* Indigenous hunting, fishing, and trapping (and all other traditional and cultural practices) are permitted in National Parks and some National Historic Sites in accordance with park establishment agreements or land claim agreements (e.g., all National Parks and National Historic Sites in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories).
Under the Canada National Parks Act, National Parks are created for the “benefit, education and enjoyment” of present and future generations and must remain “unimpaired” for this purpose. Cabinet can create or increase the area of a National Park by means of an Order in Council.
In practice, Cabinet will typically amend the Canada National Parks Act by taking an amendment through Parliament. Once a National Park has been created, Cabinet cannot reduce its area using an order– this would require a full legislative amendment.
The Minister who oversees Parks Canada (currently the Minister of Environment and Climate Change) is responsible for managing National Parks.
When exercising this responsibility, the Minister’s priority must be maintaining or restoring ecological integrity. Under the Canada National Parks Act, ‘ecological integrity’ is defined as “with respect to a park, a condition that is determined to be characteristic of its natural region and likely to persist, including abiotic components and the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes.”
Park management decisions made by the Minister that do not meet these criteria could be subject to a legal challenge.
The Minister appoints a superintendent for each park, who must develop a management plan for each National Park. These plans must be approved by the House of Commons and the Senate and must be reviewed at least once every ten years. The planning process must provide opportunities for Indigenous participation and collaboration as well as public consultation “where applicable.”
National Park Reserves
National Park Reserves are created where land proposed for a National Park is subject to a claim regarding Aboriginal rights and this claim has been accepted for negotiation by the federal government. Traditional renewable resource harvesting activities, such as hunting and trapping, can be continued in National Park Reserves. These distinctions separate National Park Reserves from National Parks.
In addition, the establishment of a National Park Reserve is like that of a National Park: it may occur through an Order in Council or more commonly through a legislative amendment.
Once a National Park Reserve has been created, Cabinet cannot reduce its area using an order. Reducing the area require a full legislative amendment.
If, down the road, the claim regarding Aboriginal rights is settled, the Governor in Council can make one of the following orders, depending on the settlement:
- Remove the land from the national parks system;
- Change the size of the National Park Reserve; or
- Transform the National Park Reserve into a National Park.
The Minister is responsible for managing National Park Reserves. When exercising this responsibility, the Minister’s priority must be to maintain or restore ecological integrity.
Park management decisions made by the Minister that do not meet this priority could be subject to a legal challenge.
One example of a National Park Reserve is the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. When the National Park Reserve was created, the Canada National Parks Act was amended to confirm the Minister’s powers to enter into an agreement with the Council of the Haida Nation (see Agreements section below). It also details the Minister’s powers if there is a resolution of the Haida Nation’s claims regarding Aboriginal rights and title in the Gwaii Haanas Archipelago.
National Historic Sites
Cabinet can create a National Historic Site by an Order in Council or by legislative amendment. National Historic Sites are created to commemorate national historic events, or to protect landmarks and historical resources of national importance.
Once a National Historic Site is created, the Superintendent can prohibit any activities that threaten to harm the Site.
National Historic Sites can be governed by the National Historic Park General Regulations and the National Historic Parks Wildlife and Domestic Animals Regulations. National Historic Sites can also be located within the boundaries of National Parks or National Marine Conservation Areas and can be managed under those legal arrangements.
Section 10 of the Canada National Parks Act allows the Minister to enter into agreements with Indigenous governments, Indigenous organizations, and bodies established under Land Claim Agreements, to support the management of National Parks, National Park Reserves, and National Historic Sites.