned is the implementation of a policy requirement for national parks to report on the state of ecological integrity every five years, summarizing reports from monitoring programs in place. This State of the Park report was designed to ensure accountability in the management structure of Parks Canada Agency. In the author’s words, “The State of the Park report is the accountability mechanism for Field Unit Superintendents to report to the CEO on achieving the Agency’s Corporate Plan performance expectations related to maintaining and improving ecological integrity”. In addition to this reform, Parks Canada Agency also updated and released the Agency’s Guide to Management Planning in 2008 to restructure the agency and ensure that this new integrated approach could be applied to all national parks.
With these changes, Parks Canada Agency formally began monitoring for ecological integrity in 2008 and is ongoing to date. These modifications are consistent with the Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s observations in the 2005 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. For example, “The 6 to 8 ecological integrity indicators for each national park measure the health of Canada's national parks by reporting on the indicator’s condition and trend (improving, stable or declining) over time”. This ecological integrity monitoring program summarizes the state of a park's ecological integrity using “good, fair, poor”. The Parks Canada Agency's ecological integrity monitoring program is based on three publications: Monitoring and Reporting Ecological Integrity in Canada’s National Parks Volume I: Guiding Principles (2005) and the compendium document, Volume 2: A Park-Level Guide to Establishing EI Monitoring (2007), Consolidated Guidelines for Ecological Integrity Monitoring in Canada’s National Parks (2011).
The most recent iteration of guidelines for ecological integrity monitoring, Consolidated Guidelines for Ecological Integrity Monitoring in Canada’s National Parks (2011), is significantly more robust and science based. Some of the notable improvements include the integration of a trend variable designed to demonstrate whether the indicator is deteriorating, stable or improving. In addition, the inclusion of quantitative thresholds to determine the state of indicator will allow for more accurate results. Lastly, the incorporation of an “Iceberg Model for EI Indicator” provides a more holistic approach, fostering increasingly complete results.
One of Parks Canada Agency’s most recent publications, Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators: Ecological integrity of national parks (2018), demonstrates how effective Parks Canada Agency’s recent efforts have been. More exhaustive science-based methodology allows for more precise results and ultimately, better management. This document, and all results, are based on the assessment of 118 ecosystems throughout 42 national parks across Canada. Parks Canada Agency claims that 68% of parks sampled are in good condition, 20% fair, 17% poor. Furthermore, of the 118 ecosystems sampled, 69% are stable, 19.5% are improving and 12% are declining, according to Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators: Ecological integrity of national parks (2018). This is a notable improvement, considering that in 2000, 54% of parks were suffering some form of major or severe ecological stresses. In 2018, there are 12 ecosystems rated as poor, 20 EI indicators in decline, particularly forests and freshwater environments. Overall, this improvement is a testament to what Parks Canada Agency's ecological integrity monitoring program is capable of.
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- List of legislation for which Parks Canada is responsible
- Lothian, W.F. "A History of Canada's National Parks" Volumes I-IV (Ottawa: Parks Canada, 1976–1986)
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- Official website
- on 's channelYouTube
- Park Wardens.com Information about Canada's ecozones
- National Park Warden Association
- Parks Canada Players
- 100 Years of Parks Canada, National Film Board of Canada website
- Claire Campbell, ed., A Century of Parks Canada, 1911–2011, Free eBook
- Parks Canada article in the Canadian Encyclopedia
- National Parks of Canada Electronic Library