Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères, BQ)
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate today in the debate at second reading of Bill C-38, an act to amend the National Parks Act.
This bill will not necessitate a lengthy debate as it contains a single clause adding Tuktut Nogait National Park in the Northwest Territories to the list of national parks in Schedule I to the act.
The added Part XII specifies the boundaries of the new park, which covers 16,340 square kilometres or 6,310 square miles. Future negotiations may result in park boundaries being expanded to include land that is currently part of Nunavut and traditional Sahtu Dene and Metis territories, which would increase the total area covered by the park to 28,190 square kilometres.
In 1995, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Inuit of Nunavut and the Sahtu Dene and Metis agreed to leave the area to ensure the interim protection of the future location of the national park once the project has been completed.
The name of the park will be Tuktut Nogait National Park, which means “caribou fawn” in the Siglik dialect of Inuvialukton.
As indicated in the press release from the secretary of state responsible for Parks Canada announcing the tabling of this bill, this is a most appropriate name since the new park will protect the calving grounds of the Bluenose caribou.
The park is located in Melville Hills, east of Inuvik, in the Northwest Territories. It represents the natural region of tundra hills in the Canadian national parks system. Melville Hills consist of tundra vegetation, rolling hills and deep canyons. Its rich biodiversity is uncharacteristic of Arctic regions and comes from the variety of microhabitats it incorporates.
The many cliffs and ramparts provide ideal nesting areas for birds of prey. Moreover, the lush vegetation of the hills and the valleys provides an excellent habitat for caribou and musk sheep.
The closest inhabited place is Paulatuk, where we find a Inuvialuit community of about 300.
The park protects a natural site blessed with impressive tundra landscapes—spectacular canyons, many caribou, musk sheep, wolves, birds and other wild species from the North—as well as archaeological sites which confirm that there was a human presence thousands of years ago. These natural lands will enrich Canada's natural parks network, whose reputation is already well established around the world.
The territory covered by the park has a great cultural and economic importance for the region's population. Tuktut Nogait also has many features that are of interest to the scientific community. The high altitude areas escaped glaciation and served as a refuge to the biota during the Wisconsin glacial stage.
The only comparable zone in all of the Arctic's continental regions is found in northern Yukon. The park has a number of pingos, which are steep, ice-cored mounds. It also has one of the largest population of eagles and falcons in the Northwest Territories.
From a scientific point of view, it is interesting to see signs of a human presence throughout the region. Contrary to what one might think, a large area of the park was inhabited a number of times during the last millennium. The interpretation of archeological sites raises important questions about the culture of Thule Inuit in that area, and about the origins of Inuit society.
The region provides visitors with an opportunity to discover untouched Arctic landscapes, and to observe wildlife and plant life. Activities include hiking, camping, birdwatching, nature watching and photography.
Among the points of interest, let us mention the spectacular canyons along the Hornaday and Brock rivers, the impressive LaRonciere Falls, and the abundance of birds, wildlife and wild flowers. Visitors can also familiarize themselves with the life, culture and history of northern peoples.
The first European to visit this part of the Arctic coast was Samuel Hearne, of the Hudson's Bay Company. He descended the Coppermine River in 1771 in search of copper deposits, the abundance of which had been considerably exaggerated.
The Tuktut Nogait region was not visited again until over 50 years later. Between 1821 and 1852, the royal navy renewed the search for the Northwest Passage. Many explorers, including John Franklin, surveyed the coastline. After 1900, eminent researchers such as Vilhjalmur Stefansson, R.M. Anderson and Diamond Jenness, studied the region and its people.
The agreement creating the park was signed in 1996 by Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and four representatives of the Inuvialuit: the Inuvialuit regional corporation, the Inuvialuit game management council, the Paulatuk community corporation, and the Paulatuk committee of hunters and trappers.
The purpose of the agreement creating the park was to fulfil the commitments made by the federal government to the Inuvialuit native peoples when it passed the Western Arctic (Inuvialuit) Claims Settlement Act in 1984. This legislation implemented an agreement that conclusively settled Inuvialuit claims over certain lands in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon territory that they traditionally used and occupied.
As compensation for the extinction of their ancestral claims, rights, titles and interests, the agreement provided that certain lands would be granted to or set aside for the Inuvialuit, and upheld their right to hunt, fish, trap and conduct commercial activities thereon, subject to certain limitations.
The agreement was intended to give the Inuvialuit a way to retain their cultural identity and values within a rapidly evolving Nordic society, while making them full participants in that society and its economy. The agreement contained the requirement to protect the fauna, environment and biological production of the Arctic.
Creation of the Tuktut Nogiat park is, therefore, an offshoot of the Convention recognized in the Western Arctic (Inuvialuit) Claims Settlement Act.
This becomes obvious when the objectives of the park's creation are examined. They are: to protect the Bluenose caribou herd and its calving and post-calving habitat; to protect in perpetuity a natural area in the Tundra Hills region, and encourage the public to understand and appreciate the region in such a way as to leave it intact for coming generations; to encourage collaboration between the Inuvialuit, the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories with respect to the planning, operation and management of the park; to encourage and support the creation and maintaining of jobs and businesses in the region, by encouraging subsistence use of the park; to encourage greater understanding and respect of the cultural heritage of the Inuvialuit and their natural environment; to create an environment suited to long-term research into its ecological and cultural heritage; and to preserve the ecological integrity of the park.
The park board will be responsible for reconciling these various objectives of preserving nature, economic and tourism development, and the respect of aboriginal traditions. This body will have a membership of five, two appointed by the Inuvialuit, two by the federal government, one of these on the recommendation of the Government of the Northwest Territories, and a chair to be appointed with the agreement of all parties.
The legislation proposed today will provide this national park with complete protection according to the limits set out in the 1996 agreement under the National Parks Act and regulations.
Even if we are in agreement with the principle of this bill, it seems we are being called upon to deal with it rapidly.
This bill was introduced at first reading on Monday, March 30, and here we are today, April 3, at second reading. The documents relating to the analysis of this bill, a press release and a briefing note, are still warm from arriving in such a hurry.
It is interesting to note that the government is assuming the park will be created. On page 102 of Heritage Canada's estimates, Tuktut Nogait appears as one of the three Northwest Territories parks. And yet, Bill C-38 has not been passed.
I think it would have been wiser and less presumptuous to add the word “planned” beside the name of the park. It would take little for us to question whether this was not a breach of the privileges of this House.
We will approve this bill in principle at second reading. But we reserve judgement until we have had time to read the agreements that led to this bill and until we hear the witnesses interested in this bill in the course of the public hearings that will be held by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
Subtopic: National Parks Act