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By Trevor Greenway

Pontiac MP Sophie Chatel wants to protect Gatineau Park - and the 150 endangered plants and animals that call the 360-square kilometer forest home.

She says that the current National Capital Act legislation doesn’t do enough to protect the park from development and doesn’t clearly identify the boundaries of Gatineau Park.

“This was something I was aware of when I first entered politics—how Gatineau Park doesn’t have the status of park. Its legislation is the National Capital Act and it doesn’t define the borders, it does not prioritize nature protection and conservation, and the authority of the National Capital Commission (NCC) to manage the park is limited,” said Chatel. “Gatineau Park has a very different status than the parks of Canada and it’s a bit vulnerable.”

Chatel tabled a petition to the House of Commons earlier this summer for Gatineau Park to get “the necessary legal protection to ensure its preservation for future generations.”

The petition garnered close to 600 signatures and Chatel said she also has the support of 12 MPs in the National Capital Region who are on board to “protect the park.” Chatel isn’t pushing for Gatineau Park to have a national park status, but rather to “modernize” the National Capital Act with a focus on nature conservancy, stricter development rules and climate change.

“The NCC does a very good job in protecting [Gatineau Park]. And the communities around it want to protect it, but a lot of protection measures and conservation measures are not secured in the legislation,” added Chatel. “And so the idea is really to give it a better status and protection for future generations.”

While the electronic version of the petition has closed, The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is cruising around the Hills with a hard copy—all of which will be tabled in the House this fall. Combined, the paper and electronic versions have yielded over 1,500 signatures.

CPAWS Ottawa Valley Chapter spokesperson John McDonnell told the Low Down that one of the major issues with protecting Gatineau Park is that there is no clear authority over the park. While the park is managed by the NCC, it doesn’t have much power in the legislation, and defining clear authority over the park would help its stewards conserve the area, he explained.

“We're even seeing development now on the Pontiac side, and so there's a real risk that the park could be entirely surrounded by development,” McDonnell told the Low Down. “We need to make sure that the park has all of the protections it can have. A lot of those issues are beyond the control of the park managers. We need to make sure that the park managers can manage and do what they need to do inside the park. And there needs to be clear authorities and a clear mandate—boundaries that are well defined and a strong legislative framework to keep all of that together.”

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