Report of the committee
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources has the honour to table its
Your committee, which was authorized to examine 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, has, in obedience to the order of reference of Thursday, May 2, 2019, examined the said subject-matter and now reports as follows:
Division 23 of Part 4
A. Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve of Canada
Division 23 of Part 4 amends the Canada National Parks Act to facilitate the establishment of Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve of Canada at the eastern end of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. The amendment describes the boundaries for the national park reserve, as well as providing for the conduct of some activities in the park that support traditional indigenous and northern lifestyles. The goal of this part of the bill is to legally protect a 14,000-square-kilometre area of the boreal forest and the traditional territory of the Lutsël K’e Dene First Nation and several other Indigenous peoples as Canada’s 47th national park.
The area was first identified as a potential new national park in 1969, and to accommodate this possibility, 7,340 square kilometres of land was set aside under the Territorial Lands Act. In 2007, 26,350 additional square kilometres were added through an interim land withdrawal, for a total of approximately 33,600 square kilometres.
When a park in the area was originally proposed in the 1960s, government policy at that time did not permit Indigenous peoples to hunt, trap, fish or undertake any of the activities that they associate with the land in a national park. As a result, the Lutsël K’e Dene people did not support the idea. Changes in the Constitution Act, 1982 affirming Indigenous rights and the right of Indigenous peoples to continue their activities in national parks and national park reserves, together with growing concern over mineral staking in their traditional territory, prompted the Lutsël K’e Dene First Nation to enter into a collaborative relationship with Parks Canada to protect the land, with the community voting almost 90 per cent in favour of moving forward with the national park reserve.
As a result of the Northwest Territories Devolution Act of 2014, which transferred legislative powers and administration and control over onshore public lands and inland waters from Canada to the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Government of the Northwest Territories is now responsible for the administration and management of the lands known as Thaidene Nëné. A series of meetings between Parks Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories, Lutsël K’e Dene First Nation, Northwest Territories Métis Nation and Indigenous groups resulted in an agreement that the proposed national park reserve would be established within the land withdrawal area. Negotiations between the federal government and the Government of the Northwest Territories concerning a land transfer agreement that would provide the minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency with the authority to administer and manage the lands within the proposed park reserve boundaries in accordance with the Canada National Parks Act are ongoing and are expected to be finalized in spring 2019.
The proposed park reserve boundaries have been negotiated to exclude all identified areas of high and very high mineral potential. The interim land withdrawal does not provide for new mineral staking, exploration or development, nor can any new land use permits, licences of occupation or leases be issued in the area. However, the amendments ensure the continuation of all existing activities within the proposed national park reserve, such as a tourist lodge and recreational property. The amendments will only come into force after the land transfer agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories is signed. Parks Canada is also working to sign impact benefit agreements with Indigenous organizations at the same time.
The committee notes that the establishment of this national park reserve follows years of extensive negotiations. The committee was encouraged to hear that Parks Canada has substantially changed its approach to establishing national park reserves. For example, rather than limited and time-constrained consultations, the negotiation process involved regular meetings to go through agreements for setting up a cooperative management board for different types of investment with the communities and involving Indigenous peoples directly in park management. The Watchman Program in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, where local Indigenous people welcome visitors, monitor the ecosystem, monitor visitor impacts and provide an interesting and dynamic visitor experience, is an excellent example of this. As well, Indigenous knowledge and western science are used for ecological management, with both treated equally.
The committee learned that the passage of these amendments establishing the national park reserve will trigger a donation for the creation of a trust fund totalling $30 million. This investment is comprised of $15 million from the federal government and matching funds of $15 million raised by the Lutsël K’e Dene First Nation working with a conservation organization. This funding will be used to generate interest that will allow Lutsël K’e Dene First Nation to manage, operate and govern the national park reserve and hire local people as guardians and managers and create economic benefits and opportunities. This, combined with interests in mines outside the park boundaries, will create a stable economic environment that can mitigate the ups and downs associated with the development of a mine or natural resources.
B. Lake Louise and Mount Norquay Ski Areas
Division 23 of Part 4 of the bill also adjusts the boundaries of the Lake Louise and the Mount Norquay ski areas in Banff National Park. These boundary changes reflect guidelines for development and use that were negotiated with each operator and were also subject to public consultation, input and environmental impact assessment, with more ecologically significant land being exchanged for land more suited for skiing. For the Lake Louise ski area, the land reduction is in an area the operators did not intend to develop; at the same time, the operators have been allowed to add an area which had been one of their planned areas for development for some time but was not part of their lease. In the Mount Norquay ski area, the land removed from the lease areas was used for avalanche control; it was exchanged for terrain that allows the operator to connect skiing areas. This gives Parks Canada more control over avalanche control, while giving the operator a business advantage in connecting more ski runs.
The boundaries are adjusted in ways that respect the national park setting and facilitate improvements to ecological integrity, while providing the operator with the business certainty needed to make ongoing investments and enable them to take advantage of business opportunities to deliver outdoor experiences for park visitors. The committee is reassured to hear that this part of the bill appears to strike a good balance between environmental protection and economic development.
Division 24 of Part 4 of Bill C-97
Division 24 of Part 4 of the bill amends the Parks Canada Agency Act to establish a standard, one-year appropriation authority for the Parks Canada Agency. The Agency is responsible for parks operations in Canada.
The Parks Canada Agency Act is amended to provide that, starting on April 1, 2021, any balance of money appropriated to the Parks Canada Agency that is not spent by the Agency in the fiscal year in which it was appropriated lapses at the end of that fiscal year. Currently, the unspent balance of money appropriated to the Agency may be carried forward to the year following the year in which the money was appropriated. This amendment will bring the Agency in line with the appropriation provisions of other departments with large capital asset bases.