Parks Canada is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Established as the Dominion Parks Branch in 1911, it is the oldest and one of the largest national park services in the world. It’s extensive network of 167 national historic sites, 42 national parks and 4 national marine conservation areas protect more than 2% of Canada’s total area.

Parks Canada is known for its strong park management plan. The Parks Act of 2000 established ecological integrity as the agency’s focus, pleasing preservationists who have long called for the preservation of land for its own sake, not for tourism. Canada Parks and Wilderness Society gave Parks Canada’s legislation a rating of “exemplary.” Though the Act is considered “the gold standard” internationally, its critics see the Act as nothing more than a false promise that will fail to replace the “Parks for people” ideology that guided Parks Canada since the beginning.

Successes

Torngat Mountains National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador

Named after the Inuit word Torngait, meaning a “place of spirits,” this most recent addition to the national park network in 2005 is located in northern Labrador and features the Torngat Mountains, the highest in mainland Canada east of the Rockies as well as archeological sites of the Inuit and their predecessors that date back 7000 years. Adding to the spectacular mountain scenery are regular sightings of glaciers and polar bears.

Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories

An expansion in June 2009 made Nahanni Canada’s third largest national park and the largest in the Yellowstone to Yukon Wilderness Corridor. Approximately the size of Vancouver Island, the park protects more than 30,000 km2 of Boreal wilderness. The park stands out for its vast wilderness and the raging Nahanni River, a popular attraction for paddlers from around the world.

Mealy Mountains National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador

Set to become Canada’s newest national park in 2013, this chunk of southeastern Labrador is home to the Wonderstrands, a 54-kilometre long stretch of sand beach thought to have been named by the Vikings who used the beach as a navigation aid on their way south to L’Anse aux Meadows.This remote park sees few human visitors, but is known for its plentiful wildlife which include black bear, caribou, whales, seals and a variety of bird species.

Threats

Point Pelee National Park, Ontario

Tiny Point Pelee, with only 4 sq km of dry land, stands out as one of the best spots on the continent to view the annual songbird migration. Situated in populous Southern Ontario, the park attracts 300,000 visitors per year. Its popularity is part of its problem. Invasive species and agricultural pressures threaten the park’s ecological integrity, necessitating more land to prevent its continual decline.

Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

Designated as a UN World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, Waterton-Glacier is known as the International Peace Park because it connects to Glacier Park in the United States. Nestled in the southwest corner of Alberta in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, the park’s wildlife is at risk from logging, hunting and quarrying in the neighbouring Flathead Valley.

Bay of Fundy National Park, New Brunswick

Bay of Fundy National Park is home to the highest tides in the world (16m). Nominated as one of the finalists for the New 7 Wonders of Nature contest, the world recognizes the stunning beauty of the Bay. But, despite being home to this great treasure, the park is at serious risk of extirpation (local extinction of species). Like Point Pelee, it needs to be expanded to provide adequate habitat for the several different species living within it.