National Parks in Canada

Until December 2015, the Canadian National Parks System comprised a total of 50 protected areas or units under state protection. This figure includes 38 national parks, 8 national park reserves, three national marine conservation areas, and one national monument. Additionally, the system also encompasses 157 Canadian historic sites, which, like the parks, are under the administration of Parks Canada. These protected areas and historic sites are of great importance for the conservation and preservation of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage.

History of national parks

In 1885, the first Canadian national park, Banff National Park, was established. Initially, it was called the "Rocky Mountains Park." In 1886, Yoho National Park was created on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains. During the years 1908-1912, four national parks were established in Alberta, such as Jasper National Park, and Saskatchewan, with the purpose of being wildlife sanctuaries. These parks were abolished in 1947 once their objectives were achieved.
In 1911, the first National Parks Service, known as the "Dominion Parks Branch," was established under the Department of the Interior. In 1930, the Parliament of Canada approved the first "National Parks Act" to ensure the respect and protection of national parks. Resources were transferred as agreed, leading to the creation of other protected areas in subsequent years, such as La Maurice National Park in the Laurentian Mountains in the province of Quebec.

In 1979, the national parks policy was revised with the objective of prioritizing ecological integrity through Parks Canada, ending the so-called "dual mandate" that included recreational uses.

In 1984, the first national park was established through a land claim agreement. In 1988, an amendment to the National Parks Act formalized the principle of ecological integrity within the park system.

In 1989, the "Endangered Spaces" campaign was launched by Parks Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Society, along with the World Wildlife Fund of Canada, with the aim of completing the national parks system and ensuring that each of the approximately 350 natural regions in the country was represented in the parks and protected areas.

How National Parks are Established

Parks Canada aims to establish a system of protected areas representing the diverse natural regions of the country. To achieve this, they have identified 39 different regions, and as of early 2005, over 60% of these regions were already represented in the park system. The primary mission of managing these parks is to protect the ecological integrity of each area, followed by providing the public with the opportunity to explore, learn about, and enjoy Canada’s natural spaces.
"National Park Reserves" are areas designated to become national parks once outstanding issues related to Indigenous land claims are resolved. Meanwhile, these areas are managed as national parks under the corresponding legislation.

"National Marine Conservation Areas" (NMCAs) are a more recent addition to the park system. These areas have a different focus from terrestrial areas as they are designed for sustainable use, although they also include areas intended for the protection of ecological integrity. There are three NMCA areas located in Ontario (Fathom Five National Marine Park and Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area) and in Quebec (Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park).

In total, Canada’s national parks system protects an area of 303,571 km², approximately 3.0% of the country’s total land area. These protected areas play a crucial role in conserving and preserving Canada’s nature and natural resources.

List of National Parks in Canada

See also