Manitoba-Ontario UNESCO bid “referred”

Winnipeg, Manitoba – July 17, 2016 – The board and staff behind the Manitoba, Ontario and First Nations World Heritage proposal accept and support the World Heritage Committee’s decision to “refer” the Pimachiowin Aki nomination. The Committee’s referral process allows up to three years for the submission of additional information for the World Heritage Committee to consider.

It had been hoped that Pimachiowin Aki - 33,400 square kilometres of boreal forest and traditional territory of several First Nations - would be inscribed on the World Heritage List at the 2016 World Heritage Committee session in Istanbul, Turkey this week. In late May the Advisory Bodies to the Committee had issued a draft decision praising the project and recommending that the site be inscribed.

However, prior to the World Heritage Committee meeting, Pimachiowin Aki Corporation learned that the Pikangikum First Nation, one of the members of the Corporation, was withdrawing its support for the project.  As a result, the World Heritage Committee recognized the need for the Pimachiowin Corporation to have more time for internal discussions regarding the path forward for this nomination.

We are all very disappointed that we encountered these challenges at such a critical time in the nomination process, after working on this project for 12 years.  After considerable discussion with all parties involved, we felt that we had no option but to seek a referral to give us all a chance to regroup and consider potential options for proceeding with the project,” said the Pimachiowin Aki Corporation board member and spokesperson William Young from his home in Bloodvein River First Nation, Manitoba.

“In the coming weeks we will seek advice from Parks Canada and the World Heritage Advisory Bodies to confirm exactly what we need to do to resubmit for the World Heritage Committee’s consideration,” said Pimachiowin Aki Project Manager Gord Jones.

For Sophia Rabliauskas of Poplar River First Nation an internationally respected environmental champion, the vision that has guided and sustained Pimachiowin Aki remains.

.“We will continue to work together for the ‘land that gives life’.  Our commitment to take care of the land for the world and for future generations is as strong as ever,” Rabliauskas said.

“We want to acknowledge and sincerely thank our community members, our partners the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario, Parks Canada, our donors and everyone who has supported and encouraged us in this project. We look forward to re-submitting Pimachiowin Aki at the earliest opportunity,” she said.   “The land is still here. It is still the ’land that gives life’.

The First Nations communities are still welcoming. The opportunities to visit and learn from Elders are still real. That has not changed,” she said.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.What led up to the decision to accept a “referral”?

Pimachiowin Aki learned that Pikangikum First Nation was withdrawing its support for the project in early June this year. The Ontario community was concerned about errors in the UNESCO evaluation reports. While the evaluation reports were very supportive and positive, the Pimachiowin Aki partners agreed there was a need to correct those errors, as part of the standard nomination process.  Parks Canada, on behalf of Pimachiowin Aki, submitted those corrections and the revised documents can be seen in this pdf: WHC/16/40.COM/INF.8B4 on Factual Errors Letters page 36, posted at this UNESCO website link:  

2.Who made the decision for Pikangikum First Nation to leave the project?

This matter was decided by the Pikangikum First Nation Chief and Council.

3. What exactly does “referral” mean in UNESCO terms?

‘”Referral” is one of several different decisions the World Heritage Committee can make regarding a nomination to the World Heritage List. “Referral” means that the Committee recognizes that the nomination has ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ but has decided to send the nomination back for new or additional information before it can take a decision on inscribing the site on the UNESCO World Heritage List. A referred nomination can be resubmitted within three years for the World Heritage Committee’s consideration without undergoing a new evaluation.

4. What happens to the project now?

The Pimachiowin Aki Corporation will continue its internal discussions regarding the perspectives of the Pikangikum First Nation. Pending the outcome, Pimachiowin Aki will seek advice from Parks Canada and the UNESCO Advisory Bodies on next steps.

5. How does Manitoba’s decision to review the Manitoba Hydro’s Bipole III project factor into this?

The Bipole III review was addressed in the Factual Errors Letter that Canada submitted to the World Heritage Centre.  Information on this review may be factored into a future resubmission of the nomination, if it is relevant.

6. Who makes up the Pimachiowin Aki partnership?

The Pimachiowin Aki Corporation, founded in 2006, included the following members:  Poplar River, Bloodvein River, Pauingassi and Little Grand Rapids First Nations in Manitoba, Pikangikum First Nation in Ontario and the Manitoba and Ontario Governments. The UNESCO nomination is submitted on behalf of Canada through Parks Canada as the Government of Canada’s representative for the World Heritage Convention.