Government of Canada invests $130 million to work with partners to create a network of national urban parks

Saskatoon: In Canada and around the world, there is growing awareness of the importance of urban parks as essential places for conservation, recreation, learning, and mental and physical wellbeing. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the key role green space plays in the wellbeing of Canadians and their communities was brought into stark relief. However, most Canadians, nearly 72 percent of the population, live in urban centres – where access to the benefits of nature and wildlife can be limited.

Expanding access to and protection of nature in urban centres pays real dividends. Nature-based climate solutions – increasing protection as we are announcing today, planting trees, protecting and restoring wetlands and grasslands and other carbon pools — have the potential to provide up to 30 percent of global climate solutions. Nature acts as a buffer against extreme weather events; it absorbs and traps carbon dioxide; protects against flooding; and can prevent the loss of biodiversity.

Today, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, launched a new program to support the creation of a network of national urban parks. Parks Canada will collaborate with municipalities, provinces, Indigenous partners, and conservation organizations, among others, to identify opportunities for creating or expanding national urban parks in urban and near-urban settings across Canada. The National Urban Park Program is the next step for Parks Canada whose history over 110 years has provided Canadians a system of national parks, including Rouge National Urban Park, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas.
Minister Wilkinson was in Saskatoon today, where Parks Canada has signed a statement of collaboration with the Meewasin Valley Authority to explore the potential for a national urban park in the Meewasin Valley. Both organizations share a common goal to enhance urban green spaces, reflecting both natural and cultural values.

The National Urban Parks Program will contribute to Canada’s commitment to protect biodiversity and conserve 25 percent of land and inland waters and 25 percent of marine and coastal areas by 2025, working toward 30 percent by 2030. And beyond the percentage targets, we are committed to addressing the rapid loss of biodiversity globally, and nature in Canada, in our urban centres where it is most at risk. Canada’s National Urban Parks Program is part of a broader southern strategy of restoration that includes natural infrastructure, tree planting and regeneration of wetlands, and is vital in the fight to stem the tide of rapid biodiversity loss. This program will be supported by Budget 2021’s historic investment of $2.3 billion in Canada’s Nature Legacy to address the biodiversity crisis, protect and conserve nature, and create jobs in nature conservation, with up to $130.9 million specifically toward this effort.

The network will include areas managed under a range of flexible governance models, including federally administered places, third party administered places, and partnership models.

Parks Canada will also work closely with Indigenous partners to ensure national urban parks provide space for Indigenous stewardship, promote Indigenous voices and stories, and offer opportunities for connections to lands and waters based on Indigenous knowledge and values. These parks will be readily accessible to people in Canada’s urban centres and provide opportunities to connect to, and learn about, local nature and culture.

In addition to the Meewasin Valley, Parks Canada has signed statements of collaboration with the municipalities of Winnipeg (MB) and Halifax (NS) and Windsor (ON), and is working with others to identify potential urban park sites at various locations, including the greater Edmonton area (AB), Colwood (BC), and Montreal (QC).

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