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MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan Introduces Bill to Amend Rouge National Urban Park Act 

Posted in Canada, Community

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Published on June 18, 2015 with No Comments

Toronto, ON — Over the last year, the Federal Government has pushed through critically flawed legislation for Rouge National Urban Park (RNUP), ignoring the advice of several thousand Canadians, 106 Members of Parliament, the Ontario Government, and several of Canada’s top environmental organizations.
Even the Former Chief Scientist for Parks Canada, Stephen Woodley, publicly stated that the Rouge National Urban Park Act “falls considerably short” of the accepted environmental standards for protected areas, urban or wilderness.

The RNUP Act fails to honour the written federal commitment to “meet or exceed” existing provincial policies and the Ontario Government has therefore refused to transfer its substantial Rouge Park lands to the Federal Government until the RNUP Act is amended. Without the provincial public parklands, the Federal Government is creating a small “paper” park with virtually no Rouge Valley lands and no public access.

Scarborough Rouge River MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan has shown leadership and vision by tabling a Private Member’s Bill in Canada’s House of Commons which would fix the serious flaws in the existing RNUP Act by:

1. prioritizing the protection and restoration of ecological integrity and watershed health;
2. respecting provincial Greenbelt, Rouge Park, Rouge Watershed , Oak Ridges Moraine and Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement objectives and policies;
3. requiring good public consultation and scientifically sound park management;
4. supporting healthy and sustainable farming in the park.

Hopefully Canada’s Parliament will adopt the above amendments to the Rouge National Urban Park Act and thereby meet the environmental standards Canadians enjoy and expect within our protected areas and national parks.

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Tania Liu, Rathika.Sitsabaiesan.c1a@parl.gc.ca 416-356-2834.

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Backgrounder:
More than 100 km2 of publicly -owned lands surround the Rouge River and Duffins Creek watersheds in Toronto, Markham, Pickering and Uxbridge. These publicly-owned lands are predominantly designated Provincial Greenbelt “Natural Heritage System” and they are:
• home to the endangered Carolinian forest and mixed-woodland plain life zones of Canada, zones with 1/3 of Canada’s endangered species;
• the ancestral home of Mississauga, Huron Wendat and other First Nations;
• the last chance to create a large national park in southern Ontario, – an area with 1/3 of Canada’s population, 3/4 of its land in agriculture and human settlement uses, and only 1/400th of its land protected in National Parks.
Rouge Park was created between 1990 and 1995 by the Province of Ontario and it has gradually grown to include approximately 40 km2 of provincial, municipal and conservation authority public lands. Over the last three decades, thousands of people have contributed to Rouge Park, Oak Ridges Moraine (ORM), Ontario Greenbelt and Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) Plans to protect, restore and enhance ecological integrity and watershed health. These Plans and policies represent a huge investment of public time, land, money and consultation. The vast majority of Ontario residents support these Plans and policies.

On January 26, 2013, Ontario and Canada signed an Agreement for the transfer of Provincial Rouge Park lands to Parks Canada to create a Rouge National Urban Park area of approximately 57 km2 through the addition of approximately 18 km2 of Federal public lands in north Markham. The Agreement states:
“Parks Canada will work with Ontario to develop written policies in respect of the creation, management and administration of the Park that meet or exceed provincial policies … including the policies set out in the Greenbelt Plan, the ORM Conservation Plan … .

Unfortunately, the existing Rouge National Urban Park Act fails to meet this required condition for the provincial land transfer. Existing provincial policies prioritize the protection and restoration of ecological integrity and watershed health. The Rouge National Urban Park Act (Bill C-40) merely “takes into consideration the natural ecosystem”, providing little, if any, real environmental protection or direction.
The serious flaws in the current Rouge National Urban Park Act include:
• failing to prioritize the protection and restoration of ecological integrity and watershed health;
• failing to “meet or exceed” existing Ontario Greenbelt, Rouge Park and Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plans and policies;
• failing to respect Environment Canada’s science-based recommendations for improving ecological integrity, watershed health and Great Lakes water quality;
• creating a 2 km2 park – less than 1/25th the proposed park size and 1/50th the potential park size.

 

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