Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Issue No. 71 - Evidence - May 28, 2019


OTTAWA, Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources met this day at 5:45 p.m. to study the subject matter of those elements contained in Divisions 23 and 24 of Part 4 of Bill C-97, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures; and, in camera, for the consideration of a draft report.

Senator Rosa Galvez (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Good evening, and welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. My name is Rosa Galvez, a senator from Quebec, and I’m chair of this committee. I will now ask senators around the table to introduce themselves.

Senator MacDonald: Michael MacDonald from Nova Scotia.

Senator Frum: Linda Frum, Ontario.

Senator Seidman: Judith Seidman from Montreal, Quebec.

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: Claude Carignan from Quebec.

[English]

Senator Patterson: Dennis Patterson from Nunavut.

Senator Simons: Paula Simons from Alberta, Treaty 6 territory.

Senator McCallum: Mary Jane McCallum, Treaty 10, Manitoba region.

The Chair: Colleagues, tonight we begin our study of the subject matter of those elements contained in Divisions 23 and 24 of Part 4 of Bill C-97, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures, introduced in the House of Commons on April 8, 2019.

Today we welcome, from Parks Canada, Mr. Michael Nadler, Acting Chief Executive Officer; and Mr. Kevin McNamee, Director, Protected Areas Establishment Branch. Thank you very much for joining us. I invite each of you to proceed with your opening statements and we will follow with a period of questions and answers.

[Translation]

Michael Nadler, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada: We’re pleased to be with you this evening. We want to thank the committee for the invitation.

[English]

Thank you very much, Madam Chair, for the invitation to participate this evening. I’m joined by Kevin McNamee, Director of Protected Areas Establishment Branch. I’m the Acting Chief Executive Officer for Parks Canada. I would be remiss if I didn’t also observe that Paul Graner and Bonnie Corriveau of Parks Canada have also joined us for this meeting.

Ms. Corriveau has been supporting Parks Canada staff in committee meetings for years, and this is actually her last committee meeting before she moves on to a new job, so we’re pleased to have her with us this evening.

As you mentioned, Madam Chair, there are three elements in the 2019 budget implementation act that relate to the work of Parks Canada. Two involve amendments to the Canada National Parks Act, and the third requires an amendment to the Parks Canada Agency Act.

The first amendment to the Canada National Parks Act relates to the establishment of Thaidene Nëné national park. This is a park in the Northwest Territories on the east arm of Great Slave Lake. If you imagine Yellowknife and cast your imagination toward the east, you will very quickly bump into a community called Łutsël K’e, and there’s a map now being distributed to members that will show you the park. It is among the most beautiful settings in the country.

The legislative amendments relate to the establishment of the park, but they will also facilitate specific uses of the park by Indigenous people and Northerners to facilitate their lifestyles there.

The second amendment to the National Parks Act relates to the boundaries for two ski areas in Banff National Park. The first of these is the Lake Louise ski area and the second is the Mt. Norquay ski area. Those amendments are to facilitate the ongoing operations and planning for those two ski operations. The boundaries are the product of negotiation with the operators, but also broad public consultation and environmental impact assessment.

The third element is something that was announced initially in Budget 2014 and is a change in the appropriation cycle for the Parks Canada Agency. It was announced in Budget 2014 but never found its way into the implementation act for that budget and has come around again this year and was announced in Budget 2019. Legislative amendments to the Parks Canada Agency Act are also in the budget implementation act.

This change is designed to align Parks Canada with a number of other departments and agencies that are significant asset holders. My colleague Kevin will speak in a bit more detail to the establishment of Thaidene Nëné. Then I will speak to the ski areas and to the one-year appropriation.

Kevin McNamee, Director, Protected Areas Establishment Branch, Parks Canada: Good afternoon, senators. The purposes of clauses 328 to 331 and 333, as contained within the budget implementation act, is to amend the Canada National Parks Act to establish Thaidene Nëné national park reserve. The goal is to legally protect 14,000 square kilometres of boreal forest, fresh water ecosystems, wildlife habitat and part of the traditional territory of several Indigenous organizations and communities as Canada’s forty-seventh national park.

The government signalled its commitment to establish this park reserve in Budget 2016, which provided the long-term funding to establish, develop and operate Thaidene Nëné.

During consultations in 2016 and 2017, 90 per cent of participants expressed support for this national park reserve. But, more importantly, the proposed amendments in Bill C-97 respond to the issues and concerns raised during these consultations, in particular by northern residents.

Parks Canada is currently concluding the necessary establishment agreements with the Government of the Northwest Territories, or GNWT, the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation, which is the prime proponent of this park, and the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, as well as with several other Indigenous organizations. The land transfer agreement, which we are very close to concluding with the GNWT, is key, as it sets the terms and conditions under which the territorial government will transfer the land for this national park reserve to Canada.

Turning to the proposed amendments, clause 331 adds a description of the park’s final boundary to Schedule 2 of the Canada National Parks Act. We have provided to the committee a map that gives you an illustration of what that boundary looks like, which within the bill is about seven pages of latitude and longitude.

This boundary includes an excellent representation of the Northwestern Boreal Uplands natural region, will maintain ecological integrity and provide iconic visitor experiences and includes areas of importance to Indigenous communities. It also excludes all identified areas of high mineral potential and almost all areas of moderate to high mineral potential.

Clauses 328 to 330 ensure that non-Indigenous land uses and activities that are typically not permitted in national parks will continue in Thaidene Nëné national park reserve. These activities include berry picking and the gathering of medicinal and healing plants the cutting and gathering of wood for campfires and temporary shelters and subsistence harvest, all for personal uses. In our consultations with northern residents, these were activities identified as ones they wanted to continue.

The amendments also ensure the continuation of existing licences within the proposed boundary and the right to renew these leases, such as for a tourist lodge and a recreational property in the Reliance area of the park. They also provide Parks Canada with the authority to permit activities such as aircraft access, a major means of accessing this region, as well as recreational fishing. Fuel caches will also be permitted, which is important to users. The amendments allow the superintendent of the park reserve to restrict or prohibit certain activities for the purposes of public health, public safety or the conservation of natural resources.

These provisions are consistent with the land-transfer agreement negotiated to date between Parks Canada and the GNWT. The Canada National Parks Act provides for the continuation of such activities if they are included in a national park establishment agreement negotiated with a territorial government.

The amendments will only come into force after the land transfer agreement with the GNWT is signed, possibly this summer. The amendments stipulate that the land-transfer agreement would be made publicly available.

In conclusion, senators, the passage of these amendments will conclude a decades-long effort to protect Thaidene Nëné, one that is being realized because of a strong collaborative effort between governments, federal and territorial, and Indigenous communities.

In particular, this new national park reserve will be a testament to the vision and dedication of the chief, council, elders and community members of the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation.

Thank you.

Mr. Nadler: With your permission, Madam Chair, I’ll speak briefly to the ski areas and also the one-year appropriation elements of the BIA.

Alpine skiing has been part of the visitor experience in the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks since the 1930s. There are four ski area operations in Jasper and in Banff National Park. One of them is a basin located in Jasper, and three are in Banff National Park.

Over the past decade, Parks Canada has been working with ski areas to develop guidelines for their operations that help facilitate their business, advancements in their business, but also achieve ecological gains in the park. Part of that dialogue and negotiation has included redefining the boundaries for each of the ski areas.

There are two that remain to be gazetted into the National Parks Act, and those are Norquay and Lake Louise. The guidelines for Norquay were concluded in 2013, and Lake Louise in 2015. We’ve been working with each of those operators on lease renewal that will allow them to take full benefit of the changes and boundaries.

At this point, integrating the new boundaries into the National Parks Act will give them operational and business certainty moving into the coming winter season. It might seem far off now, but for their planning and preparations and our own this is the lead time they require to implement their business planning. Both Parks Canada and the ski areas have dependency on the revenues that accrue from visitation to these ski areas, so there is a direct relationship to Parks Canada’s operating budget that stems from the changes to the boundaries.

On the one-year appropriation, as I mentioned, in 2014 this formed part of the budget announcement but was not implemented. It has been announced again as part of Budget 2019. It’s part of a broader initiative by the government to bring more departments and agencies into a one-year appropriation cycle. There is another dimension that’s relevant to Parks Canada that is slightly different from others. When most people think about Parks Canada they recognize us for the management of national parks and marine conservation areas, but may not realize that we are actually among the top three asset holders in the federal government. We have an asset portfolio valued at roughly $24 billion.

The federal government is moving large asset holders into an accrual accounting model for the management of their assets. National Defence, Public Services and Procurement Canada have moved into that regime. Parks Canada is now being asked to move into that regime as well. Shifting to a one-year appropriation will facilitate more comparability to our asset management partners. Those changes in some ways are administrative in nature but nonetheless they’re important for operations.

[Translation]

Thank you for your patience and attention.

The Chair: Thank you. I’m sorry for the delay. We’ll now move on to the question period.

Senator Massicotte: Thank you both for being here. I have several questions. I understand that everyone, including the Dene community, supports the creation of the park. However, 20 years ago, when this place was identified for the creation of a park, the Dene community was opposed to it. What has changed, and why does the Dene community now support the creation of the park?

Mr. Nadler: It’s an interesting story. Kevin will respond in English and I can add some additional information in French, if you wish.

[English]

Mr. McNamee: Thank you for the question. This proposal actually dates back 50 years, when the Government of Canada first approached the community of Snowdrift and asked them about creating a national park. However, at that time government policy was that Indigenous people could not hunt, trap, fish or undertake any of the activities that they associate with the land in the national park. So we were told to go away, and we did.

What changed, first, was we changed our legislation and our policies, and in part due to the Constitution of 1982, which affirmed the rights of Indigenous people, Indigenous people now have the right — not a privilege; the right — to continue their activities within national parks and national park reserves.

The second thing that changed was that in 2006, the elders of Łutsël K’e were concerned about the amount of mineral staking in and around their community and on their traditional territory. They looked at ways to protect their land and came to the conclusion that the national park reserve was the way to go.

The third thing that changed was, in 2014, the Government of Canada came to an agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories with respect to devolution. The responsibility for the administration of lands and resources in the Northwest Territories was transferred to the territorial government. They invited us back in 2015, on their terms, to discuss this national park reserve. This is the first post-devolution national park to be established anywhere in the territories. Those were the three essential things.

I would add, senator, that not everyone may totally be in agreement with it. There were some during our consultations who expressed concerns.

Senator Massicotte: Why?

Mr. McNamee: In particular, the mining industry has some concerns that we are closing off areas to mineral exploration and development. I would point out that the original study area was 33,000 square kilometres. We are now talking about a national park that is 14,000 square kilometres in size. There are an additional 12,000 square kilometres that will be territorially protected and conserved areas, leaving about 7,000 square kilometres, including areas of high mineral potential, open to potential development once the entire conservation package is concluded.

[Translation]

Senator Massicotte: I have a question about the ski resort. The operator is a private company, I assume? Does a company manage the ski area?

Mr. Nadler: Yes, both are private companies.

Senator Massicotte: They support the resolution? In that case, since the ski resort will be on national park territory, will the rent decrease accordingly? Will this operator benefit financially from the size reduction?

Mr. Nadler: The size of each ski trail has been reduced. At the same time, land has been exchanged, for ecological reasons, which may be more beneficial to companies that operate ski trails. Everyone is satisfied with the changes.

Senator Massicotte: There’s no impact on the lease? They pay the same amount, except that a different territory is designated?

Mr. Nadler: There’s no financial impact.

Senator Massicotte: The last part — I think that it’s in Division 24 — is about appropriations. In other words, the appropriations become annual, as is generally the case in the government. I’m concerned that this may encourage companies to spend more each year. If the budgeted funds aren’t spent, the funds are lost. The funds can’t be carried forward, and the previous years aren’t extended. The economic disadvantage isn’t significant enough to ensure that the funds are spent each year. The funds don’t come back from year to year. The perspective that consists of managing properties for a period of only one year is a very short-term vision. In a sense, isn’t it a mistake to proceed this way?

Mr. Nadler: You’re asking a very good question. It’s the first time that we’ve been asked this question in relation to this aspect of the bill. Thank you for that. You’re quite right. The money must be spent every year. However, we have some flexibility in terms of a carry-forward of about 5 per cent for our operations and 25 per cent for assets. In recent years, our carry-forward has been about the same. There isn’t much risk for Parks Canada, given that our financial management is now comparable to what we would be required to do in our annual appropriation cycle.

Senator Massicotte: Thank you.

Mr. Nadler: It’s a good question.

[English]

Senator Simons: I want to follow up directly on Senator Massicotte’s questions. I’m from Alberta, so I’m well aware of how popular these ski areas are. I want to understand the area of the land that’s being taken back. Was any of that already developed as ski runs or had it remained in its fairly natural state?

Mr. Nadler: For Lake Louise, their lease area was quite large and included, to the southeast, a number of areas that they had no intention to develop. We’ve reduced there and allowed them to add an area called Hidden Bowl, which had been one of their planned areas for development for some time but was not part of their lease. It worked well for Parks Canada because there are ecological benefits in that exchange for us. So it was kind of a win-win for both.

Senator Simons: And at Norquay?

Mr. Nadler: It’s a more modest change at Norquay. We’ve removed from the lease areas used for avalanche control and traded those for a licence of occupation. This gives us a bit more control over the fashion and approach they use for avalanche control, but we added terrain that allows them to connect more runs with the traverse. So there are business advantages for them as well.

Senator Simons: This doesn’t affect anything that’s already a developed ski area?

Mr. Nadler: No. The other advantage at Norquay is some of the land we pulled out was an area that facilitates wildlife migration in the area.

Senator Simons: That’s important. Is there any kind of compensation paid to them? Do they get a reduction in their lease? How does this come out in the end financially?

Mr. Nadler: You’re right; the site guidelines are bigger than just the boundaries of the facility. We negotiate a number of commercial dimensions. They’ve all received an increase in their allowable commercial space so they can build more assets. Each of them has received the latitude-to-add lists to their operations, and all four ski areas have received increases in their allowable daily guest numbers.

Senator Simons: You may have achieved the near impossible in environmental policy. You may have made everybody happy.

Mr. Nadler: Well, it took 10 years, but we are pleased with the outcome.

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: I’m looking at the map for the creation of Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve. I’m trying to superimpose it on the geological potential study conducted in 2013.

I can see potential for a diamond mine. I understand that some high-potential areas in the red area on the 2013 map weren’t included. However, other areas, such as Reliance Lake, appear to have been included in the park.

Do you have a map where the assessed geological potential is superimposed against what you’ve provided as a version of the park? I understand that, in the 1993 study, you assessed the geological potential in an identified area of interest, but you adjusted the park descriptions based on that potential. Is that what has been done, and do you have a map that superimposes the park’s boundaries and geological potential, particularly the diamond mining potential? I can see great potential for diamond deposits in the southern part, which is around 58, 57 or 56 on the map within the proposed boundaries.

Mr. McNamee: We have some maps that present this information. I may give it to the clerk. I have only one copy, but you can see the land that has ore potential. Parks Canada isn’t solely responsible for setting the boundaries. The boundaries are the result of negotiations between Parks Canada, the territorial government and the Indigenous people of Lutsël K’e and other nations. The boundaries are the result of a collaborative effort between a few governments.

Senator Carignan: In the area targeted for the creation of the park, are any designated mining claims owned by third parties or companies and affected by the park’s boundaries?

Mr. McNamee: There are no licences in the boundary area because, in 1970, the federal government implemented interim protection measures. In addition, in 2008, the federal government implemented other interim protection measures. Since then, industries haven’t been able to establish mineral exploration licence fees. There are no licences.

Senator Carignan: That’s fine. However, what would happen if we discovered part of a diamond mine in the southern area? I understand that the 2013 geological assessment report was written with the 2013 tools, that things can change over time, that high-potential areas could be less significant than we thought, and that medium-potential areas could become high-potential areas. Does this mean that the national park designation will prevent this development forever? Or, given that we’re talking about a national park reserve and that negotiations are still ongoing with Indigenous peoples, could a third party negotiate rights or licences with respect to certain areas of the park until the territory is designated as a national park?

Mr. McNamee: I’m sorry, but I’ll answer your question in English, because there are some important aspects to all this.

[English]

Senator Carignan: It is your constitutional right; you have the right to speak in English, as it is mine to speak in French.

Mr. McNamee: First of all, you touch on a very important point. What is a national park reserve? It is established where there are claims by Indigenous people that the government has accepted for negotiation. While there is a treaty in place that dates back to 1900, the Government of Canada is in the process of negotiating a number of land claims.

It cannot establish a national park until all of those claims are dealt with. However, the Canada National Parks Act is clear that a national park reserve is like a national park. There is no lesser level of protection.

As the result of land claim negotiations, should there be a decision to change the boundary, that may happen. However, until then, within the line on this map, you cannot currently explore or develop mineral resources because it is under interim protection. Once the area is protected per an agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories, there will be no mineral exploration or development within that boundary.

The Government of the Northwest Territories has gone to great pains to negotiate with us a boundary that excludes, as I’ve indicated, all the areas of high mineral potential and most of the areas of moderate-to-high potential.

Senator Frum: I would like to ask a question more broadly about Parks Canada and the way it has been treated in this budget by this government. This is a government that says it cares a lot about our environment, but a CBC report from March cited the fact that a report that you commissioned at Parks Canada showed that 40 per cent of the properties controlled by Parks Canada are in either poor or very poor condition. The report notes that the last major infusion of money that came to Parks Canada was in 2014 when you received $3 billion.

Do you think this government has given appropriate focus and resources to Parks Canada in this budget?

Mr. Nadler: There are a couple of questions there. You are absolutely right that Budget 2014 provided a significant infusion of capital to Parks Canada to respond to deferred maintenance and deferred improvement on our asset base. That deferred maintenance had been ongoing for probably 20 to 30 years, so the state of our assets was quite poor in 2014.

The CBC article was based on a report that, you are absolutely right, we produced, assessing our assets, but the research was done in 2016. That 2014 infusion of capital was a five-year program. We were only partway through the investments under the program. While we were working on our assets, we could not evaluate them as improved until the work was complete. Since then a significant number of the assets treated by the report are now in fair-to-good condition, which was the objective of the funding.

There have been subsequent investments for capital improvement by subsequent budgets as well. Budget 2019 provides $366 million over two years to Parks Canada to continue these investments for improvement in our assets.

Again, honourable senators, people don’t always realize that Parks Canada is responsible for 200 dams in Ontario, significant waterway infrastructure in Ontario and also a number of portions of the Trans-Canada Highway. Our assets are broader than the historic sites and visitor-experience assets that most people are familiar with.

Senator Frum: You have also started charging admission fees at some sites but not others. How do you make the decision when to charge admission fees and when not to? We can speak about the particular project we are talking about today. How do make a decision about these in that case?

Mr. Nadler: That’s an excellent question. Parks Canada has just completed a public consultation on changes to fees. Honourable senators may be familiar with the 2016 Service Fees Act that required agencies like ours that are fee-charging institutions to make some changes to our operations. One of those involves the application of an annual or regular inflater to accommodate the impact of inflation on the purchasing power of the dollar. We consulted on those changes. The Service Fees Act also required some other changes related to cost recovery. Those consultations are complete and we are now going through what we heard from Canadians. We will publish a report of what we heard very soon.

There is actually a structure whereby we evaluate the level of service offered at our places. As you can imagine, we have 221 places across the country. Some of these are very small and remote and there is not a significant offer to visitors. At others, though, we have developed offers. In instances where we have improved or augmented that offer, the site will sometimes go up a level on our fee structure. The information that you received reflects a number of places that have improved their visitor offers and so we have increased the fees.

Mr. McNamee: I appreciate the question in the context of Thaidene Nëné. For example, if you were to look at your map and could pick out numbers 76 and 77, which are in McLeod Bay, several territorial parks will be put in adjacent to this area, creating a conservation complex of about 26,000 square kilometres.

Prior to our negotiations with the Government of the Northwest Territories we made a commitment that we would not charge entry fees. As you can see, if somebody is in a boat coming along the lake and suddenly hits the Parks Canada boundary, we will not have wardens spaced out across the boundary to charge admission fees.

We recognize that this area is very important to the people of Yellowknife. There is a fair amount of boat traffic that comes through there, so we made a commitment not to charge entry fees. However, if there are facilities that we build and provide within the back country so that an individual gets a personal benefit from it, a fee would be charged and we would work through our fee structure. That was part of the negotiations with the GNWT.

Senator Seidman: Thank you both very much for your presentations. I would like to ask about the change in the appropriation authority. I’m trying to understand the impact of rescinding the ability of Parks Canada to carry forward unspent moneys to the next year.

I’m not sure if I missed this in your presentation but, for example, what is the norm? What was the unspent balance that might have been carried forward to the next year?

Mr. Nadler: It is an excellent question. We’ve been very mindful of the potential impacts of this change. Parks Canada was established as an agency in 1999, so we’ve been operating for twenty years with a two-year appropriations cycle that will allow some flexibility.

I will respond directly to the question and then I will explain. We have some options around vote model as well that will apply. Core departments that operate on a one-year appropriation have three separate votes. One is operations and salary vote, another is grants and contributions and another is capital.

As we’ve been discussing, Parks Canada is a significant asset holder and manager for the federal government. Fortunately, in the federal system, departments are allowed to carry forward 25 percent of their capital budget each year. We can even negotiate an increase with Finance Canada should there be unusual circumstance that might require a greater carry-forward.

Parks Canada’s annual carry-forward in a normal operating year — we have significant investment going on right now so it is not a normal year — would be under the 25 per cent threshold. Grants and contributions are a separate pocket because you must request permission to carry forward those dollars, but on operations it is a 5 per cent carry forward. Generally Parks Canada has come within that threshold — sometimes a little bit more but, more often than not, a little less than a 5 per cent operations carry forward.

We are not too concerned about the transition from those considerations. We will want to negotiate our vote structure with Finance Canada. Right now we have a single vote that covers everything and gives us a lot of flexibility to move dollars from one part of our budget to another.

We would likely carry a separate capital vote, but we might seek to merge our grant and contributions and operations vote, simply because we work with a lot of partners in the delivery of our services and having that flexibility to change from an operating dollar to a grant dollar makes a lot of sense for our business.

Senator Seidman: So you are not worried that this will impose a particular hardship?

Mr. Nadler: I don’t think so. We will have to adapt. There is a two-year period for us to implement the changes, and we will need that time to change our financial systems and train our staff. We will have to go through that process which is not a small thing, but the risks around the transition financially are modest, if any. Thank you. It was an excellent question.

Senator Patterson: It is nice to see you both here today. I just want to say that I have been in the park. I have fished at Trophy Lodge near Reliance. I assume that’s grandfathered, that wonderful fishing lodge, as it is catch-and-release and some of the best trout fishing in the country. It will continue in the park; is that correct?

Mr. McNamee: Yes, and I don’t want to just say, “yes.” Yes, it will continue within the park. Part of the amendment package here is that those that have a lease within the park at the time of establishment will continue under the terms and conditions of their current lease, and they would be renewed. Furthermore, to go to an earlier question, in the transition from a national park reserve to a national park, that lease would also continue. It is covered off in a number of sections within the amendment package.

Senator Patterson: That’s good. I want to mention my long-time friend Bob Gamble, who spent his career working on this park. I pay tribute to him; he is now retired.

You didn’t map the proposed territorial park or parks under NWT legislation. You said 12,000 square kilometres additional, and then later, you said 26,000, if I heard you correctly. Will the territorial regimes allow mineral and exploration development?

Mr. McNamee: I apologize if I have created confusion.

Senator Patterson: Maybe it was me.

Mr. McNamee: Let’s says it’s me. In 2005 the elders of Łutsël K’e came up with a vision for a 33,000-square-kilometre national park. With devolution and the territorial government in control, after negotiation we ended up dividing up that 33,000 square kilometres into 14,000 square kilometres for the national park reserve, 12,000 square kilometres that would be territorially protected and conserved areas, and, if my math is correct, 7,000 square kilometres of that land withdrawal, of that study area, would eventually be open to mineral exploration and development.

What was the second part of your question?

Senator Patterson: You’ve answered it, I think. Would it allow mineral exploration?

Mr. McNamee: The territorial government is currently working to pass, through their legislative process, amendments that would do two things: one, provide them with the authority to enter into an agreement with Canada for the national park reserve; and, two, set out the legislative framework for their territorially protected areas.

My understanding is it would not permit mineral exploration and development, but it may permit mineral access corridors through those territorially protected areas. If the committee is interested, I think it’s best to contact the GNWT on that.

Senator Patterson: There’s a rich diamond mine near the park, Gahcho Kué, owned by De Beers. The MERA, the Mineral and Energy Resource Assessment, done in the process of setting up this park reserve, showed a high potential for kimberlite-hosted diamonds in what is the park reserve area. Is that correct? How have you dealt with that with the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines?

Mr. McNamee: I’d have to look at the maps again with respect to the kimberlite pipes.

Senator Patterson: It just says “high potential for kimberlite-hosted diamonds.” I was reading from the summary of the MERA report.

Mr. McNamee: The key thing to point out is that this is a boundary arrived at through work with the Government of the Northwest Territories. Clearly, the GNWT has a very strong interest in looking at areas of mineral potential and making sure the boundary does not have a strong negative impact on the mining industry.

In fact, as the representatives of the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation indicated to the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, which reviewed these amendments several weeks ago, the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation has a number of agreements with at least three mining companies in the area. They made it very clear that, in their work on this proposal they’re not anti-development but they’re trying to develop a conservation economy that avoids, sometimes, the boom-and-bust cycle that can come with mineral development. They acknowledge it’s really important, but they want to get into an economy that has both conservation and development. I’ll get back to you on the kimberlite.

Senator Patterson: Could you give us the status of the impact-benefit agreements with the Northwest Territory Métis Nation and the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation?

Mr. McNamee: Yes. For the rest of the committee, Parks Canada is not only negotiating a land transfer agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories but also an establishment agreement with the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation. Negotiators have completed their work and have initialled the text of the agreement. The community, in a vote a couple of months ago, voted 88 per cent in favour of the national park reserve and moving ahead.

With respect to the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, we have negotiated an impact and benefit agreement. There are one or two items that we need to complete with them, which we expect to do. Again, negotiators for Canada and for the Northwest Territory Métis Nation have initialled an impact and benefit agreement.

Senator Patterson: Is that confidential?

Mr. McNamee: It is at the moment, senator.

Senator Woo: I understand that the approval of these amendments will trigger a donation for the creation of a trust fund to which the government will also provide some matching funds. Can you tell us a bit more about the provenance of this donation from outside sources and the users of that trust fund?

Mr. McNamee: Thank you for the question, senator. I think you’ve touched on one of the model aspects and the aspect in which this proposal is moving us in new directions. It was the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation that proposed the idea of a trust fund. Maybe I could use Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site as an example. They have a watchman or guardian program where the Haida go out on the land, welcome visitors, monitor the ecosystem, monitor visitor impacts and provide a very interesting and dynamic visitor experience that is incredibly special. To do that, we negotiate a contribution agreement on an annual basis where we provide them the money to do that.

The idea in Thaidene Nëné, which Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation came up with, was to create a trust fund. The trust fund will involve a $30 million investment in total, comprised of $15 million from the federal government and the Łutsël K’e Łutsël K’e First Nation, working with an organization formerly called the “Nature Trust,” now Nature United — not to be confused with the Nature Conservancy of Canada — have raised on their own, through their services, the matching $15 million. That goes into a trust fund. The Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation is responsible for that trust fund. They will put in place a board of directors. They will also, as I understand it, include a chartered accountant from a reputable firm to oversee that. That investment will then generate interest that will allow Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation to hire their own guardians and managers. They will not rely on us, Parks Canada, to negotiate a contribution agreement on an annual basis.

I don’t want to go further into the details because this is really a Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation item, but that’s the essential model and they have been public on that.

Senator Woo: Will the government be represented on the board of this trust fund?

Mr. McNamee: I believe the answer is yes but, if Madam Chair will permit me, I will provide confirmation on that structure. I think they’re still working some of that out.

Senator McCallum: Thank you for your presentations. I’m glad to hear that there will be protection of boreal forests and the tundra, because I think they will do more than resource extraction. Being on this committee has really made me see the negative impacts across Canada. It’s devastating lives. I’m glad that this is happening.

You’ve said that there may be a chance to redefine borders with the land claims agreement?

Mr. McNamee: Yes. That is a possibility. That is what the national park reserve designation is about. In essence, the area is managed as a national park, but the reserve designation indicates that there’s still a final land claim to be negotiated and, in this place, a number of agreements. I would point to a place that probably all of you have heard about, Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island. Prior to the settlement of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, there was a boundary. Once the claim was settled and an impact and benefit agreement negotiated with the Inuit, there was an area removed from the park. That was viewed by the Inuit to be of cultural importance to them. That is an example of how a boundary can change, but it’s something to be negotiated. This was clearly of importance to Inuit for reasons of their culture.

Mr. Nadler: It’s important to observe that that was back in the mid-1990s and, of course, Kevin just explained some changes in the way we’re establishing Thaidene Nëné. In past land claim negotiations and the establishment of parks as a part of land claims, Indigenous groups selected lands of cultural importance because they wanted to have control over those lands. But what Kevin just described in terms of the work with Łutsël K’e Dene and their trust, they will actually have a much stronger role in the management and delivery of the park. So they may have less reason to be concerned about control in the future than we’ve had in the past in most circumstances.

Senator McCallum: Are there any other outstanding land claims or requests for heritage sites in this area?

Mr. McNamee: I’m not aware of any requests for heritage sites, but the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation is part of the Akaitcho First Nations, so we’re working with the Yellowknives and Deninu Ku’e. That’s one land claim being worked on. There’s also ongoing work with the Northwest Territory Métis Nation with respect to a land and resources agreement. I hope I haven’t left anybody out, but those are the two main ones.

Senator McCallum: The Deline had a self-government agreement.

Mr. Nadler: It was to the north in the Sahtu region, and the land claim is settled there. Tlicho is also near the park but toward the north. There is a lovely heritage place near Deline called Saoyú-?ehdacho and we would love to host you there, if ever you are planning your visits.

Senator McCallum: And you said the territorial government would enter into an agreement with Canada in the future? What is that about?

Mr. McNamee: That’s in fact what we are negotiating and are very close to concluding now. Prior to devolution, the land was federal. With the devolution agreement, administration and control of the Northwest Territories, lands and resources rests with the territorial government. The Canada National Parks Act requires that Canada has title to the surface and the subsurface to create a national park reserve. That is the way in which we administer it.

What we do is we negotiate an agreement with the territorial government for the purposes of setting the terms and conditions under which the land would be transferred from the territorial government to Canada. Part of what you see in front of you with some of these amendments are the result of those negotiations. Our consultations indicated strong support for maintaining a number of non-Indigenous local activities. That’s part of the agreement that we have negotiated with the GNWT. It’s a key agreement that we hope to sign this summer, along with the other agreements that Senator Patterson asked about.

Senator McCallum: Thank you.

Senator McCoy: I have a very quick question. It caught my ear when you were talking about the Nature Conservancy not to be confused with, at page 1 of 2, talking about the national park reserve. Did you say it’s going to be represented by Nature United?

Mr. McNamee: First of all, there is the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which works to acquire private land. In fact, they’ve also been working with us on this proposal because there is one fee simple property that they helped us to acquire. Then there’s something called the “Nature Conservancy,” so a different organization. They apparently recently changed their name to Nature United.

Senator McCoy: So we should change this to Nature United, maybe?

Mr. McNamee: I’m sorry, senator; I guess that’s a briefing that I assume was prepared for senators, so we don’t know it. I think this just happened recently. The point being that the Nature Conservancy, now Nature United, is the organization that the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation worked with to raise the matching funds for the trust fund that I described earlier.

Senator McCoy: But Nature United will not be actually administering the fund?

Mr. McNamee: No. That will be administered by a board of directors and the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation.

Senator McCoy: Thank you.

[Translation]

Senator Mockler: I want to talk about two specific topics. This is certainly a welcome initiative. Over the past three months, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in roundtables with the New Brunswick First Nations. They’re concerned about the possibility of a class-action lawsuit, for example, for the national parks. I don’t need to tell you the history of Kouchibouguac National Park. In that case, the Indigenous people felt that they weren’t treated fairly. The First Nations should always be at the negotiating table. I have a question about Kouchibouguac park.

[English]

There will also be a question on what we call the Indigenous knowledge studies before we make a decision on expanding, creating or making adjustments. Have they been properly consulted? Can you share that information with us? Who came to those tables to advise you to take this route in Bill C-97?

[Translation]

At the same time, I want to hear about the current status of the class-action lawsuit concerning Kouchibouguac, in New Brunswick.

Mr. Nadler: Kouchibouguac park has a complicated history. Of course, some people in the region have faced real challenges with regard to the creation of the park.

We should probably prepare a written response, because I don’t know exactly what’s happening with their request right now. I can confirm that I fully understand the history of the park and the challenges faced by the people of the region.

The Chair: I want to point out that this part falls outside the scope of the study of the bill before us.

Mr. Nadler: It’s not related, but —

The Chair: Can you send us something that we’ll share later?

Mr. Nadler: That’s fine. I’d be pleased to send you a written response to the question. Mr. McNamee can tell you about the commitments that have been made to Indigenous groups.

Senator Mockler: I’d appreciate it.

[English]

Mr. McNamee: As I mentioned, we have seen over the last couple of decades that some of our national parks are, in fact, proposals that have been brought to us by Indigenous groups. Tuktut Nogait in the Northwest Territories is one. While Parks Canada had a long-standing interest going back 50 years, as I noted, it was in fact the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation in 2006, urged on by their elders, that brought forward the proposal that really ignited this current work that has resulted in the boundary that you see in front of you. They were the drivers of this. Łutsël K’e got a mandate from their chief and council to work with Canada and also, after devolution, to work with the Government of the Northwest Territories. They had been intimately involved.

We don’t just go into their community and say, “We’re here to consult you. You have 30 days to respond. Thank you very much.” That’s not the approach. We are and have been negotiating with them since 2006. We have been working with the Northwest Territory Métis Nation negotiators since 2015, although there was some work prior to that.

It’s not just consultation. This has been a negotiation process where we meet on a regular basis to go through agreements for the purpose of setting up a cooperative management board to look at different types of investment with the communities. It really has been more of a negotiation, with both parties involved on an ongoing basis. I hope that helps with your question, senator.

[Translation]

Mr. Nadler: Of course, we’ve learned lessons from the past. We’ve really changed our approach to establishing parks. Indigenous groups are now fully involved in the creation process, but also directly in park management.

Senator Mockler: That’s exactly where the committee wants to go in relation to what you just said. You said that you’ve learned from the past. Can you provide three lessons from the past that you’re applying now, with the experience that you’ve acquired?

Mr. Nadler: Of course. We’ve learned a very relevant lesson, which is as follows. Two science or knowledge systems are now being used for ecological management in parks. Western science is used, but also science based on the traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples. Both are treated equally. Instead of making one subordinate to the other, we treat both equally. We’ve learned a lot, for example, about the use of fire in our parks, and therefore in the field, to manage ecology. That’s one example.

The second lesson that we’ve learned is the following. Gwaii Haanas and Haida Gwaii were mentioned earlier in a response to a question. This experience probably transformed Parks Canada’s approach to co-managing a national park and involving Indigenous peoples in decision making for national parks. The parks are truly managed in partnership with Indigenous groups.

The third lesson that we’ve learned is the following. In one of his responses, Mr. McNamee referred to something that he called the “conservation economy” in a place such as Thaidene Nëné. We’re currently talking, with the Indigenous people of Lutsël K’e, about a world where we can have an interest in a mine or in traditional economic development. At the same time, the Indigenous people can develop a local economy based on conservation, such as harvests or even ecotourism. This economy could help to mitigate the ups and downs associated with the development of a mine or natural resources.

The Chair: We have time for two more questions.

[English]

Senator Patterson: I had quite a few questions answered, which is great.

One thing I’m curious about is I notice that all the big parks in Canada are in the North. You have Wood Buffalo at 44,000 square kilometres, Ukkusiksalik at 21,000 square kilometres, Sirmilik at 22,000 and Quttinirpaaq at 37,000. These are in Nunavut. Nahanni is 30,000. Kluane in Yukon is 22,000. Auyuittuq in Nunavut is 19,000.

Many people tell me that, at least at present, there aren’t very many visitors. There isn’t much opportunity to for tourism or outfitting. I wonder if you’d comment on whether you think there’s ecotourism potential in Thaidene Nëné, and I wonder if you would provide the committee with visitor figures for all of the national parks.

I did some research a few years ago, and I found out there were some very small visitor numbers in some of these huge parks. They would have been even smaller if a cruise ship hadn’t dropped a few people off on a Zodiac.

Are you concerned about economic benefit to communities in the tourism area?

Mr. McNamee: We’re going to do a dual dance here, if you’ll permit us.

With respect to Thaidene Nëné, we view this as having the potential to be the most visited northern national park. Given its proximity to Yellowknife — it’s about a 50-minute flight — given the effort, in particular, that the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation are putting into preparing for this national park reserve, we think it stands a very good chance of having some good visitation numbers.

I would say that in our establishment business, we don’t look at national parks as just environmental protection measures. We view these as making a really important contribution to local communities. We are present throughout about 300 remote communities across Canada. In some of the parks in Nunavut, all of the employees are Inuit. In fact, what we have found is that by having a number of Indigenous people involved in our cooperative management boards, they’re learning governance skills, and some have gone on to become the chiefs or grand chiefs of their community or First Nation.

Absolutely, senator, we view these as not just environmental initiatives but as providing important economic benefits. This has been a major driver behind Łutsël K’e’s reason for promoting this national park.

Mr. Nadler: I have some figures to share that I can provide to the committee afterwards as well so you have it for future reference.

Parks Canada has a significant investment program in our infrastructure right now, so our budget is larger than it would normally be. For the year in question, 2017-18, our budget was $1.25 billion. We’ve worked with Statistics Canada to look at the economic impacts of our operations across the country in our places. That investment by the government generated $4 billion in economic benefit for communities primarily through tourism: $2.5 billion in revenue for working people, and nearly 40,000 jobs across the country.

In a place like Nunavut, where we are seeing an evolution since the territory was established, it is important to look at not only the immediate but also the future. Auyuittuq is a more popular park than Sirmilik or Quttinirpaaq because of its proximity to a hub and its ease of access. However, as Nunavut changes and grows, and as we see development in a place like Pond Inlet, you can imagine a situation where Sirmilik becomes equally popular.

You mentioned cruise ships. We’ve been working with the cruise ship industry to take better advantage of them. As more people are interested in the Arctic, we want to work with cruise ships to ensure benefits accrue to communities from visitation to places like Sirmilik, and the wrecks of the HMS Erebus and Terror as well, near Gjoa Haven. While the visitation now is modest, it’s important for us to think of the future as well and to contemplate a time when that work with the tourism industry starts to bear real fruit for Nunavut.

Senator Patterson: Will we get the visitor numbers?

Mr. Nadler: Yes. It is available on the website, but we will give you the link right away.

Senator Patterson: Madam Chair, may I take a moment to say we are honoured to have Michael McLeod, member of Parliament for Northwest Territories, with us here today.

The Chair: Welcome, and thank you for being here.

We have exceeded our time, but this is important and we have questions, so that’s good.

Senator McCallum: Thank you, Madam Chair. I wanted to go back to your impact and benefit agreements. You had been asked if they were confidential. There is a disturbing trend toward preventing litigation, and it is in the benefit agreement. Do the ones that you know about prevent litigation by Indigenous people?

Mr. Nadler: There are resolution provisions, but they don’t bar litigation.

Mr. McNamee: I would have to look at it again, but I’m not aware of anything about litigation in the agreements we’ve negotiated. However, as my colleague has pointed out, part of the issue in negotiating these things is that under our legislation we need to ensure that the authority of the minister is not fettered — that the minister’s authority is there and has the final decision.

However, in our agreements we set up a sort of consensus approach. We have set up a cooperative management board so that if there is a dispute, Parks Canada doesn’t go running to the minister to say, “Well, we have a dispute. Here is their view, here is our view and here is what we want you to do.” The agreements are structured so that we can’t do that. The agreements are structured so that if there is a dispute, both sides have to agree that, at a particular point, it goes to the minister.

This is anecdotal within Parks Canada, but I think within the last 25 years my understanding is that there has been one reference that went to the minister and the minister said, “You work it out; I’m not going to make a decision.” It went back. That’s the approach that we’ve taken. We’ve been working with the Haida for about 25 years on that kind of approach. That’s another one of the lessons we’ve learned: Don’t go running off to the minister and say, “Make a decision that favours us” or something like that. I’m being a bit flippant, but we find the consensus approach works and it forces cooperative management board officials and Indigenous people to work out these issues in a meaningful way. I hope that helps.

Senator McCallum: Thank you.

Senator Massicotte: You gave us a lot of numbers. I think you said the government funds $1.25 billion a year for your operation, and you have a revenue of $5 billion?

Mr. Nadler: In 2017-18, our budget was $1.25 billion. We worked with Statistics Canada on a model to measure the impacts of those investments on the local tourism industry and the local economy.

Senator Massicotte: So you spent $1.25 billion?

Mr. Nadler: And that generated $4 billion.

Senator Massicotte: But you didn’t get any cash in?

Mr. Nadler: No, the $1.25 billion includes our own revenues.

Senator Massicotte: But the $4 billion is not cash coming in the door.

Mr. Nadler: Those are benefits to the community.

Senator Massicotte: It’s an accounting argument saying that you created this economic impact.

Mr. Nadler: Yes. It is an economic model.

Senator Massicotte: Some people could argue that it should be more, but I suspect your expertise is not marketing or promotion. Have you considered employing third parties to have a right for five or 10 years to promote this and bring in tourism? Have you considered that aspect?

Mr. Nadler: No. That is an excellent question. You are right; we are not experts in marketing and promotion. We are not bad at it, but we are not experts. We work with the destination marketing organizations for the provinces and regions of the country and then with Destination Canada, Canada’s international marketing organization. We lean heavily on them for promotions. If you consider Newfoundland’s national/international promotions, you will see that Parks Canada places are central in that advertising and promotion.

Senator Massicotte: I suggest you consider that. It is not a lack of confidence in you, but if private enterprise is motivated it’s amazing how creative they can get.

The Chair: Thank you for that.

MP McLeod, do you wish to make a comment or ask any question?

Michael V. McLeod, Member of Parliament for Northwest Territories: I am fine. I am just here to hear everybody’s comments.

The Chair: With that, I will thank our witnesses, but don’t go away because we want to discuss our report in camera.

Mr. Nadler: It was a privilege to be here. Thank you, everyone.

The Chair: Honourable senators, we will continue our meeting in camera.

(The committee continued in camera.)