NDP MP Nycole Turmel unveiled a plan to give Gatineau Park the legal protection environmentalists have been demanding for several decades.
Ms. Turmel revealed the details of her plan at an Earth Day news conference on April 22, surrounded by municipal officials, environmental groups and other park supporters, saying the NDP will be tabling legislation to protect the park, as well as organizing public consultations and launching a petition drive on the issue.
Called “Together, let’s protect Gatineau Park,” Ms. Turmel’s plan will, besides providing for direct public involvement, offer Gatineau Park protection similar to that enjoyed by all other Canadian national parks.
In the absence of proper legal protection, the National Capital Commission has removed nearly eight square kilometres of Gatineau Park land, while allowing construction of 123 new houses and five new roads inside its boundaries.
Recent violations of the park’s territorial and ecological integrity include the building of Highway 5 through it as well as construction of a new house at Meech Lake.
A translated version of Ms. Turmel’s Earth Day speech is provided below. As well, the original French version will be posted as a comment to this article.
Nycole Turmel, MP for Hull-Aylmer and Opposition Whip: Press Conference, April 22, 2012, 10:00 am (unofficial translation by Jean-Paul Murray, MA, LTAC):
Hello and welcome to Relais Plein-air. Thank you for accepting my invitation.
As you can see, Relais Plein-air is a gateway to Gatineau Park. Each week, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people pass through here on their way to discover the natural beauty and rich heritage of this Canadian jewel.
This is where I wanted to tell you about my intentions regarding Gatineau Park.
But before going into the details of my announcement, allow me to introduce the people joining me today.
All of you will have all recognized NDP MPs Françoise Boivin (Gatineau) and Mathieu Ravignat (Pontiac).
I also welcome Pierre Ducasse, who is president of the NDP Hull-Aylmer constituency association.
As well, from the City of Gatineau, Mr. Patrice Martin, STO Chairman and councillor for the district of Wright-La-Montagne, and Mr. Pierre Philion, councillor for the district of St. Raymond-Vanier.
We are also fortunate to have representatives from civil society organization, including:
• Nicole Desroches, Executive Director of the Outaouais’ Regional Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development (CREDDO);
• John McDonnell, Executive Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Ottawa Valley Chapter (CPAWS-OV);
• Jean-Paul Murray, Secretary of the Gatineau Park Protection Committee (GPPC);
• Bertrand Daigneault, president of the Vélo Plaisirs bicycle club.
• Two other NGOs support our initiative, but couldn’t be here today: the Sierra Club and Nature Québec.
Today, as we celebrate Earth Day, we are gathered around a simple idea: Gatineau Park is a national treasure that we must protect and preserve for future generations.
If we want to bequeath a healthy park to generations that will follow us, a park like the one we know today, we must act now.
And I intend to do my part.
That’s why I’m announcing the launch of my campaign today, a campaign whose theme is: “Together, Let’s Protect Gatineau Park.”
The campaign has three components:
First, as I promised in the last election, I will table a bill to protect Gatineau Park.
For seven years now, the NDP has been proposing legislation to protect the park, and this latest initiative must be the right one. The status quo is no longer acceptable for the park.
As we speak, Gatineau Park continues to lack legal status and boundaries properly enshrined in federal law. Portions of its territory can be sold to private interests without Parliament having any say in the matter.
Is this normal? Not in my view. The bill I’ll be tabling will aim to correct these anomalies.
My legislative proposal will also give statutory mandate to the NCC’s policy for acquiring private lands inside park boundaries.
Finally, unlike bills tabled by my predecessors, my initiative will not include a right of first refusal.
These are great ideas; I adhere to them and wish to transpose them into my private bill. Before going ahead, however, I want to consult the public.
Which brings us to the second component of my campaign – organizing a public consultation on the park’s future, to take place next May 26th at 2:00 pm, here at Relais Plein-air (397, Boulevard Cité des jeunes, Gatineau).
I’m doing this because I want the public to take ownership of the bill I’ll be tabling and to participate in its creation. I’ve underlined the principles I hold to – but the public also have a thing to say about the park’s future.
I want to hear from them, to draw inspiration from their views and submit a bill reflecting their expectations.
So I’m encouraging people to attend this public consultation in large numbers. They can register on my website or by contacting my constituency office.
Public participation is also a feature of my campaign’s third component, a petition entitled “Together, let’s protect Gatineau Park,” to be released tomorrow throughout Canada.
This petition will be available at my riding office, on my website and through organizations supporting us here today.
For this project to succeed, the public must be involved, it must tell political representatives to make park protection a priority.
By working together, I’m convinced we will change things.
Happy Earth Day to all.