National Parks of Canada

National Parks of Canada

Banff National Park

First Park Banff National Park, 1885
Smallest Park Georgian Bay Islands National Park, 13.5 km²
Largest Park Wood Buffalo National Park, 44,807 km²
Governing body Parks Canada

Distribution and location of national parks in Canada

National Parks of Canada are protected natural spaces throughout the country that represent distinct geographical regions of the nation. Under the administration of Parks Canada, a government branch, National Parks allow for public enjoyment without compromising the area for future generations, including the management of wildlife and habitat within the ecosystems of the park. Within Parks Canada’s administration is a wide range of protected areas, encompassing National Historic Sites, National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCA), and National Park Reserves.

Canada’s first national park, located in Banff, was established in 1885. Tourism and commercialization dominated early park development, followed closely by resource extraction. Commodifying the parks for the profit of Canada’s national economy as well as conserving the natural areas for public and future use became an integrated method of park creation. The process of establishing National Parks has included the often forced displacement of indigenous and non-indigenous residents of areas within the proposed park boundaries. The conflicts between the creation of parks and the residents of the area have been negotiated through co-management practices, as Parks Canada acknowledged the importance of community involvement in order to sustain a healthy ecosystem.

A transition towards developing parks as a place of preservation began with the National Parks Act of 1930. This event marked a shift in park management practices. Revised in 1979 under the National Parks Policy, the Act placed greater emphasis on preserving the natural areas in an unimpaired state through ecological integrity and restoration, moving away from development based heavily on profit. Acting as national symbols, Canada’s National Parks exist in every province and territory representing a variety of landscapes that mark Canada’s natural heritage.


  • 1885 – Banff National Park established as Canada’s first National Park. Originally this park was called Banff Hot Springs Reserve and later the Rocky Mountains National Park.
  • 1908–1912 – Four National Parks established in Alberta and Saskatchewan with a mission akin to national wildlife refuges. All would be abolished by 1947 once their goals were achieved.
  • 1911 – Dominion Parks Branch created, the world’s first national park service. Resided in the Department of the Interior. Now known as Parks Canada, the governing body of Canada’s National Parks.
  • 1930 – Canada’s parliament passes the first National Parks Act, regulating protection of the parks.
  • 1930 – Transfer of resources agreement signed.
  • 1970s – National Parks System Plan devised with an aim to protect a representative sample of each of Canada’s 39 natural spaces.[1]
  • 1979 – National Parks policy is revised to make preserving ecological integrity the priority in Canadian Parks, ending the so-called dual-mandate with recreational uses.
  • 1984 – First National Park established through a land claim agreement.
  • 1988 – National Parks Act amended formalizing the principle of ecological integrity in the park system.
  • 1989 – The World Wildlife Canada to encourage the completion of the national parks system. The goal of the campaign is to have parks and protected areas which represent each of the country’s natural regions.
  • 2011 – To mark the 100th anniversary of the creation of the national parks system, Parks Canada, Primitive Entertainment and Discovery World HD commissioned the National Parks Project to create a series of documentary films about various parks in the system.[2]

Creation and development

On July 20, 1871, the Crown Colony of [5]

May 1911 marked one of the most significant events in the administration and development of National Parks in Canada as the Dominion Forest Reserves and Parks Act were granted royal assent.[6] This law saw the creation of the first administrative body, the Dominion Parks Branch, now known as Parks Canada, to administer National Parks in Canada. With the Branch in place, the parks system expanded from Banff eastward, combining both use and protection as the foundation to national park management.[7]

The major motives behind the creation of National Parks in Canada were profit and preservation. Inspired by the establishment and success of Yellowstone National Park in the United States, Canada blended the conflicting ideas of preservation and commercialism in order to satisfy its natural resource needs, conservationist views of modern management, a growing public interest in the outdoors and the new popularity of getting back to nature.[8] This growing interest to escape the hustle and bustle of the city brought about ideas of conserving Canada’s unspoiled wildernesses by creating public parks. As a country dependent on natural resources, Canada’s National Parks represent an example of a compromise between the demand for profit from the land’s resources and tourism, with the need for preservation and sustainable development.

While conservationist ideas and a common Canadian movement towards getting back to nature were evident in the early development of National Parks in Canada, a greater role was played by chambers of commerce, local governments, promoters of tourism and recreational groups who advocated profit-driven commercial development, while incorporating wildlife preservation when possible.[9] Canada’s National Parks allowed the public an avenue into nature, while also integrating ideas of preserving Canada’s scenic landscape and wildlife populations in an era of development and major resource extraction.

Tourism and commercialization

The integration of public visitation for National Parks in Canada heavily contributed to the beginnings of public constituencies for certain parks. The parks who mobilized with a public constituency tended to prosper at a faster rate.[12]

With an increase in tourism to Rocky Mountain Park, growth and prosperity came to the town of Banff. The Banff hot springs were made more accessible after a tunnel was blasted in 1886.[15]

Conflicts over creation

Resource development

Since the inception of Canada’s National Parks, business and profit had been a major element to their creation and development. Although tourism was the first source of profit in the National Parks, the exploitation of natural resources such as coal, lumber, and other minerals became another major area of revenue. These resources were found in abundance in the Rocky Mountains and were interpreted as being inexhaustible.

Coal was the most plentiful and profitable of all the minerals and therefore its mining in parks was accepted by politicians and [17] In this case, resource exploitation and tourism worked in conjunction with each other to create a more profitable national park. Although tourism and resource development could work together, it was clear from policy making that tourism became secondary to resource exploitation.

The resources that were exploited from the National Parks were essential to the CPR’s income as it freighted these resources across the country.[19]

When the Rocky Mountains Park Bill was proposed, it elicited various criticisms at the time, one being the implicit contradiction between the exploitation of resources within this national reservation.[20] However, the overarching nineteenth century ideology that lumbering and mining would contribute to the usefulness of the reserve as opposed to depreciating the park overshadowed the concerns of resource exploitation. The natural resources within the parks were seen as being unlimited and therefore should be used as it was economically beneficial for the nation.

By 1911, as Canadians became aware of the depletion occurring within America’s natural resources, a debate focused on the extent of resource exploitation in Canada’s National Parks erupted. This debate began as early as 1906 at the Forestry Convention in Ottawa as it stimulated a new interest in conservation which spoke to the governmental, academic, and public level.[21] Canada’s National Parks were no longer places of unlimited natural resources, but were now considered a place where resources needed to be conserved through regulation to ensure future and continued use.

[24] The exclusion of resource development in Canada’s National Parks marked a minor shift towards preservationist attitudes over Canada’s parks as recreational use and development was still permitted.

Human conflict

The initial ideal of National Parks was one of uninhabited wilderness. Creating this required the displacement of indigenous and non-indigenous residents who lived within intended park boundaries, and restrictions on the way these residents had previously used the land and resources within parks for subsistence.


Parks in less frequently visited, northern parts of Canada were created with more consideration of aboriginal usage. [34]

Non-indigenous groups were also dispossessed from their land during the creation of National Parks, such as the [39]

Shifting value behind park creation and management

Conservation movements

In the late 19th century, Canadians began to change their view of nature and resources from one in which the wilderness was seen as a land of abundance to one where the land became seen as a limited storehouse and opinions started to focus on conservationist ideas.

Created in 1909, the Commission of Conservation became the Canadian forum for conservation issues, acting as an advisory and consultative body used to answer questions related to conservation and better utilization of Canada’s natural and human resources. The Commission focused on a concept that maximized future profits through good management in the present.[40] Rather than preserving through non-use, the Commission was concerned with managing resources for long term gain.

Other conservation-minded organizations, like the [42] By 1930, even the conservation movements within Canada came to understand that the country’s National Parks had an entrenched system of profit-based motives.

Ecological integrity

According to Parks Canada, ecological integrity is defined as a state where three elements exist which are non-living elements, living elements and series of ecological functions. By having all three elements, there are healthy ecosystem.[43] Ecosystem in National Parks has been often damaged due to the exploitation of resources, the expansion of tourism and external land use practices outside National Parks. Through Parks Canada realizing the necessity of managing National Parks by human hands to maintain biotic and abiotic components, Parks Canada placed an emphasis on ecological integrity within the National Parks that marked a shift from profit to preservation.[44]

The change in values is derived from the establishment of 1930 National Parks Act that limited use of resource for park management, and in 1979, under revised National Parks Policy, the maintenance of ecological integrity was prioritized for the preservation of National Parks of Canada. In 1988, National Parks Act was amended and the regulation of ecological integrity was embodied. However, due to the conflicting interests of profit and preservation, the maintenance of ecological integrity has progressed slowly.[46]

The big movement on maintenance of ecological integrity has happened since 2001. Canada National Parks Act of 2001 reinforced the necessity of maintenance and restorations of ecological integrity by saving natural resources and ecosystem. It sets new principles for park management plans. Wilderness areas in the Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks have been officially designate land as wilderness in national parks.[46] The boundaries of all communities in national parks are changed and the developments of commerce in their communities are restricted. Profit no longer became priority and initiative for preservation through ecological integrity became increased.

To maintain or restore ecological integrity, ecosystem restorations are implemented in many parks, attempting to back damaged ecosystems to the original healthy sate and making them sustainable. For example, Grasslands National park brought back Bison bison for a prairie restoration. The bison grazing patterns help to maintain a variety of prairie biodiversity.[48]


Through parks policies and operation practices, Parks Canada has recognized the importance of working together with indigenous peoples and other communities to manage parks’ healthy ecosystem within and around National Parks.”[49]

In 1984, Ivvavik National Park was established as a result of an Aboriginal land claim agreement. Now, Ivvavik is managed co-operatively by Parks Canada and the Inuvialuit. Their mutual goals are to protect wild life, keep the ecosystem healthy and protect their cultural resources. In addition, they ensure that the preservation of Inuvialuit traditional way of living, including trapping,hunting and fishing.[50]

Another example is Torngat Mountains National Park. In 2005, Torngat Moungtains national park was established as a result of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement. It preserves the aboriginal rights of the Labrador Inuit in Canada which are land,resources and self-government rights. The federal government also signed the Labrador Inuit Park Impacts and Benefits Agreement with Inuit Association. As with the Ivvavik agreement, it ensures that Inuit can continue to use land and resources as their traditional activities and keep their exclusive relationship with the land and ecosystems. In addition, they agreed to manage the park cooperatively. A seven-member co-operative management board will be established to advise the federal minister of Environment for the matters of parks eco-management.[51]

Parks Canada recognized indigenous knowledge and their unique historical and cultural relationship with the lands, and thus Parks Canada started to cooperate with indigenous people for park management.

Adding to the system

National Parks & National Park Reserves

Land in five areas has been withdrawn for future National Parks:

Parks referred to as National Park Reserves will become National Parks once outstanding land claim issues have been resolved. Parks with this designation include Sable Island in Nova Scotia.

Parks Canada is considering another six areas for future National Parks:[53]

NMCA & NMCA Reserves

Gwaii Haanas). Two areas are under consideration as future National Marine Conservation Areas:

  • Waters in the [59]

National Landmarks

In addition to National Parks, a National Landmarks program was foreseen in the 1970s and 1980s, but has not yet been established beyond a single property. Landmarks were intended to protect specific natural features considered “outstanding, exceptional, unique, or rare to this country. These natural features would typically be isolated entities and of scientific interest.”[61]

To date, only one landmark has been established—[62] None was ever made.

See also


  1. ^ “National Parks System Plan, 3rd Edition
  2. ^ “The National Parks Project: Wildlife and wild music”. The Globe and Mail, May 20, 2011.
  3. ^ Lothian, W.F. “A Brief History of Canada’s National Parks.” (Ottawa, Ontario: Environment Canada, 1987), p.13
  4. ^ Lothian, p.17
  5. ^ Lothian, p.22
  6. ^ Campbell, Claire Elizabeth. “A Century of Parks Canada, 1911-2011.” (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2011), p.58
  7. ^ Campbell, p.5
  8. ^ Campbell, p.4
  9. ^ Campbell, p.59
  10. ^ Paul F. J. Eagles, Stephen F. McCool. Tourism in National Parks and protected areas: planning and management. CABI, 2002. 32.
  11. ^ Leslie Bella Parks for Profit. Harvest House, 1987. 2.
  12. ^ Patton, Brian. Parkways of the Canadian Rockies. Summerthought Publishing. 2008. 10.
  13. ^ Patton, Brian. Parkways of the Canadian Rockies. Summerthought Publishing. 2008. 35.
  14. ^ W.F. Lothian. Brief History of Canada’s National Parks. Environment Canada, Parks, 1987. 35.
  15. ^ W.F. Lothian. Brief History of Canada’s National Parks. Environment Canada, Parks, 1987. 36.
  16. ^ Bella, Leslie. Parks for Profit. (Montreal: Harvest House, 1987), p.26
  17. ^ Brown, Robert. “The Doctrine of Usefulness: Natural Resource and National Park Policy in Canada, 1887-1914”. Canadian Parks in Perspective (Montreal: Harvest House, 1969), p.58
  18. ^ Bella, p.25
  19. ^ Foster, Janet. Working for Wildlife: The Beginning of Preservation in Canada. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978), p.23
  20. ^ Brown, p.52
  21. ^ Foster, p.35
  22. ^ Bella, p.26
  23. ^ McNamee, Kevin. “From Wild Places to Endangered Spaces: A History of Canada’s National Parks”. Parks and Protected Areas in Canada: Planning and Management (Canada: Oxford University Press, 2009), p.36
  24. ^ McNamee, p.36
  25. ^ Maclaren, I.S. “Rejuvenating Wilderness: The Challenge of Reintegrating Aboriginal Peoples into the “Playground” of Jasper National Park”. A Century of Parks Canada, 1911-2001. Edited by Claire Campbell. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2011. 335.
  26. ^ Maclaren, 337.
  27. ^ Martin, Brad. “Negotiating a Partnership of Interests: Inuvialuit Land Claims and the Establishment of Northern Yukon (Ivvavik) National Park” A Century of Parks Canada, 1911-2001. Edited by Claire Campbell. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2011. 274.
  28. ^ Maclaren, 338, 343.
  29. ^ Maclaren, 338.
  30. ^ Neufeld, David. “Kluane National Park Reserve, 1923-1974: Modernity and Pluralism” A Century of Parks Canada, 1911-2001. Edited by Claire Campbell. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2011. 245-247.
  31. ^ Martin, 281.
  32. ^ Martin, 278.
  33. ^ Martin, 275.
  34. ^ Martin, 292.
  35. ^ Rudin, Ronald. “Kouchibouguac: Representations of a Park in Acadian Popular Culture” A Century of Parks Canada, 1911-2001. Edited by Claire Campbell. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2011. 206, 207, 211.
  36. ^ Rudin, 205.
  37. ^ Rudin, 212, 214.
  38. ^ Rudin, 216.
  39. ^ Rudin, 225.
  40. ^ Bella, Leslie. “Parks for Profit.” (Montreal: Harvest House), p.45
  41. ^ “Parks Canada – Point Pelee National Park of Canada”
  42. ^ Bella, p.58
  43. ^ Parks Canada (April 2009). “Completing Canada’s National Parks System”. Retrieved March 16, 2012. 
  44. ^ Woodley,Stephen(2009)”Planning and Managing for Ecological Integrity in Canada’s National Parks” in Dearden, Philip & Rick Rollins(Eds.), Parks and Protected Areas in Canada: Planning and Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press p111-132
  45. ^ Bella, Leslie(1987).Parks for Profit. Montreal: Harvest House
  46. ^ “Completing Canada’s National Parks System”. Retrieved March 16, 2012. 
  47. ^ Woodley,Stephen(2009)”Planning and Managing for Ecological Integrity in Canada’s National Parks” in Dearden, Philip & Rick Rollins(Eds.), Parks and Protected Areas in Canada: Planning and Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press p117
  48. ^ Woodley, p126
  49. ^ Parks Canada (February 2009). “Completing Canada’s National Parks System”. Retrieved March 16, 2012. 
  50. ^ Parks Canada (February 2012). “Completing Canada’s National Parks System”. Retrieved March 16, 2012. 
  51. ^ Parks Canada (November 2011). “Completing Canada’s National Parks System”. Retrieved March 16, 2012. 
  52. ^ Parks Canada. “Government of Canada takes new action to protect the North”. 
  53. ^ Parks Canada (November 2006). “Completing Canada’s National Parks System”. Retrieved February 27, 2007. 
  54. ^ Parks Canada (November 2006). “South Okanagan–Lower Similkameen National Park Reserve Feasibility Study”. Retrieved February 27, 2007. 
  55. ^ The Chronicle Herald (May 2010). “Sable Island to become National Park”. 
  56. ^ Parks Canada (May 2010). “Sable Island to be protected as a National Park”. 
  57. ^ Canada (July 22, 2010). “National park for Bowen Island under assessment”. Globe and Mail (Canada). Retrieved July 26, 2010. 
  58. ^ Map of the proposed Southern Strait of Georgia NMCA Reserve with further links.
  59. ^ “Parks Canada – Feasibility Study for Southern Strait of Georgia”. July 14, 2009. Retrieved February 28, 2011. 
  60. ^ The Canadian Press (December 9, 2009). “CBC News – Feds to fund Northwest Passage marine park study”. Canada: CBC. Retrieved February 28, 2011. 
  61. ^ “Pingo National Landmark management—Parks Canada”. September 7, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2011. 
  62. ^ The Inuvialuit Final Agreement (Sec. 7 (77–81))

External links

Source: Wikipedia

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