Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you, John, for your kind introduction.
Greetings to Mayor Cavin and Grand Chief Norwegian.
And thank you all for joining us for today’s important announcement about the future of Nahanni Park.
It’s great to be back in the Territories. Last summer’s tour introduced me to a few of the extraordinary places and exceptional people who live North of 60.
And I’m pleased to have another opportunity this summer to bring attention and understanding to the great Canadian frontier.
From Iqaluit to Whitehorse to Alert, I have met some of the diverse Canadians who are our true Northerners.
They are the stewards of this largely untamed, sometimes harsh and always magnificent land, a vast storehouse of energy and mineral riches, a precious reservoir of ecological and cultural treasures.
Their North – our North – is truly a place of boundless potential.
Canada’s New Government has put the North higher on the domestic policy agenda than it has been for half a century.
All Canadians need to recognize there is a convergence of economic, environmental and strategic factors occurring here that will have critical impacts on the future of our country.
That’s why our government has established a Northern Agenda built on four primary objectives:
- To encourage investment and adopt regulatory measures to complement the growing global demand for our northern resources;
- To take action to vigorously protect our Arctic sovereignty as international interest in the region increases;
- To end the paternalistic federal policies of the past so Northerners have more control over their own economic and political destiny;
- And, last but not least, to respond to the challenges of climate change in the North and make sure that its countless ecological wonders are protected for future generations.
This objective is the focus of today’s announcement.
Canada is blessed with magnificent natural beauty, from coast to coast to coast, but none more spectacular than Nahanni National Park Reserve.
I had to come and see for myself the place that was named the very first World Heritage site by the United Nations in 1978.
To discover what countless hunters, fishermen, back-country hikers and canoeists have been reporting for decades: Nahanni wilderness contains some of the most breathtaking terrain in the world.
For thousands of years the proud Dehcho have lived here among the soaring mountains, deep river canyons and awesome limestone landscapes.
And I am looking forward today to visiting the crown jewel of the park, Virginia Falls, or Nailicho to the Dehcho people.
I am told it is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, with a vertical drop more than double that of Niagara.
The Park’s hot springs, alpine tundra and spruce and aspen forests make an ideal habitat for an array of wildlife such as wolves, grizzly bears, woodland caribou, Trumpeter Swans, Dall’s sheep and mountain goats.
It has long been recognized that the early planners of the park should have set aside more land and established better land use policies to ensure the long-term protection of this wilderness.
Today I’m pleased to announce our federal Cabinet has approved an Order in Council to enable a significant expansion of the boundaries of Nahanni National Park Reserve.
The precious land, and the unique wildlife populations it sustains, will now be protected from any kind of further development.
Consultations will determine how to balance the interests of the various stakeholders in the Park’s future, including:
The Dehcho, whose rights will not be diminished. They can continue to hunt, fish and trap, secure in the knowledge that the land will be protected by the strongest conservation legislation available in this country.
The commercial interests, whose existing investments must be recognized and respected.
And the Canadian and international outdoor enthusiasts who are drawn to the Park’s infinite recreational opportunities.
This is arguably the most important act of environmental protection in a generation.
Thanks to this expansion, Nahanni will ultimately cover an area four times the size of Prince Edward Island, making it Canada’s third largest National Park.
Ladies and gentlemen, preserving the region’s ecological treasures is a key part of our plan for Canada’s North.
This is an important step in the process to ensure all the wonders of Nahanni will be protected so future generations can enjoy and appreciate them as we do today.
Canada’s New Government is committed to the preservation and protection of Canada’s natural beauty.
Because it is an essential part of who we are as Canadians, the people of the True North, strong and free.