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article imagePimachiowin Aki — Canada's newest UNESCO World Heritage Site

By Karen Graham     Jul 1, 2018 in Travel
Ottawa - On Sunday, July 1, 2018, it was announced that Canada's Pimachiowin Aki — the land that gives life — a biosphere reserve located in the Boreal Forest that covers parts of Manitoba and Ontario, had been added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.
Additionally, Pimachiowin Aki has the distinction of being Canada's first mixed UNESCO World Heritage site - having both cultural and natural significance.
The decision was announced by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's World Heritage Committee at its meeting in Manama, Bahrain.
At nearly 30,000 square kilometers (11,583 square miles), Pimachiowin Aki is nearly the size of Vancouver Island. The forest landscape is crossed by rivers and studded with jewel-like lakes, wetlands, and stands of boreal forest. IT is also the traditional home of four Anishinaabe First Nations communities - the Bloodvein River, Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi and Poplar River.
Pimachiowin Aki encompasses the traditional lands of four Anishinaabe First Nations
Pimachiowin Aki encompasses the traditional lands of four Anishinaabe First Nations
Pimachiowin Aki is also home to the largest herd of caribou south of Hudson Bay, as well as many other species of mammals, birds, insects, and fish - all living in a mostly untouched wilderness.
"When I was growing up, my grandfather used to visit quite often and would tell me stories about how important the land was for the First Nations people within the area," said William Young, co-chair of the Pimachiowin Aki Corporation, a multi-jurisdictional group made up of representatives from the four First Nations and the two provincial governments.
A vast swath of boreal forest supports many kinds of wildlife in Canada.
A vast swath of boreal forest supports many kinds of wildlife in Canada.
Speaking about the new UNESCO designation, Mr. Young said, "It won’t be just for the First Nations themselves. We want to share what we have with the whole world, we want to promote what we have with the whole world.”
World Heritage site designation
In order to be considered for placement on the UNESCO World Heritage site list, there are a number of criteria that must be met. UNESCO designations are based on 10 natural or cultural criteria. The Pimachiowin Aki project first came to life in 2004, when Parks Canada suggested, with the backing of the federal government that an application for World Heritage status be submitted.
It wasn't until 2012 when an initial application did get submitted, but it was ultimately deferred by the committee, which said it was unclear that the area is unique and requested more information. After this, all the parties working on the project focused ton promoting not just the natural aspects of the area, but the historical importance of the culture it represented.
Canada s boreal contains the world s largest supply of soil carbon  stored in its peatlands and satu...
Canada's boreal contains the world's largest supply of soil carbon, stored in its peatlands and saturated forests.
Photo credit: Chad Delaney
And as the UNESCO World Heritage meeting wrote when granting the prestigious designation: Pimachiowin Aki "is an exceptional example of the cultural tradition of Ji-ganawendamang Gidakiiminaan (“keeping the land”) which consists of honoring the gifts of the Creator, respecting all forms of life and maintaining harmonious relations with others."
Canada currently has eight cultural and 10 natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Pimachiowin Aki would be the country's first mixed site, acknowledged for both its cultural and natural significance.
More about Unesco, World Heritage Site, Pimachiowin Aki, cultural and natural, First nations
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