Symbol of the Government of Canada

Canadian Biodiversity Strategy

GOAL 1 - Conservation and Sustainable Use

B. Protected Areas

The establishment and management of protected areas is the second element of the ecological management approach. Protected areas contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, although they must be complemented by sound stewardship across the entire country with particular attention to areas around protected areas.

The Convention defines a protected area as "a geographically defined area which is designated or regulated and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives. " Within that definition, protected areas may be established and managed to achieve one or more diverse objectives. These may include: the maintenance of ecological integrity; the conservation of ecosystem, species and genetic diversity; maintenance of essential ecological processes and life-support systems; wilderness preservation; scientific research and the protection of specific natural and cultural features; environmental education; outdoor recreation and tourism; and, in specific cases where consistent with the conservation objectives of the area, the sustainable use of resources from natural ecosystems.

In November 1992, Canada's federal, provincial and territorial ministers of the environment, parks and wildlife signed "A Statement of Commitment To Complete Canada's Networks of Protected Areas".

Just as the purposes of protected areas vary, so too do the levels of protection afforded them. In some, human activities and access are strictly limited, while in others, multiple land-use objectives are pursued. Some protected areas fulfil more than one purpose and are zoned for different levels of protection. Site-specific analysis and establishment of management objectives is required to determine appropriate and compatible uses.

Canada's First Protected Areas

The first protected areas in Canada were established just after Confederation to preserve outstanding scenic areas for outdoor recreation and tourism and to protect wildlife habitat.

  • First National Park - Banff, Alberta (1885)
  • First Wildlife Sanctuary - Last Mountain Lake, Saskatchewan (1887)
  • First Provincial Park - Algonquin, Ontario (1893)
  • First Municipal Park - Mount Royal, Montreal, Quebec (1872)

In Canada, the first protected areas were established in the late 1800s, in the first decades after Confederation. Today, federal, provincial, territorial, and regional and urban governments, and indigenous communities, individuals and private organizations acquire and manage lands to conserve biodiversity.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has developed a system for classifying protected areas. According to this system, about eight percent of Canada is classified as protected and about four percent removed from all commercial extractive activities. The National Conservation Areas Data Base (NCADB) developed by Environment Canada, the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas and others, identify approximately 3,500 publicly-owned protected areas covering about 800,000 km2 and approximately 10,000 km2 held by non-government groups.


Canadian Council on Ecological Areas
The Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA) was established in 1982 to encourage and facilitate the establishment and use of a comprehensive network of protected areas that are representative of Canada's terrestrial and aquatic diversity. As a non-profit, independent organization, CCEA serves as a unique forum for federal, provincial and territorial government agencies, non-government organizations, researchers, industries and other sectors involved in conserving ecological areas. Through conferences, consultations, projects and technical reports, CCEA educates and provides valuable guidance and support for efforts to complete a comprehensive Canadian network of protected areas.


Governments, conservation organizations and individuals are continuing to establish protected areas. Efforts have also been directed at improving biological inventories, ecological land classifications and planning to support the establishment of protected areas.

Despite the efforts of governments and non-government organizations, networks of ecological reserves, national, provincial, territorial and regional parks, managed wildlife areas, protected landscapes and internationally designated sites are not yet complete. Not all of our ecological regions are represented in existing protected areas networks. In some regions of the country, opportunities to establish protected areas are being diminished or foreclosed.

Completing Canada's Networks

In Quebec, plans are underway to establish eight new parks by the year 2000, including Mont Mégantic in the Eastern Townships and Vaureal River at Anticosti Island. The Saguenay Marine Park is also being established as the result of an agreement between the Government of Quebec and the Federal Government.

In British Columbia, the Khutzeymateen Valley was designated as a provincial park and Canada's only grizzly bear sanctuary in August 1994. The park is home to about 50 grizzly bears and will be co-managed by the Tsimshian Nation.

Strategic Directions

13.
Make every effort to complete Canada's networks of protected areas representative of land-based natural regions, by the year 2000 and accelerate the protection of areas that are representative of marine natural regions.
14.
Use open and meaningful public and stakeholder participation processes and sound scientific information and traditional knowledge to ensure that social, economic, cultural and ecological factors are considered in the establishment of protected areas.
15.
Use interim protection measures to ensure that candidate protected areas are not compromised by development.
16.
Develop comprehensive criteria for determining priority sites for designation as protected areas considering criteria such as: the habitat requirements for species-at-risk and endemic species and other critical wildlife habitat; areas supporting high diversity; migratory species or representative or unique species; and genetic resources that are of scientific or economic importance.
17.
Prepare and implement, in consultation with interested stakeholders, legislation and policies, inventories, plans, guidelines, monitoring programs and other measures to support the establishment and management of protected areas.
18.
Manage, in consultation with landowners, regional and urban governments, local and indigenous communities, and interested stakeholders, human activities in and around protected areas to minimize adverse impacts on protected area biodiversity and to maintain connectivity, using mechanisms such as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Biosphere Reserve Program.
19.
Support and promote the development of agreements between governments and local and indigenous communities, property-owners and/or private corporations for the voluntary allocation of land for conservation purposes.
20.
Use a variety of mechanisms, including easements and covenants, to secure relatively intact ecosystems within intensively developed areas, and restore or rehabilitate them if necessary and practical.