Mr. Jim Pankiw (Saskatoon—Humboldt, Ref.)
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-38. This bill will establish the Tuktut Nogait national park in the Northwest Territories. The park will be 16,340 square kilometres and it resides in the Inuvialuit land claims settlement region.
The bill itself is very technical. It outlines in precise geographical terms the boundaries of the new park. However there is more to the bill than lines on a map and a lot of complicated geographical land descriptions. The driving force behind the creation of this national park was the protection of the calving grounds of the bluenose caribou. In fact in the Siglik dialect of Inuvialuktun, “tuktut nogait” means “caribou calves”.
In 1989 the closest community to the new park, Paulatuk, prepared a community conservation plan that recommended the creation of a national park in order to protect the caribou calving grounds. In 1996 an agreement was signed by the Government of Canada, the Northwest Territories and four representative groups of the Inuvialuit. That agreement set out the boundaries of the park as they are set out in this legislation.
The new national park not only protects the caribou but it also protects the fragile tundra landscape in that region. The creation of the park advances the objective of Parks Canada of establishing a national park in every distinctive natural region of our country.
The Tuktut Nogait park is located in region 15, Tundra Hills, as designated by Parks Canada in its national parks systems plan. This particular region is highlighted by a number of spectacular features. One is the smoking hills where smoke billows from cracks in the ash covered ground.
As well, more than 95% of this region is tundra, rock barrens where only the hardiest plants can survive. Wildlife in region 15 is mainly comprised of summer migrants. Muskox, wolves and as many as 500,000 caribou can be found in this region. According to Parks Canada this area is home to one of the rarest birds in Canada, the Eskimo curlew.
Tuktut Nogait comprises only a portion of region 15. However the new national park is an important step in preserving the wildlife and wilderness wonders which I have just described.
We live in a country that is extremely diverse in its landscape, temperatures and wildlife. It is incumbent upon us to act responsibly to ensure that the appreciation of that diversity is available to future generations. The creation of Tuktut Nogait is an important step in protecting that diversity and providing Canadians and our visitors with an opportunity to discover and enjoy the natural beauty of our country.
The Darnley Bay anomaly borders the new park on its western side. The anomaly area which covers 463,847 hectares is thought to contain nickel, copper and platinum group elements. There was some concern for the boundaries of the Tuktut Nogait park since this mineral find, or the proposed area where minerals may be, extends within the park's borders.
The company prospecting the anomaly had been given exploration permits by the department of Indian affairs that mistakenly included portions of the new national park. However in 1994 the company in question relinquished its exploration rights within the national park area so that the establishment of the park could proceed.
Last September the president of Darnley Bay Resources was quoted in the Edmonton Journal . What he said was that he would not seek a change to the park boundary if a major mineral deposit was found on the boundary. The company should be commended for that. It is encouraging to see that businesses in this country are willing to work with the government in preserving and protecting our natural heritage.
I look forward to reviewing this bill more closely in committee so that the exact costs of the establishment and maintenance of the park can be determined. I will be interested to learn how the park will be managed. I will be interested to examine any projected business or financial plans that may be available for the new park. While I am sure we are all in agreement as to the importance of establishing this park, we should also agree that the establishment of this park must be done in a fiscally responsible manner.
At this time I can see no reason for opposing the establishment of this new national park in region 15. It protects and preserves wildlife in an important wilderness area in the Northwest Territories. It preserves a part of Canada's natural heritage for us, for our children and for our grandchildren to enjoy. Surely such an objective can meet with the support of all members of this House.
Subtopic: National Parks Act