Nature is central to our identity as Canadians. Even when we live in big cities, we love to escape to forests, rivers, lakes, and wilderness. For millions of Canadians living in the Greater Toronto Area, Rouge National Urban Park puts nature in easy reach. Rouge National Urban Park stretches from the Greenbelt to the shores of Lake Ontario and is filled with dramatic river valleys, majestic forests and wetlands. Accessible by public transit, Rouge National Urban Park gives millions of Canadians the opportunity to hike, paddle, and connect with nature any day of the week.
Today, Gary Anandasangaree, Member of Parliament for Scarborough-Rouge Park, on behalf of Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, and Jennifer Innis, Chair of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) Board of Directors, announced that the TRCA has transferred 18.5 km2 of lands to Parks Canada to become part of Rouge National Urban Park. This announcement officially makes Rouge National Urban Park North America’s largest urban park. Mr. Anandasangaree and Chair Innis were joined by government, Indigenous and community partners to mark the occasion at the annual CPAWS Wildlands League’s Paddle the Rouge event.
Today’s event also celebrated the completion of Rouge National Urban Park’s very first Management Plan. Highlights of the management plan include focusing on species-at-risk and habitat restoration, working with the First Nations Advisory Circle, and welcoming all to think of Rouge National Urban Park as the perfect place to learn to camp, paddle, and hike.
As scientific reports show, wildlife and plant species are declining around the globe. The Government of Canada is taking action, doubling the amount of nature protected across our lands and oceans. By doing this, we are protecting the habitats and ecosystems that are home to the plants and animals we love.
The lands transferred to Rouge National Urban Park encompass wilderness and biodiversity found nowhere else in the Greater Toronto Area. Rouge is home to over 1,700 species of plants and has the highest concentration of species at risk in the region. These transferred lands also include some of the last remaining tracts of Class-1 farmland in the Greater Toronto Area – the richest, rarest, and most fertile soil in the country.
When we protect nature, not only is Canada protecting what we love but also contributing to Canada’s fight against climate change. Protected nature not only absorbs carbon pollution but it also ensures that natural carbon stays in the ground. The trees and plants help keep our air and water clean while wetlands help protect against local flooding.
Moving forward, Parks Canada will continue to work in collaboration with environmental groups, farmers, Indigenous peoples, and other stakeholders to achieve ecological gains within the Rouge, while also conserving the park’s cultural and agricultural heritage. By protecting what we love, today, we’re making sure our children and grandchildren will experience the beauty and wonder of Canada’s nature.
“Today is a truly historic day for the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario, and Canada as we fulfil the dream for Rouge National Urban Park of a protected area that stretches all the way from Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine. I am thrilled to announce that Rouge National Urban Park is nearly complete and I want to thank the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority for making this possible. Accessible by TTC, Rouge National Urban Park makes connecting to wilderness easy for over seven million Canadians who live in the area. Across Canada, we’re doubling the amount of protected nature to make sure that wildlife and places we love are preserved for future generations.”
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
“Parks Canada places, like Rouge National Urban Park, represent the very best that Canada has to offer and tell the stories of who we are, including the history, cultures, and contributions of Indigenous Peoples. The Rouge is an example of what can be accomplished when all levels of government, Indigenous Peoples, farmers, conservationists, and community leaders work together towards a shared vision. Today’s land transfer from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to Parks Canada is a major step forward in the completion of the Rouge and a reason for celebration.”
Member of Parliament for Scarborough-Rouge Park
“TRCA and Parks Canada are aligned in our shared goal of protecting and conserving the area’s significant natural heritage. I am proud of TRCA’s role in helping to create this space, and I can think of no better way for these lands to be used than as a preserved natural park for the people of Canada’s largest urban region to enjoy.”
Chair, TRCA Board of Directors
Parks Canada now directly manages 94.7 per cent of lands identified for Rouge National Urban Park, with the remaining land transfers from neighbouring jurisdictions expected to take place in the coming year.
Rouge National Urban Park is now more than 16 times larger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park, 19 times bigger than New York’s Central Park, and 41 times larger than Toronto’s High Park. And what makes Rouge even better is that it is actually a Park that, by design and legislation, is there to protect the ecological integrity of the Rouge Watershed.
The transferred lands were committed to Parks Canada by TRCA as part of a multi-party land assembly agreement in December 2014. The transferred lands include the majority of the original regional Rouge Park.
Rouge National Urban Park is within a one hour’s drive of 20 per cent of Canada’s population and accessible by public transit, providing unprecedented opportunities for Canadians, including many youth and newcomers, to discover and connect with nature.
Now in its sixth year, CPAWS Wildlands League’s Paddle the Rouge event is a great opportunity for first-time paddlers of all ages to experience paddling on the Rouge Marsh and River, and for experienced paddlers to help support the organization.
Rouge National Urban Park has a rich diversity of nature, culture, and agriculture, including more than 1,700 species of plants and animals; some of the last remnants of the Carolinian forest in Canada; large tracts of some of the rarest and most fertile farmland in the country; and human history dating back more than 10,000 years, including some of Canada’s oldest known Indigenous sites.
In 2017, the Government of Canada passed amendments to the Rouge National Urban Park Act to strengthen ecological protections for Rouge National Urban Park. These amendments will protect the Rouge’s important ecosystems and ensure that ecological integrity is the first priority when managing the Park, while also respecting and promoting a vibrant farming community within the park.
Over the last decade, Parks Canada has engaged more than 20,000 Canadians and has worked closely with Indigenous Peoples, all levels of government, community groups, conservationists, farmers, residents, volunteers, and many more to establish Rouge National Urban Park and complete its first management plan.