Parks Canada

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Parks Canada
Parcs Canada
Parks Canada - Parcs Canada logo 2022.svg
Agency overview
FormedMay 19, 1911;111 years ago (1911-05-19)
JurisdictionGovernment of Canada
Headquarters Gatineau, Quebec, Canada
Employees4,666 (March 2021)
Annual budget$1.3 billion (2020–21)
Minister responsible
Agency executive
  • Ron Hallman, Chief Executive Officer

Parks Canada (PC; French : Parcs Canada), [NB 1] is the agency of the Government of Canada which manages the country's 48 National Parks, three National Marine Conservation Areas, 172 National Historic Sites, one National Urban Park, and one National Landmark. Parks Canada is mandated to "protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage, and foster public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment in ways that ensure their ecological and commemorative integrity for present and future generations". [1]


The agency also administers lands and waters set aside as potential national parklands, including 10 National Park Reserves and one National Marine Conservation Area Reserve. More than 450,000 km2 (170,000 sq mi) of lands and waters in national parks and national marine conservation areas has been set aside for such purposes. [2] Parks Canada cooperatively manages a large majority of their protected areas and heritage sites with Indigenous partners. [3] [4] The Canadian Register of Historic Places is supported and managed by the agency, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments and other federal bodies. The agency is also the working arm of the national Historic Sites and Monuments Board, which recommends National Historic Sites, Events, and Persons.

The minister of environment and climate change (Steven Guilbeault since 2021) is responsible for the agency, and it is managed by its chief executive officer (Ron Hallman since 2019). The agency's budget was $1.3 billion in the 2020–2021 fiscal year and it employed 4,666 public servants in March 2021. [5]

History and role

Parks Canada was established on May 19, 1911, as the Dominion Parks Branch under the Department of the Interior, becoming the world's first national park service. [6] Since its creation, its name has changed, known variously as the Dominion Parks Branch, National Parks Branch, Parks Canada, Environment Canada – Parks Branch, and the Canadian Parks Service, before a return to Parks Canada in 1998. The service's activities are regulated under legislation such as the Canada National Parks Act , and the Parks Canada Agency Act, which established the current legal incorporation of the agency in 1998. [7]

To mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, Parks Canada offered free passes [8] to national parks and national historic sites for the year.

Public safety and enforcement

A Parks Canada Park Warden badge Parks-Canada-PO.jpg
A Parks Canada Park Warden badge

Park Wardens protect natural and cultural resources by conducting patrols of National Parks, National Historic sites and National Marine Conservation Areas. They ensure the safety of staff, visitors and residents, and conduct strategic enforcement activities aimed at public peace maintenance, resource protection, visitor enjoyment and administrative compliance. They are designated under section 18 of the Canada National Parks Act as Park Wardens and are peace officers as defined by the Criminal Code. They carry firearms and non-lethal intervention options. [9]

The minister may also designate provincial and local enforcement officers under section 19 of the Act for the purpose of enforcing laws within the specified parks. These officers have the power of peace officers only in relation to the Act.

In May 2012, it was reported that Park Wardens may be cross designated to enforce certain wildlife acts administered by Environment Canada. Should the designations go ahead it would only be for Park Wardens that are stationed near existing migratory bird sanctuaries. [10]

Essentially the intent of the change is to allow for a faster and lower-cost response to environmental enforcement incidents, particularly in remote areas in the north where Environment Canada does not have an ongoing presence, but Parks Canada has a Park Warden nearby who could act on its behalf, rather than have Environment Canada responded from a farther office. [11]

Park Wardens close off an area of Jasper National Park. Jasper-Bear-Hunt-27.jpg
Park Wardens close off an area of Jasper National Park.
Parks Canada works to reduce conflict between wildlife and people in Canada's National Parks. Jasper-Bear-Hunt-32.jpg
Parks Canada works to reduce conflict between wildlife and people in Canada's National Parks.

Ecological integrity monitoring

According to Panel on Ecological Integrity Report in 2000, "the idea of conserving nature unimpaired has been part of national parks’ legal mandate since 1930". The term “ecological integrity” was put into the 1988 amendments to the National Parks Act but was in park policy as early as 1979. [12] The Panel on Ecological Integrity Report proposed the following definition: "An ecosystem has integrity when it is deemed characteristic for its natural region, including the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes [13] ". There is a significant amount of debate surrounding the definition of ecological integrity. As can be seen through the evolution of the term, ecological integrity is deeply rooted in notions of symbiosis, sustainability, and holistic management practices. There is a fair amount of debate surrounding the definition of the term in the academic world as well. For example, "[ecological integrity]has a high degree of linguistic elasticity and should there ever be a legal challenge to its use, there are no precise and clear definitions for it [14] ". Regardless of the fluidity of the term, there are some common elements, "There are, however, certain common elements found in many definitions: naturalness, wholeness, continuity through time [15] ".

According to the most recent iteration of the Canada National Parks Act S.C. 2000, c.32 ., Parks Canada is responsible for the ecological integrity of all national parks. To cite section 8 (2): “Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of park [16] ” ( Canada National Parks Act, 2000). This law put additional onus on Parks Canada Agency to implement a robust science-based conservation and monitoring program.

Following the publication of the Panel on Ecological Integrity Report in 2000, Parks Canada Agency released Status onAgency Progress since First Priority in 2008 as a response. One major stride mentioned is the implementation of a policy requirement for national parks to report on the state of ecological integrity every five years, summarizing reports from monitoring programs in place. This State of the Park report was designed to ensure accountability in the management structure of Parks Canada Agency. In the author’s words, “The State of the Park report is the accountability mechanism for Field Unit Superintendents to report to the CEO on achieving the Agency’s Corporate Plan performance expectations related to maintaining and improving ecological integrity [17] ”. In addition to this reform, Parks Canada also updated and released the Agency’s Guide to Management Planning in 2008 to restructure the agency and ensure that this new integrated approach could be applied to all national parks.

With these changes, Parks Canada formally began monitoring for ecological integrity in 2008 and is ongoing to date. These modifications are consistent with the Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s observations in the 2005 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. For example, “The 6 to 8 ecological integrity indicators for each national park measure the health of Canada's national parks by reporting on the indicator’s condition and trend (improving, stable or declining) over time”. [18] This ecological integrity monitoring program summarizes the state of a park's ecological integrity using “good, fair, poor”. Parks Canada's ecological integrity monitoring program is based on three publications: Monitoring and Reporting Ecological Integrity in Canada’s National Parks Volume I: Guiding Principles (2005) and the compendium document, Volume 2: A Park-Level Guide to Establishing EI Monitoring (2007), Consolidated Guidelines for Ecological Integrity Monitoring in Canada’s National Parks (2011).

The most recent iteration of guidelines for ecological integrity monitoring, Consolidated Guidelines for Ecological Integrity Monitoring in Canada’s National Parks (2011) , is significantly more robust and science based. Some of the notable improvements include the integration of a trend variable designed to demonstrate whether the indicator is deteriorating, stable or improving. In addition, the inclusion of quantitative thresholds to determine the state of indicator will allow for more accurate results. Lastly, the incorporation of an “Iceberg Model for EI Indicator” provides a more holistic approach, fostering increasingly complete results.

One of Parks Canada's most recent publications, Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators: Ecological integrity of national parks (2018), demonstrates how effective Parks Canada's recent efforts have been. More exhaustive science-based methodology allows for more precise results and ultimately, better management. This document, and all results, are based on the assessment of 118 ecosystems throughout 42 national parks across Canada. Parks Canada Agency claims that 68 per cent of parks sampled are in good condition, 20 per cent fair, 17 per cent poor. Furthermore, of the 118 ecosystems sampled, 69 per cent are stable, 19.5 per cent are improving and 12 per cent are declining, according to Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators: Ecological integrity of national parks (2018) . This is a notable improvement, considering that in 2000, 54 per cent of parks were suffering some form of major or severe ecological stresses. In 2018, there are 12 ecosystems rated as poor, 20 EI indicators in decline, particularly forests and freshwater environments. Overall, this improvement is a testament to what Parks Canada Agency's ecological integrity monitoring program is capable of.

Parka (mascot)

Parka, a female beaver, is Parks Canada's mascot. [19] A series of animated shorts starring her are hosted on the organization's website and have also been aired on television as interstitials.


The Parks Canada Agency was established as a separate service entity in 1998 and falls under the responsibility of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Before 2003, Parks Canada (under various names) fell under the jurisdiction of the Department of Canadian Heritage, where it had been since 1994. From 1979 to 1994, Parks Canada was part of the Department of Environment, and before it was part of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (1966 to 1978), and the Department of the Interior. [20] With the organizational shifts and political leadership in Canada, the priorities of Parks Canada have shifted over the years more towards conservation and away from development. [20] Starting in the 1960s, Parks Canada has also moved to decentralize its operations. [20]

Heads of Parks Canada
Name [21] Term
J. B. Harkin 1911–1936
Frank Williamson1936–1941
James Smart 1941–1953
J. A. Hutchison1953–1957
J. K. B. Coleman1957–1968
Jack Nicol1968–1978
Al Davidson1978–1985
J. D. Collinson1985–1990
A. Lefebvre-Anglin1990–1993
Tom Lee1993–2002
Alan Latourelle2002–2015
Daniel Watson2015–2018
Michael Nadler2018–2019
Ron Hallman2019–present
A sign at the park gates on the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) advises tourists that they need to buy a pass to enter Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. Revenue collected from Park Passes goes to Parks Canada and helps fund the management of Canada's national parks. Jasper-Bear-Hunt-1.jpg
A sign at the park gates on the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) advises tourists that they need to buy a pass to enter Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. Revenue collected from Park Passes goes to Parks Canada and helps fund the management of Canada’s national parks.

Legislation, regulations and boards

The Department of Canadian Heritage, which runs federal Museums, and heritage and cultural programming, falls under the control of the Minister of Heritage.

See also


  1. Parks Canada is the applied title under the Federal Identity Program; the legal title is Parks Canada Agency (French : Agence Parcs Canada).

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park</span> National marine conservation area in Quebec, Canada

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Fathom Five National Marine Park is a National Marine Conservation Area in the Georgian Bay part of Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada, that seeks to protect and display shipwrecks and lighthouses, and conserve freshwater ecosystems. Parks Canada has management plans for the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, with a multi-action plan for species that are at risk, including endemic species, the Monarch butterfly, the eastern ribbonsnake, and the eastern whip-poor-will. The aquatic ecosystems in the park are also of particular interest. Many fish, shellfish, amphibians, and eels are an attraction for naturalists in the park. Much of this wildlife is accessible to scuba divers and snorkellers in the park. The many shipwrecks make the park a popular scuba diving destination, and glass bottom boat tours leave Tobermory regularly, allowing tourists to see the shipwrecks without having to get wet. Additionally, there are three main popular hiking trails found within Fathom Five National Marine Park that provides visitors with views of old growth forests and the Georgian Bay. The Saugeen Ojibway Peoples have inhabited the Bruce Peninsula and the area that is now Fathom Five National Marine Park for thousands of years. This land provided for their communities and their people with the plethora of wildlife and plant life. They provide the local knowledge about Lake Huron and its ecological value to the reserve, park, and their overall livelihood. Parks Canada and Saugeen Ojibway People's collaboration is said to yield a benefit to both parties with regard to overall ecosystem knowledge.

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  2. "Parks Canada celebrates 100 years of world-class conservation and further protects historic gr". Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  3. Parks Canada Agency, Government of Canada (July 26, 2019). "Indigenous Affairs Branch – Indigenous relations at Parks Canada". Retrieved April 1, 2021.
  4. Dearden, P., & Bennett, N. (2016). The Role of Aboriginal Peoples in Protected Areas. In P. Dearden, R. Rollins, & M. Needham (Eds.), Parks and Protected Areas in Canada: Planning and Management (4th ed., pp. 357–390). Oxford University Press.
  5. "GC InfoBase". Retrieved December 31, 2021.
  6. Irish, Paul (May 13, 2011). "Parks Canada celebrates a century of discovery". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on May 16, 2011. Retrieved May 18, 2011.
  7. 1 2 Branch, Legislative Services. "Consolidated federal laws of canada, Parks Canada Agency Act". Archived from the original on January 14, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  8. "Free Parks Canada passes costing $5.7 million". Archived from the original on January 8, 2017. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  9. National park wardens to get sidearms in 2009 Archived June 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  10. "Wardens may extend expertise outside parks – Local News – Rocky Mountain Outlook". Archived from the original on May 18, 2014.
  11. "Finance Committee on May 17th, 2012 –". Archived from the original on August 19, 2015. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  12. "Panel on Ecological Integrity Report". November 8, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. "Panel on Ecological Integrity, 2000". November 8, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. "Ecological Integrity: A Relevant Concept for International Environmental Law in the Anthropocene?". [Yearbook of International Environmental Law].
  15. Rohwer, Yasha; Marris, Emma (2021). "Ecosystem integrity is neither real nor valuable". Conservation Science and Practice. 3 (4). doi: 10.1111/csp2.411 .
  16. "Canada National Parks Act, 2000". September 4, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. "Status on Agency Progress since First Priority". March 17, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. "Status on Agency Progress since First Priority". March 17, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. Canada, Parks Canada Agency, Government of. "Parka, our mascot". Archived from the original on January 2, 2018. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  20. 1 2 3 Hildebrandt, Walter (1995). "Historical Analysis of Parks Canada and Banff National Park, 1968–1995". Banff-Bow Valley Study.{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  21. "Leaders of Parks Canada". Parks Canada History. January 23, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
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  24. Branch, Legislative Services (February 24, 2005). "Consolidated federal laws of canada, Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act". Archived from the original on October 1, 2013. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  25. Branch, Legislative Services. "Consolidated federal laws of canada, Historic Canals Regulations". Archived from the original on January 14, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2018.