National Parks of Canada
Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Waterton Lakes, Torngat Mountains, Gros Morne, Kootenay, La Mauricie, Kluane, Pacific Rim, Mingan Archipelago, Forillon, Bruce Peninsula and Fathon Five
Canada’s National Parks are protected areas under the Canada National Parks Act, owned by the Government of Canada and administered for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people of Canada and its future generations. National parks are administered by Parks Canada, a Crown agency operating under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. The goal of the national parks system is to set aside lands representing the country’s 39 distinct natural regions described in the National Parks System Plan, primarily to protect the ecological integrity of the land, and secondarily to allow the public to explore, learn about and enjoy Canada’s natural spaces.
Canada’s first national park was created in 1885 through an Order-in-Council to reserve 26 km2 (10 sq mi) over the Cave and Basin Hot Springs to prevent the land from being sold for private development despite claims being made for it. Modeled after the American experience with Yellowstone National Park, the Rocky Mountains Park Act, adopted in 1887, established the Rocky Mountains Park (now Banff National Park). The idea of a national park was popular and led to numerous proposals for the Ministry of the Interior to consider, including additional sites along the Canadian Pacific Railway (e.g. Yoho and Glacier and an expansion of Banff) and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (e.g. Jasper). In 1911 the Rocky Mountains Park Act was replaced by the Dominion Forest Reserves and Parks Act which created the world’s first national parks service, the Dominion Parks Branch, to administer national parks in Canada. These early national parks, including those established under the leadership of JB Harkin who was the first commissioner of the Dominion Parks Branch, were set aside to reserve lands principally for tourism and conservation but also had an exclusionary policy prohibiting First Nations peoples from using their traditional lands within the new parks. In 1922, Wood Buffalo National Park was the first to allow traditional indigenous activities to continue. In 1972, Parks Canada defined National Park Reserves, lands administered by the agency intended to become National Parks pending settlement of indigenous land rights and agreements for continued traditional use of the lands.
As of 2018 there are 39 National Parks and eight National Park Reserves, covering an area of approximately 328,198 km2 (126,718 sq mi), or about 3.3% of the total land area of Canada, and representing 30 of the 39 natural regions. There are at least two parks located in every one of the nation’s 13 provinces and territories. Parks Canada reported attendance of 15,449,249 at all National Parks and Reserves in 2016–17, including over four million visits to the busiest park (Banff) and only two persons at the least visited (Tuktut Nogait). Parks Canada additionally manages three National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs), a single NMCA Reserve, and the country’s lone National Landmark. The Canada National Parks Act also allows for recognition of National Historic Sites that commemorate events, landmarks, or objects of national importance, and which may include similar levels of protection and administration as national parks. Feasibility studies are underway to establish further national parks in unrepresented regions.