Ontario, Manitoba Sign Agreement to Sustain North America's Largest Protected Boreal Forest
Provinces Working Together on Proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site
Ontario and Manitoba have entered into a unique Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to support First Nations-led efforts to protect and manage the proposed Pimachiowin Aki UNESCO World Heritage site and surrounding natural resources.
Pimachiowin Aki, the name of the proposed World Heritage site located in northwestern Ontario and eastern Manitoba, means "the land that gives life" in the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) language.
The Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project is a collaboration of five First Nations and two provincial governments committed to securing world heritage status for the largest protected-area network in the North American boreal shield.
In early 2012, Parks Canada officially submitted a world heritage site nomination package to UNESCO on behalf of Ontario, Manitoba and the five First Nation partners.
To strengthen this application, the recently-signed MOU has been submitted to the World Heritage Committee's Advisory bodies prior to their making final recommendations. A decision from UNESCO on the Pimachiowin Aki site is expected to be made by summer 2013.
If successful, Pimachiowin Aki would be Canada's first UNESCO World Heritage site, recognized for its outstanding universal value based on both natural and cultural criteria. Only a handful of such mixed sites have been inscribed worldwide.
Working collaboratively with provincial and First Nation partners is part of the Ontario government's plan to protect the boreal forest and Ontario's Far North, and the Manitoba government's plan to protect the boreal forest on east side of Lake Winnipeg.
- Pimachiowin Aki is 33,400 square kilometres in size and includes the traditional territories of five First Nation communities: Pikangikum, Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi, Poplar River and Bloodvein.
- The Pimachiowin Aki UNESCO World Heritage site nomination (pdf) is the first to be submitted in Canada based on both natural and cultural heritage values.
- Currently, the Rideau Canal is the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Ontario.
“I am pleased that Ontario and Manitoba are working together to protect and manage the proposed Pimachiowin Aki site in conjunction with our First Nation partners in both provinces. This area of the boreal forest provides an important habitat to a number of species and holds great significance to the traditional Aboriginal way of life. Ontario is proud to support Pimachiowin Aki as a UNESCO World Heritage site.”
“This agreement is an important step toward ensuring the heart of the last intact forest of its kind left in the world is protected and managed for generations. Through the leadership of our First Nation partners, we hope to secure Canada’s first UNESCO World Heritage site based on both natural and cultural criteria.”
“Elders from our Five First Nations, who are partners on this project, have a vision that we need to work together to take care of this Pimachiowin area for those of us who lived here for thousands of years and for those who wish to visit. We also know that we are protecting the land for children across the world who benefit from things that are often unseen like clean air and clean water.”