World Heritage Committee sets deadline for Canada to reverse drying of the Peace Athabasca Delta.
Decision announced today gives Canada 18months to halt the ongoing
deterioration of Wood Buffalo National Park.
July 3, 2019, BAKU, AZERBAIJAN– The UN’s World Heritage Committee issued a decision today confirming that the ongoing deterioration of the Peace Athabasca Delta in Wood Buffalo National Park could result in Park being added to the List of World Heritage in Danger in short order.
A long line of speakers, including a 10-person delegation from the Mikisew Cree First Nation and representatives of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, addressed the Committee and called on Canada to take action to address the drying of the Peace Athabasca Delta.
Speaking to the World Heritage Committee in Baku, Melody Lepine, lead of the Mikisew delegation, said, “Your decision today rightly confirms that the Park’s Outstanding Universal Value is deteriorating and that situation is unacceptable under the Convention. We applaud your recognition that Canada must go further to halt the decline of this Park.” An international expert on water management reminded the Committee that it has previously placed other World Heritage Sites with lesser threats on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Today’s decision of the World Heritage Committee:
Confirmed that the ongoing deterioration of Wood Buffalo National Park could result in the Park being added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger
Reiterated Canada must take steps to address effects of upstream development, including the Site C hydropower project, on the Park
Noted Canada has not provided sufficient resources to correct the decline of the Park
Called on Canada to complete its imminent threat assessment for Wood Bison
Called on Canada to conduct a systematic risk assessment of oil sands tailings ponds
Reiterated that Canada must undertake an environmental flow and hydrology assessment for the Peace Athabasca Delta; and
Urged Canada to share governance and management of the Park with indigenous peoples
“We applaud the Committee for calling on Canada to increase its efforts to protect Wood Buffalo National Park,” added Melody Lepine. “Canada does not yet have the situation under control…Canada is continuing to allow activities to further harm our Park and is weakening important protections. Canada has not made real changes to resolve the drying of the Peace Athabasca Delta. The most important issue – the return of ecologically essential water to the Park – remains unresolved. And necessary monitoring and partnerships with indigenous peoples are still lacking.”
Canada has until December 1, 2020 to demonstrate real progress on restoring the health of Wood Buffalo National Park and establishing new monitoring capacity in the Peace Athabasca Delta.
For interviews with Mikisew Cree First Nation representatives:
Melody Lepine, Mikisew Cree First Nation Industry and Government Relations, 780-792-8736, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mikisew Cree First Nation GIR staff members attended the 42nd Session on the World Heritage Committee meeting - Manama Bahrain June 21st to July 9th, 2018
On Thursday, June 28, 2018, MCFN GIR Director Melody Lepine and MCFN GIR Government Relations Manager Carl Braun gave a Side-event presentation to meeting attendees entitled: Conservation at the Margins of Extractive Development: Outlooks and Opportunities for Natural Heritage Sites under Threat, Case Study of Wood Buffalo National Park. During their presentation and their 5 days attending the meeting, Melody and Carl advocated on behalf of action in WBNP: the growing threats and pressures to the Park, and the need for urgent action to protect the land’s ecological integrity. During this meeting, Canada announced that it is “investing $27.5M in the future of WBNP Heritage Site.” MCFN has requested details on how this funding will be used for the Action Plan and Park. MCFN continues to press both domestically and internationally for better protection of the Park, Canada’s largest World Heritage Site; and is actively involved in the planning and implementation of the UNESCO-required Action Plan for WBNP.
Canada invests $27.5M in the future of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site
- Click HERE to read the news release -
“The Narwal: Wood Buffalo at Risk”
- Featuring MCFN staff and MCFN community members
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DOCUMENTS MCFN TOOK TO THE UNESCO
MEETING IN BAHRAIN
Please see the current IUCN World Heritage Outlook and for Wood Buffalo National Park: Significant Concern; as well as other WBNP info at: https://www.worldheritageoutlook.iucn.org/explore-sites/wdpaid/10902
#42COM , #42WHC , #UNESCO
CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) Updates
#42COM; #42WHC; #UNESCO
Day 1: June 26th, 2018
Day 2: June 27th, 2018
Day 3: June 28th, 2018
Day 4: June 29th, 2018
Day 5: July 3rd, 2018
Sierra Club BC Updates
#42COM; #42WHC; #UNESCO
#Canada is failing to protect its largest national park from #tarsands and #SiteC. It's time for @JustinTrudeau to act! #UNESCO #42WHC #WorldHeritage #cdnpoli @MikisewCreeGIR Thanks to @LavoieJudith & @thenarwhalca for bringing this story to light: #42COM : CLICK HERE
VIDEO: Kevin Courtoreille on Wood Buffalo National Park. Tarsands and #SiteC threaten this World Heritage Site. It's time for Canada to act. #UNESCO #42WHC #42COM #cdnpoli #abpoli #StopSiteC @MikisewCreeGIR @thenarwhalca : CLICK HERE
IN THE NEWS
Canada's failure to protect Wood Buffalo National Park to be raised at UNESCO meeting in Bahrain - CPAWS, June 26th, 2018
#42COM , #42WHC , #UNESCO
Photo Essay Wood Buffalo: Canada's largest national park and its people in peril - The Narwhal, June 26th, 2018
#42COM , #42WHC , #UNESCO
Opinion: UNESCO seeks new safeguards for Wood Buffalo National Park - The Hill Times, July 10th, 2017
United Nations report expresses concern about Site C impact on Wood Buffalo National Park - Vancouver Sun, July 7th, 2017
UN World Heritage Committee could put Wood Buffalo National Park on UN World Heritage in Danger list - Energetic City, July 7th, 2017
Ultimatum de l’UNESCO pour le parc de Wood Buffalo - Radio Canada, July 6th, 2017
B.C.'s Site C dam faces UNESCO heritage site scrutiny - Metro Vancouver News, July 6th, 2017
UN Committee direct Canada to protect Wood Buffalo National Park.. or else - CBC News, July 5th, 2017
National park could lose UN heritage status – BC Local News, June 6, 2017
UNESCO issues warning about Wood Buffalo National Park – CTV News, March 10, 2017
Groups want Trudeau to revisit Site C approval over world heritage status - Canadian Press, October 3rd, 2016
Environmental groups urge UNESCO to revisit Site C dam - Globe and Mail, October 3rd, 2016
Groups want Wood Buffalo National Park on list of Word Heritage Sites in danger - Global News Edmonton, October 3rd, 2016
Groups urge UNESCO to put Wood Buffalo National Park on 'in danger' list - CBC Edmonton, October 3rd, 2016
Will UNESCO mission lay groundwork to protect Wood Buffalo National Park? - CBC Edmonton, October 1st, 2016
UNESCO see Fort Chipewyan's low water levels up close - CBC Edmonton, September 30th, 2016
UNESCO hears fears that Wood Buffalo National Park 'is going to dry out' - CBC Edmonton, September 29th, 2016
UN looks at BC hydro project's potential impact on Alberta world heritage site - Canadian Press. September 28th, 2016
UNESCO Mission to investigate dangers to WBNP to hear from environmental groups - Media Advisory, September 27th, 2016
WBNP under siege, says First Nation as UNESCO World Heritage Committee visits - National Post, September 26th, 2016
Canada subject to UNESCO expert review over threats to Wood Buffalo and indigenous communities - Media Advisory, September 25th, 2016
UNESCO begins monitoring mission of Wood Buffalo National Park - CBC News, September 25th, 2016
UN monitoring mission eyes Site C Dam impact on Wood Buffalo National Park - Canadian Press, September 25th, 2016
Site C Dam Project betrays Trudeau's commitment to First Nations - CBC News, August 24th, 2016
Canada urged to review impact oil sands projects would have on National Park - The Globe and Mail, July 2nd, 2015
UNESCO PRESS RELEASES
What can you do to help?
Call to Action:
Write or Tweet to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him to fully implement the reactive monitoring mission's 2016 recommendations and the World Heritage Committee's 2017 decision on Wood Buffalo National Park. Share your letter with:
Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna
Federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett
Federal NDP Environment Critic Linda Duncan
Premier of Alberta Rachel Notley
Premier of British Columbia John Horgan
Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips
Alberta Minister of Energy Marg McCuaig-Boyd
CEO of Parks Canada Daniel Watson
Wood Buffalo statement (Canada) to 41st Session on the Wold Heritage Committee - POLAND, July 5th, 2017
On July 5, 2017, GIR Director Melody Lepine addressed the World Heritage Committee in Kraków, Poland, regarding the status of Wood Buffalo National Park, and the need for urgent action to protect the land’s ecological integrity. This address follows the Committee’s decision to offer Canada one last chance to improve the deteriorating state of Wood Buffalo and the Peace-Athabasca Delta. Mikisew continues to press both domestically and internationally for better protection of the Park, Canada’s largest World Heritage Site. Please find her full address documented in the video below:
The World Heritage Committee
Call to Action!!
In 2014, Mikisew Cree First Nation submitted a petition to UNESCO regarding longstanding concerns on the deterioration of Wood Buffalo National Park, and in particular the Peace-Athabasca Delta, which is critical to maintaining the site’s ecological integrity, as well as Mikisew’s social, cultural and economic wellbeing. The Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.
In Fall 2016, a joint UNESCO/IUCN reactive monitoring mission visited Wood Buffalo National Park. The mission report, which set out 17 recommendations, validated Mikisew’s concerns: UNESCO and the IUCN concluded that Canada had to do more to understand and address the impacts of industrial development upon this international treasure.
In July 2017, the 41st UN World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting in Poland set out specific actions Canada must take to keep Wood Buffalo National Park off the List of World Heritage in Danger (Link to WHC decision). UNESCO made a number of key requests of Canada:
Allocate adequate resources for the elaboration and implementation of an Action Plan to apply all recommendations of the mission report within 17 months
Provide an interim report to the World Heritage Centre within 7 months on how Canada will implement the mission recommendations
Make every effort to finally assess and understand the potential impacts of the Site C hydropower project
Conduct a systematic risk assessment of oil sands tailings ponds and an assessment of impacts to the Park from the proposed Teck Frontier Project and submit those to UNESCO’s advisory bodies for review
Canada must design an Action Plan that includes concrete measures to deal with all 17 recommendations from the mission report, which include:
Transition to a genuine partnership with aboriginal groups in governing the Park;
Improve and expand monitoring of the Peace-Athabasca Delta;
Conduct an environmental and social impact assessment of the Site C dam on the Peace-Athabasca Delta;
Assess options for a buffer zone between the Park and oil sands projects;
Start a process towards restoring flooding cycles in the Delta; and
Strengthen Parks Canada’s conservation focus and capacity for managing the park.
Mikisew looks forward to designing and implementing the Action Plan in partnership with Canada, and alongside all relevant Indigenous communities, provincial and regional government entities, and other interested parties. Mikisew will continue working with the World Heritage Committee to ensure Canadian officials respond to this powerful call to action.
To stay up to date, follow us on Facebook and @MikisewGIR on Twitter.
Mikisew Cree First Nation are traditional stewards of the Peace-Athabasca Delta
The Mikisew Cree First Nation are traditional stewards of the lands and resources around the Peace-Athabasca Delta. As stewards, Mikisew have witnessed Wood Buffalo deteriorate as a result of industrial activities and climate change. They see even bigger threats to Wood Buffalo on the horizon.
If the threats to Wood Buffalo are not corrected, the outstanding universal values of this World Heritage Site may be lost forever. Because Mikisew’s culture is tied to the Peace-Athabasca Delta, the loss of Wood Buffalo’s natural values would put Mikisew Cree’s distinctive culture at risk. Other indigenous communities stand to be similarly affected.
For these reasons, Mikisew is asking that Wood Buffalo be added to the list of World Heritage in Danger.
Wood Buffalo is a Global Treasure
Wood Buffalo is a national park that is situated primarily in northeastern Alberta, Canada. It is located downstream from some of the largest industrial projects in the world, including oil sands projects.
Wood Buffalo contains examples of the most unique and unsurpassed ecosystems in the world. It's important attributes include:
• the world’s largest freshwater inland delta, the Peace-Athabasca Delta;
• outstanding examples of ecological and biological processes;
• significant natural habitat for threatened species such as wood bison;
• outstanding migratory bird populations, including endangered whooping cranes;
• unique perched basins;
• large expanses of boreal forest, which absorb the world’s carbon;
• exceptional natural beauty; and
• indigenous cultural and spiritual areas.
Wood Buffalo sustains multiple indigenous communities, including the Mikisew Cree First Nation. The physical and cultural survival of Mikisew cannot be separated from the health of Wood Buffalo.
The Threats to Wood Buffalo’s Outstanding Universal Values (OUVs) are Serious and Imminent
What is threatening Wood Buffalo?
• Existing hydro-regulation is causing the drying of the Peace-Athabasca Delta;
• A massive new dam has been proposed on the Peace River that could further damage the Delta;
• Decades of oil sands activities are contaminating critical parts of Wood Buffalo, particularly the Delta. Oil sands projects disrupt migratory bird pathways, remove vast quantities of water from the Athabasca River, contaminate the air and leak toxic waters into the Athabasca River at a rate equivalent to a major oil spill every year;
• The world’s largest oil sands mine is proposed on the Park’s doorstep and partly within a watershed flowing into Wood Buffalo;
• Climate change is exacerbating the drying out of the Delta; and
• Canadian governments are removing environmental protections and failing to adequately conserve Wood Buffalo in the face of these threats.
Canada says the threats to Wood Buffalo are not serious because parts of the Park will remain even if the Peace-Athabasca Delta is compromised by upstream oil sands developments and hydro-dams. This is wrong. Wood Buffalo cannot maintain ecological completeness or support its OUVs if the Delta is threatened. Also, indigenous communities need the Delta for their cultural survival.
Strong evidence exists that the ecological integrity of Wood Buffalo is at grave risk.
Renowned scientists, former Directors General of Parks Canada and former Superintendents of Wood Buffalo have reviewed Mikisew’s petition and all confirm that Wood Buffalo’s OUVs are in danger from serious and immediate threats.
The indigenous communities that live in and around Wood Buffalo have witnessed severe declines in Wood Buffalo’s water levels, bird populations, wood bison habitat and ecological functionality. They agree that these declines are getting worse.
Canada Lacks a Robust Legislative, Regulatory and Policy Framework to protect Wood Buffalo
Canada recently reduced and, in some cases, fully removed necessary environmental protections. Protections under the Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Species at Risk Act have been reduced to allow for faster approvals of industrial projects.
Canada’s regulatory framework is not protecting Wood Buffalo. The regulatory process for the proposed Site C Dam on the Peace River ignored scientific evidence showing that the dam could impact the Peace-Athabasca Delta. And the regulatory review of the new oil sands mine being proposed on Wood Buffalo’s doorstep is not fully considering impacts to Wood Buffalo.
Canada’s “Commitments” to act do not stand up to scrutiny
Canada’s commitments to monitor the issues facing Wood Buffalo are misleading. The reality is that the monitoring programs listed in Canada’s response to Mikisew’s petition have identified serious negative changes to Wood Buffalo’s OUVs, but no corrective actions have been forthcoming. Without action, these are essentially commitments to document the deterioration and death of Wood Buffalo.
Canada says that it collaborates with indigenous groups in relation to the threats facing Wood Buffalo. The reality is that Canada is excluding indigenous peoples from decisions relating to Wood Buffalo and research programs. Mikisew and other indigenous communities continue to voice concerns that Canada is ignoring the threats to Wood Buffalo to no avail.
All Treaty 8 First Nations in Alberta recognize the need for the World Heritage Committee to prompt Canada to shift from rhetoric to credible actions.
Despite evidence showing that oil sands projects are threatening Wood Buffalo, Alberta anticipates increasing the amount of bitumen extracted from the oil sands region upstream of Wood Buffalo by 1.8 million barrels per day from current levels. Alberta has never refused an oil sands project.
Canada refers to two programs, the Peace-Athabasca Delta Ecological Monitoring Program (PADEMP) and the Joint Alberta-Canada Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM), to suggest it has a policy framework to address threats to Wood Buffalo. These programs actually highlight that Canada is failing to credibly respond to threats to Wood Buffalo.
PADEMP has named contamination and lack of flow regulation as drivers of Wood Buffalo’s ecological decline. Yet, PADEMP has no power to take action to protect Wood Buffalo or affect policy or regulatory frameworks.
Even though JOSM’s research is showing threats to Wood Buffalo, governments continue to approve projects that threaten Wood Buffalo at a rapid pace. Just like PADEMP, JOSM has no power to take any actions to protect Wood Buffalo.
The monitoring programs listed in Canada’s response to Mikisew’s petition have identified serious negative changes to Wood Buffalo’s OUVs, but no corrective actions have been forthcoming. Without action, these are essentially commitments to document the deterioration and death of Wood Buffalo.
Inaction could have serious implications for the Convention and work of the World Heritage Committee
Without direction from the World Heritage Committee, Mikisew is concerned that Canada will not take any actions to help conserve Wood Buffalo.
The benefits of the World Heritage designation for Wood Buffalo will disappear without an “In Danger” listing because Canada is not taking necessary corrective actions to save Wood Buffalo. It is critical that the Convention be seen as an effective tool for conserving World Heritage.
Canada says that the threats to Wood Buffalo are overstated because some dangers facing Wood Buffalo may only affect the Peace-Athabasca Delta. This position ignores that the Delta is an Outstanding Universal Value designated under the Convention.
Failing to add Wood Buffalo to the list of World Heritage in Danger would create a precedent that state parties can “pick and choose” which OUVs to protect. The universal acceptance of the Convention would be diminished if state parties are allowed to sacrifice inconvenient OUVs, particularly those as critical as the world’s largest inland river delta
Mikisew Cree First Nation is a Cree nation whose lands and rights depend on the Athabasca River and surrounding waters. The Mikisew Cree signed Treaty 8 in 1899 at Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca.