Quebec Senator Wants to Protect Gatineau Park
Chelsea, June 26, 2020—The Gatineau Park Protection Committee (GPPC) is commending the Honourable Julie Miville-Dechêne for raising the issue of park protection during question period in the Senate.
On June 25, 2020, the senator deplored construction of 133 new houses in the park since 1992, as well as the NCC’s lack of proper legislation to protect it. She explained her reasons for raising the issue as follows on social media:
“Should the natural heritage of Gatineau Park, the only federal park that does not enjoy the protection afforded to Canada’s national parks, be better protected? The National Capital Commission (NCC) does not have all the powers it needs to intervene. Government and/or Parliament should act by giving Gatineau Park official status through legislation.”
As a solution to the various problems facing Gatineau Park, the GPPC has been urging the federal government to introduce legislation based on principles that reflect a consensus on the matter.
“Gatineau Park legislation should prioritize conservation and ecological integrity in park management; enshrine boundaries; eliminate private property development; and dedicate the park to future generations. Moreover, it should create a mechanism to ensure consultation with the province of Quebec,” said GPPC Secretary Jean-Paul Murray.
Underlining that Gatineau Park is a true jewel of the National Capital Region, Senator Miville-Dechêne said that protecting it “requires appropriate powers, and one way to get those powers is through a robust bill and act.”
According to the GPPC, Government Representative Marc Gold erred in saying the NCC has no authority over lands it does not own in the park: “All evidence suggests otherwise: section 25 of the National Capital Act clearly specifies that Gatineau Park has been declared to be for the general advantage of Canada, which means the NCC has exclusive jurisdiction over all its territory. Moreover, in Munro v. NCC, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government can impose zoning over the entire National Capital Region, by virtue of its Peace, Order and Good Government powers,” Mr. Murray said. “But a clear legislative mandate is needed to ensure concerted action on this file,” he added.
“Senator Miville-Dechêne has an outstanding track record as a journalist, diplomat, broadcast executive and human rights advocate. We can’t imagine a better or more qualified parliamentarian to take up the cause of Gatineau Park protection,” Mr. Murray said.
Information: Jean-Paul Murray: firstname.lastname@example.org; 819-827-1803.
Below is the full text of Senator Miville-Dechêne’s question and the government's response.
Residential Development in Gatineau Park
Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne: Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. You no doubt know that Gatineau Park is the only federal park that does not have national park status. As a result, its ecosystem is not fully protected. Since this park is in my senatorial division, I have taken an interest in it over the past few months. Given that one of the National Capital Commission’s priorities is the conservation of the park’s natural heritage, why have 133 private residences been built in the middle of Gatineau Park since 1992? Shouldn’t the NCC have the power to put a stop to land speculation there?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, senator, for your question. Gatineau Park is obviously a treasure that must be protected, and the protection of that park and our environment is a priority for our government. The National Capital Commission, which is in charge of the park’s day-to-day operations, is responsible for developing, preserving and improving the region, including Gatineau Park, for all Canadians. I looked into this situation myself, and I was told that the number of properties located within Gatineau Park has been dropping for a long time, more specifically since 1938. The NCC has regularly purchased private property adjacent to the park, including dozens of properties over the past decade. That being said, the NCC does not have authority over land it does not own. When it comes to the construction of residences on private property, those affected must contact their municipal representatives.
Senator Miville-Dechêne: That just goes to show that NCC officials don’t have enough powers. This situation has been going on for years, and, as you know, there have been eight bills about this. Why isn’t the federal government intervening to make Gatineau Park a national park like the others? The park is 20 minutes from Ottawa, and the Meech Lake Accord is part of the history of that place. It is truly a jewel, as you said. However, protecting a jewel requires appropriate powers, and one way to get those powers is through a robust bill and act.
Senator Gold: I thank the senator for her comment and her question. I will convey your concern to the government to make sure it’s aware that we feel protecting the park is important.
Access Senate Debates by clicking on the following link: https://sencanada.ca/en/content/sen/chamber/431/debates/027db_2020-06-25-e