UNESCO Calls on Canada to Protect World Heritage Site

In March, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee responded to a petition that ELC students worked on for the Mikisew Cree First Nation. The December 2014 petition argued that the Alberta tar sands and Site C dam endanger the World Heritage Site at Wood Buffalo National Park – key habitat for whooping cranes and buffalo, and the traditional territory of the Mikisew Cree.

The United Nation Reactive Monitoring Mission issued a comprehensive report warning the federal government that if it continues to avoid its environmental responsibilities, Canada’s largest national park could soon be designated as a “World Heritage Site in danger” due to threats posed by oil development and upstream hydro dams.

Among its 17 recommendations, the UN body called on Canada to immediately conduct an “environmental and social impact assessment of the Site C project,” which threatens to alter the flow of water through the Peace Athabasca Delta in the heart of the 4.5-million-hectare Wood Buffalo National Park, located north of the tar sands.

The report was intended to spur the federal government into taking at least some actions to reduce impacts. The federal government’s response to the report was a statement saying a true response to the report would need to include the best available science and traditional knowledge of Indigenous communities, and that it could only be possible through collaboration between all levels of governments, Indigenous partners, industry and other stakeholders.