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Building Canada’s Natural Legacy

Polar bear, Bylot Island. Photo: © Christian Marcotte

Polar bear, Bylot Island. Photo: © Christian Marcotte

Building Canada’s Natural Legacy

A Commitment from Ministers Responsible for Parks, Protected Areas, and Biodiversity Conservation to Develop a Pathway toward Canada Target 1

In Canada, we are privileged to enjoy a country rich in natural landscapes. Bordered by three oceans, the second-largest nation in the world, we depend on Canada’s biodiversity for our survival. Helping protect biodiversity, while encouraging the sustainable use of nature, is a responsibility that all Canadians can share.

While Canada still has large, healthy and relatively undisturbed natural areas, there are increasing pressures on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, spurred by development across the country and intensified by a changing climate. Protected areas and other conservation measures play a vital role in Canada’s efforts to conserve and maintain biodiversity. They protect important parts of Canada’s ecosystems and can help us mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. They provide us with health benefits such as safe drinking water, they safeguard habitat, and present opportunities for tourism, recreation, and healthy connections with nature that improve the quality of our lives.

Beyond providing the necessities of life, Canada’s natural wealth is a cornerstone of the Canadian economy, the foundation for Canada’s natural resource sectors, and the key to continued growth in sectors such as agriculture, ecotourism and recreation. Many Indigenous communities depend on the sustainable harvest of resources from intact ecosystems for their livelihoods, wellbeing, food, cultural and ceremonial needs. Biodiversity is the foundation of the spiritual and cultural connection that many Canadians have with nature.

In 2015, Canada adopted the 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada, a suite of objectives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, including a commitment related to area-based conservation, known as Target 1:

“By 2020, at least 17% of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10% of coastal and marine areas, are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.”

While each of our governments can make a contribution, achieving this target will require collaboration and collective action within and between all levels of governments, Indigenous Peoples and organizations, communities, conservation organizations, and industries, with the support of Canadians. 

As part of Canada’s 150th anniversary, we have an opportunity to build a natural legacy through a coordinated network of protected areas and conservation measures, so that Canada’s biodiversity will be protected for generations to come. 

Thereby, we, the ministers responsible for parks, protected areas, and biodiversity conservation commit to engage all levels of governments, Indigenous Peoples, industries, conservation organizations, and all Canadians, to support the development of national guidance grounded in science and traditional knowledge, for reaching the 17% terrestrial and inland water target through a connected network of protected areas and other effective conservation measures that contribute to biodiversity conservation.

This work, called the Pathway to Canada Target 1, will include the participation of Indigenous Peoples, municipalities, and conservation organizations working side-by-side with federal, provincial and territorial governments in determining preferred means of protecting land and fresh water so that Canada’s biodiversity will be protected for generations to come.

*Quebec has taken note of the 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada, but has not adhered to them because, by virtue of its responsibilities, it develops its own instruments to implement the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and contributes to the achievement of the Aichi targets. Quebec sets its own conservation priorities and timelines on its territory, and collaborates with the federal government and the provinces and territories when deemed necessary.

Ivvavik National Park of Canada, Yukon. Photo: © Richard Pither

Ivvavik National Park of Canada, Yukon. Photo: © Richard Pither