Statement regarding UNESCO’s decision about Wood Buffalo National Park

Linda Duncan MP (Edmonton Strathcona) issued the following statement regarding UNESCO’s decision about Wood Buffalo National Park:

This week in Baku, Azerbaijan the UNESCO World Heritage Committee gave Canada one last chance to commit the needed actions and resources to address the dire impacts to Wood Buffalo National Park or risk re-designation of the park as a World Heritage Site in Danger. Canada has until December 2020 to deliver.

In 2016, in response to concerns raised by the Mikisew Cree First Nation on impacts of the B.C. dams and oil sands operations to the park and the Peace Athabasca Delta, UNESCO initiated a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring Mission to direct action or risk losing the World Heritage Designation. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Fort Chipewyan Métis, CPAWS, IUCN and Rivers Without Borders support Mikisew’s calls for action. Since 2016 the government continued to rebuff my many inquiries on the needed actions to address these impacts to the park, delta and related Indigenous and treaty rights.

Finding Canada has failed to address the majority of threats, UNESCO has yet again demanded deeper action and investment to reverse the negative and intensifying impacts due to climate change, upstream industrial developments and resource extraction. As a priority, action is needed on threat of the release of contaminated water held in upstream tailings ponds and a detailed response to impacts of BC Hydro’s Site C project and other dams, including to environmental flows and hydrology. Cumulative impacts of both existing and proposed new oil sands projects threaten the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the site.

UNESCO has called for a substantially increased commitment of funding to fully address these measures as even Parks Canada has deemed the committed funds are inadequate. Of equal concern the government has failed to designate anyone actually empowered and qualified to deliver critical monitoring or regulating of environmental flows and hydrology of the Peace Athabasca Delta. The federal funds allocated fall far short of those recently allocated to other priorities.

The Government must start taking real action to protect its largest and most threatened National Park. Canadians expect more than talking points and under-investment when one of their national parks is deteriorating so rapidly.

As Canada seeks World Heritage Site designation for additional deserving sites, including Writing On Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta, UNESCO will understandably be querying the credibility of this government to commit the resources needed to genuinely protect a world heritage site.