MPs visit Haida Gwaii to learn about protected areas

A group of seven MPs visited Haida Gwaii last week to get the big picture on protecting land and water.

A group of seven MPs visited Haida Gwaii last week to get the big picture on protecting land and water.

Led by Liberal MP Deborah Schulte, the Liberal, Conservative and NDP MPs are members of the Environment and Sustainable Development committee.

By the end of October, Schulte and her colleagues will advise the government on how Canada can meet its international obligations to protect 17 per cent of its land and 10 per cent of its marine areas by 2020.

“Really, the purpose is to come and listen,” said Schulte, who represents a riding in Ontario.

“Obviously there are really big lessons to be learned here with the Haida Nation.”

After meeting Haida Nation representatives in Old Massett and Skidegate, the MPs toured Windy Bay and Tanu in Gwaii Haanas a national park reserve and Haida heritage site that includes unique protections for both land and marine areas.

“We were interested in coming to hear how they got here, what their challenges are, and what recommendations they have for us,” said Schulte.

The MPs two-day tour of Haida Gwaii came after several months of meeting expert witnesses in Ottawa, and will be followed by tours of the Pacific Rim, Banff, and Jasper National Parks.

Two weeks before the committee visit, Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau also visited Haida Gwaii to consult the Haida Nation about protecting the islands and surrounding ocean.

Garneau is preparing to formalize a moratorium that would ban crude oil tankers from Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound.

The minister has also promised a new strategy to balance environmental protection with the ongoing rise in shipping traffic from Prince Rupert and other West Coast ports.

According to Transport Canada, 80 million tonnes of oil are shipped from Canada’s west and east coasts each year.