A group representing Flin Flon, Creighton and Denare Beach is taking a first look at potentially making the area Canada’s next national park.
The idea was first pursued earlier this year by the Regional Economic Development Commission (REDC), a group made of local leaders from all three communities. While plans are still tentative and details are still scant, Flin Flon city councillors confirmed at their Sept. 6 meeting that conversations between the REDC and federal officials have taken place and the REDC has applied to Parks Canada.
The application started with simple talks, progressed with a formal letter and later included providing Parks Canada officials with a tour of the area.
“We made the first inquiry and we had a Zoom meeting with someone in Saskatoon - that led us to the first step," said city councillor Ken Pawlachuk.
“This area is one of the top areas that’s looking for a park. We were told that they [Parks Canada] are behind about 10 park applications at this time - they’re just way behind. They have itemized a whole bunch of areas and it just so happens that our area, starting south of The Pas and going up here and west, is an area of interest to them.”
After that meeting, the letter of support was drafted and sent, followed by the Parks Canada visit.
“There was a letter of support, I believe, that went from all three communities when the interest was expressed, when the opportunity was expressed at the Regional Economic Development Commission. That garnered the interests of the feds to come up and meet with us,” said Flin Flon Mayor Cal Huntley.
“That’s pretty much all that’s taken place… the only thing that I would reiterate is that it's very early and there's nothing definitive. No real commitments have been made yet, but the indicators are very possible.”
The REDC has used the example of Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan in conceptualizing the plan, saying that a park around the Flin Flon area would be a mix of community and wilderness and confirming that any park would stretch across the provincial border.
“This is not going to be a wilderness park that nobody goes to because it’s inaccessible. This is not going to be one of those,” said Pawlachuk.
“Going over the border, they have them going over borders in some different areas already. That wasn't something to stop it - it’s just negotiations with two provinces and because it’s the feds, they carry more weight than if we try to negotiate.”
While the idea shows promise, making a large chunk of northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan a national park may have industrial implications - specifically, for mining companies aiming to start operations. Canadian national parks are blocked by the Canada National Parks Act for all forms of forestry, hydroelectric development or mining, but Huntley said talks so far have included providing permission for mining companies to explore and operate.
“One of the considerations that we put forward to them is that we're on the Greenstone belt and there will be future mineral opportunities in the area, whether we'd be in the park or not. That’s something that we asked them to consider, how it could be done in an environmentally and socially conscious fashion,” said Huntley.
The mayor said that mining still holds promise for the region and including the industry is part of the plan. One Canadian area under national park designation - the Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories - is authorized to allow mine projects.
“We’d like whatever model, if it did happen, to include the opportunity for the juniors to continue exploring - we wouldn’t want to shut that down,” said Huntley.
“We’ve had that conversation and what that means at the end of the day, it’s very preliminary but that was one of the things that was mentioned to them.”