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Federal government passes Rouge National Urban Park Act

Tuesday January 27, 2015

Scarborough Mirror

Number of environmental groups unhappy with the legislation to establish Canada’s first urban national park

The House of Commons passed the Rouge National Urban Park Act (Bill C-40) yesterday, with 137 votes in favour of the bill.

The bill is now off to the Senate for review in what may become Canada’s first national urban park. But the 107 MPs that voted against the bill and several environmental groups across Canada aren’t happy about it.

Canada Parks and Wilderness Society - Wildlands League, David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence, Friends of the Rouge Watershed, Ontario Nature, Save The Oak Ridges Moraine and Sierra Club Canada Foundation issued a statement in response to the bill saying the act “fails to establish nature conservation as a priority” and “sets a bad precedent for the future national urban parks.”

The federal government though, insists the park is “tailor-made” to protect ecosystems, landscapes and wildlife in the Rouge Valley.

“The Rouge NUP Act ensures the strongest ever protection for the Rouge,” said Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq in a statement. “Our government will maintain the health of ecosystems, respect local farmers and create opportunities for Canadians to connect with this incredible landscape.”

The legislation prohibits hunting, mineral extraction, dumping, polluting, harassing wildlife, poaching and removal of any artefacts or fossils.

Environmental groups say lands owned by the province, approximately 25 square kilometres, may not be transferred to Parks Canada since the bill does not “meet or exceed” environmental policies of the existing Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine and Rouge Park plan.

The Ontario government had requested the federal government to uphold these policies in an agreement dated Jan. 23, 2013.

The federal government has committed $143.7 million of funding for 10 years for the park’s protection and operations. After the 10-year period, $7.6 million per year will be funded.

The Rouge NUP is 16 times larger than Central Park in New York City and is situated near 20 per cent of Canada’s population. The park contains 10,000 years of human history and 1,700 species of plants and animals.

Environmental groups are hoping the Senate will amend the bill to “prioritize nature conservation and meet international standards for a protected area.”

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