UNESCO directs Canada to protect Wood Buffalo National Park, assess Site C dam

On July 5, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee issued a decision formally giving Canada until the end of 2018 to demonstrate that it has taken major new steps to protect Wood Buffalo National Park. The decision calls on Canada to make proven progress towards fully implementing an Action Plan with all 17 of the recommendations from the fall 2016 UNESCO mission to Wood Buffalo National Park.

In the decision, UNESCO requests Canada:

  1. Allocate adequate resources for the elaboration and implementation of an Action Plan to apply all recommendations of the mission report within 17 months
  2. Provide an interim report to the World Heritage Centre within 7 months on how Canada will implement the mission recommendations
  3. Make every effort to finally assess and understand the potential impacts of the Site C hydropower project
  4. Conduct a systematic risk assessment of oil sands tailings ponds and an assessment of impacts to the Park from the proposed Teck Frontier Project and submit those to UNESCO’s advisory bodies for review

Canada’s failure to respond UNESCO’s request could result in Wood Buffalo National Park being added to the List of World Heritage in Danger or losing World Heritage Status.  The decision could also have significant implications for current regulatory proceedings regarding projects that have the potential to impact Wood Buffalo National Park, such as the Teck Frontier Project.

The Mikisew Cree First Nation first brought concerns about the health of Wood Buffalo National Park to UNESCO’s attention in December 2014. “We intend to continue working with the World Heritage Committee to hold Minister McKenna to her commitment to take real action to protect this amazing area,” added Melody Lepine, Mikisew’s lead on its UNESCO petition.

JFK Law has assisted Mikisew with its UNESCO petition.

For more information about UNESCO’s decision: