Canada National Parks Act

Bill to Amend—Third Reading

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson moved third reading of Bill C-72, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act.

He said: Honourable senators, I rise to voice my support for Bill C-72, the Qausuittuq National Park of Canada act.

The purpose of Bill C-72 is to protect just over 11,000 square kilometres of Arctic wilderness and part of the homeland of Inuit under the Canada National Parks Act for the benefit of present and future generations.

For Nunavummiut, Qausuittuq National Park has been and continues to be used by Inuit, forming a vital cultural, historical and natural component of the heritage of Inuit. For Parks Canada, the park is an excellent representation of the Western High Arctic natural region of the National Parks System.

Negotiations to establish a national park in the northern-most of 39 natural regions that constitute our Natural Parks System began in 1996. Parks Canada determined that the best landscape to represent this region was located on Bathurst Island. Lands were first provided interim protection while Parks Canada undertook the necessary studies, consultations and negotiations to achieve the national park proposal that is now before the Senate in the form of Bill C-72.

The creation of Qausuittuq National Park was also a commitment in the government’s Northern Strategy: Our North, Our Heritage, Our Future. The development and operation of this new national park will help implement this strategy by protecting our environmental heritage, contributing to the cultural and economic well-being of Inuit, their social well-being and exercising our Arctic sovereignty.

Passage of Bill C-72 will deliver on a commitment by the government in the 2013 Speech from the Throne to complete the work to protect Bathurst Island as a national park by 2015. Promise made; promise kept.

As the Throne Speech observed, Canadian families want to enjoy a clean and healthy environment. The creation of new national parks contributes to sustaining a healthy environment by protecting an important wildlife habitat that sustains local communities such as Resolute Bay, Nunavut.

Finally, in the 2015 Budget Plan, the Minister of Finance observed that:

Canada’s national parks provide outstanding examples of our country’s natural landscapes, generate significant economic activity by attracting visitors from Canada and abroad, and provide Canadians with access to our natural heritage.

To that end, the budget plan stated that:

The Government is further expanding our protected areas and will be taking the final steps to establish Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area — the world’s largest freshwater marine conservation area — and the Qausuittuk National Park on Bathurst Island in Nunavut in the near future.

The final steps, honourable senators, will be the passing in the Senate of Bill C-72.

Since the establishment, development and operation of both the Lake Superior and Qausuittuq protected areas are fully funded, we can begin to immediately deliver the environmental, recreational and economic benefits associated with these two great initiatives to local communities.

During the feasibility study for this project and in determining a final boundary, Parks Canada consulted Inuit organizations, local communities, the territorial government, conservation organizations and the mining industry. It was the latter two stakeholders who actually first proposed the boundary we are considering today.

One of the final phases included an assessment of the proposed park’s mineral and energy potential. It indicated that an area on the eastern portion of Bathurst Island possessed a high mineral potential. Wildlife studies also indicated that eastern Bathurst Island contained part of the calving grounds of the Peary caribou. As a compromise, The Mining Association of Canada and the Canadian Federation of Nature, now Nature Canada, jointly proposed a two-pronged approach for the future of Bathurst Island.

First, they proposed the boundary contained in Bill C-72 that excluded some of the area of high mineral potential.

Second, for the area that was excluded, they recommended that the area be under an interim protection order prohibiting mineral exploration and development until such time that the future of the Peary caribou is determined. Ultimately, this proposed boundary was adopted by the Governments of Canada and Nunavut, as well as the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

In December 2014, the Government of Canada put in place a five-year period interim land withdrawal under the Territorial Lands Act that, among other things, prohibits mineral exploration and development in the area to the east of the national park boundary. During this five-year period, a forum will be organized for the objective of creating a plan for the management of this area.

The creation of Qausuittuq National Park is made possible by the fact that Canada and Inuit successfully concluded an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement, or IIBA, which was signed by the federal Minister of the Environment and the president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association. The agreement sets out the terms and conditions regarding the establishment of this new national park, an agreement that was reviewed and supported by the Government of Nunavut. It makes it clear that this national park will be managed in a manner consistent with the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

Canada and Inuit have agreed to a number of objectives that speak to the collaborative relationship that was developed during the negotiation of the agreement and that will continue through the operation of Canada’s forty-fifth national park. The objectives include: to ensure Inuit participation in the planning, management and operation of the park; to respect the rights of Inuit in the Nunavut Settlement Area; to generate economic benefits for Inuit; to recognize the importance of Inuit traditional knowledge for the park area and commit to its use in planning, management and operations of the park; to ensure the integrity and conservation of natural and heritage resources in the park area; to provide protection of the Peary caribou and its habitat through the establishment, development and operation of the park; and to establish the park as part of a system of national parks that showcases the vitality of Inuit culture and the beauty and uniqueness of the High Arctic to all Canadians and to the world.

Qausuittuq National Park will be cooperatively managed by Parks Canada and Inuit to ensure that it remains a living, breathing landscape that supports Inuit practices and culture. Inuit will maintain the right to free and unrestricted access to lands, waters and marine areas for the purpose of harvesting within the park. It should also be mentioned that such harvesting will take place under the watchful eye of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board in an effort to protect species from overharvesting. There will also be a Qausuittuq park management committee to ensure effective cooperative management of the park.

Additionally, Parks Canada will establish an office and a visitors’ centre in Resolute Bay. It will help Inuit businesses to take advantage of economic opportunities resulting from the park’s creation. The IIBA sets out provisions for preferential hiring of Inuit for park positions, and Parks Canada will expend almost $22 million over seven years to establish and develop the park, while spending $2.6 million annually thereafter to operate Qausuittuq National Park.

(1500)

In concluding my remarks in support of this bill, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Senate, both sides of this chamber, and particularly the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, our chair, Senator Richard Neufeld, our deputy chair, Senator Paul Massicotte, and members of the committee for giving this bill the important consideration and study it deserved, even though it was on short notice.

Honourable senators, I urge you to support the passage of Bill C-72 so that within the life of this Parliament, Qausuittuq National Park can become a full member of the Canadian family of national parks, marine conservation areas and national historic sites, protected for future generations.

Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, I would like to say a few words in relation to Bill C-72. I thank the Honourable Senator Patterson for giving us the background, particularly the importance of balancing the rights and the habitat of the Inuit people who live in the region with the fact that we’re setting this particular area aside for all Canadians, in fact for all the world, as a national park.

Qausuittuq National Park is located in the northern part of Bathurst Island. It’s interesting that, just below it, there is a national wildlife area that’s also a reserve. To the right, which would be to the east of this new park that’s being created, is Inuit-owned land, right along the coast. There will be continued activity by the locals who live in the area. In fact, they will help to manage the proper use of the property.

This particular matter, if we decide to vote for it, honourable senators, will come into force on the latter of the day on which it receives Royal Assent or September 1, 2015, so by September 1 of this year we will have another national park.

The earlier matter that we spoke on was a water conservation area. That dealt all with water. This one deals all with land, and it is under a different piece of legislation. It is an amendment to the Canada National Parks Act. The information we have in the bill itself relates entirely to a description of this particular matter. It’s going to be added as another national park. There is the description of that national park and then the coming into force clause that I mentioned.

We heard from the NGO CPAWS, which is the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, a not-for-profit organization, and they appeared represented by Mr. Éric Hébert-Daly, and he was very supportive of this particular initiative as well.

I would recommend that we proceed to third reading on this matter, honourable senators.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

An Hon. Senator: Question.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It was moved that the bill be read the third time now. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.)

Bill C-72 – Qausuittuq National Park – Third Reading