Linda Duncan slams Trudeau Government for failure to protect World Heritage Site

EDMONTON – NDP Environment and Climate Change Critic Linda Duncan (M.P. Edmonton Strathcona) is calling on the Federal Government to act immediately to protect Wood Buffalo National Park, a World Heritage Site, following a damning report issued today by the United Nations.

“Continued lack of action by Liberal and Conservative governments to effectively assess impacts of energy projects and require protective measures is jeopardizing the park’s World Heritage designation,” said Duncan. “The UNESCO report shows just how poor a job the Federal Government is doing to protect this magnificent landscape and its failure to respect the rights of directly impacted First Nation and Metis communities.”

The investigation was triggered by a complaint filed with UNESCO by the Mikisew Cree First Nation. UNESCO reports that the scale, pace and complexity of industrial development along the Peace Athabasca Rivers is exceptional (Site C dam, oil sand operations) and not subject to adequate analysis for sound decisions. UNESCO will recommend adding Wood Buffalo National Park to the List of World Heritage in Danger in absence of immediate delivery of a structured and adequately funded response to its concerns or it, including:

  • work in genuine partnership with First Nations and Metis in governing the Park;
  • with increasing industrial development pressures, prioritise conservation, and increase science capacity to maintain and restore ecological integrity;
  • for informed decision-making, conduct environmental flows assessments to the highest international standards for the Peace, Athabasca and Slave Rivers to identify water flows needed to sustain the ecological functioning of the rivers, incorporating projections of climate change and cumulative effects on the Peace-Athabasca Delta of all existing and proposed dams on all three rivers;
  • conduct an environmental and social impact assessment of the proposed Teck Frontier oil sands project;
  • establish adequate baseline hydrological information of the Peace and Athabasca River Basins to enhance the reference for monitoring and assessing current and future hydrological conditions; 
  • expand scope of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), requested by the Committee in its Decision 39 COM 7B.18, to adequately reflect the scale, pace and complexity of industrial development, land use changes and river flow manipulations in the Peace and Athabasca River watersheds, both in terms of individual and cumulative impacts;
  • expand the scope of monitoring and project assessments to encompass possible individual and cumulative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and in particular the Peace-Athabasca Delta;
  • conduct a comprehensive assessment of options, to put in place an effective buffer zone, as defined in the Operational Guidelines. The Birch River deserves particular attention as the only relatively intact major watershed of the Peace-Athabasca Delta;
  • hiring a full-time superintendent exclusively for the park and Parks Canada staff in Fort Chipewyan;
  • Parks Canada, working in full cooperation with First Nations, should adopt the Species Recovery Strategy for Wood Bison throughout its range, including the development of disease management options other than culling.
  • continue to closely monitor the entire used and potential nesting area of the Whooping Crane within the Greater WBNP Ecosystem so as to be able to respond to possibly changing management requirements; and
  • incorporate invasive alien species (IAS) into the overall monitoring of the park and the Peace- Athabasca Delta based on science and local and indigenous knowledge, and based on monitoring results, develop an appropriate management response to control the spread of IAS.

“These significant concerns raised by UNESCO have long ago been raised here at home. It’s time for the government to put actions behind their rhetoric about balancing energy developments with environmental protection,” said Duncan.

UNESCO Report:
Report of the joint WHC/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada 25 September - 4 October 2016

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Media contact:
linda.duncan.c1b@parl.gc.ca or 780-495-8404.

By Ansgar Walk (photo taken by Ansgar Walk) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Ansgar Walk [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons