Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project
The Pimachiowin Aki Corporation is a non-profit corporation comprised of five First Nations: Bloodvein River, Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi, Pikangikum and Poplar River, and the Manitoba and Ontario provincial governments.
Pimachiowin Aki's goal is to achieve international recognition for 33,400 square kilometres of land in Manitoba and Ontario as a UNESCO world heritage site. It includes the ancestral lands of the participating First Nations, Atikaki Provincial Park in Manitoba as well as Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and Eagle Snowshoe Conservation Reserve in Ontario.
Inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List is being sought on two criteria:
- Natural: The proposed site fills an identified gap in the world heritage site system within the boreal shield. It has exceptional ecological value with extensive undisturbed forests, lakes and wetlands that reflect unique geological processes and represents critical habitat for several species, including woodland caribou, bald eagles and wolverines.
- Cultural: It is also an outstanding example of traditional Aboriginal life based on a close and enduring relationship to the land. Archaeological evidence in the area attests to over 6,000 years of habitation by the Anishinaabe.
The nomination process has involved community consultations, research, mapping and land management planning. The completed dossier consists of a nomination document, a management plan and a series of annexes comprising the research undertaken by the corporation such as a natural comparative analysis, a cultural comparative analysis, a cultural landscape atlas, a governance study, ecosystem study, economic study and other background material, land management plans completed by the First Nations and provincial government, park management plans and photographic materials.
The nomination was submitted in January 2012. The decision making process generally takes 18 months.
Provincial-First Nation Land-management Planning in Manitoba and Ontario
The governments of Manitoba and Ontario have each supported joint provincial-First Nation land-management planning and the nomination of Pimachiowin Aki for many years. Through land-management planning and regulations, an assurance is being provided to UNESCO that the area will be maintained.
With the passage of the East Side Traditional Lands Planning and Special Protected Areas Act in Manitoba in 2009, the first legislation of its kind in Canada, Manitoba provided a mechanism for First Nations to develop and implement land management plans for their ancestral lands in a way that is consistent with the establishment of a world heritage site. The Bloodvein and Poplar River First Nations have had their planning areas and land management plans legally designated and approved under the act.
Similarly, the Ontario government strengthened the Pimachiowin Aki bid by passing the Far North Act in 2010, giving legal recognition to the jointly prepared community-based land use plans. The Far North Act sets out a joint land-use planning process between First Nations and Ontario, which provides for the protection of areas of cultural value and ecological systems in an interconnected network of protected areas. In collaboration with the Ontario government, Pikangikum First Nation, Little Grand Rapids First Nation and Pauingassi First Nation have completed this planning process, as recognized under the Far North Act, for lands in Pimachiowin Aki.
In 2008, Ontario and Manitoba created Canada's first interprovincial wilderness area, a jointly managed 9,400-square-kilometre area along the provincial border which contributed to the groundwork for the world heritage site bid. It includes Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and the Eagle-Snowshoe Conservation Reserve in Ontario and Atikaki Provincial Park and parts of Nopiming Provincial Park in Manitoba.
In 2010, the Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Fund Act was proclaimed into law in Manitoba to make funds available in perpetuity to protect, preserve and celebrate the natural and cultural values of the area. These legal and financial commitments demonstrate the resolve of all partners to safeguard and transmit to future generations the heritage values of Pimachiowin Aki.
UNESCO World Heritage
For over 30 years, UNESCO has been working to identify world heritage sites of outstanding universal value and ensure their safekeeping for future generations. An international agreement adopted by UNESCO in 1972 was founded on the premise that certain places on Earth hold outstanding universal value and should form part of the common heritage of humankind.
Places as diverse as East Africa's Serengeti, the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Taj Mahal in India have been designated world heritage sites.
Canada's first world heritage site was L'Anse aux Meadows, inscribed in 1978. Today, there are six Canadian sites recognized for cultural value and nine for natural value. If successful, Pimachiowin Aki would be Canada's first world heritage site inscribed for both natural and cultural values.