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In celebration of Canadian Environment Week (June 2-8, 2013), MPs Rathika Sitsabaiesan, John McKay, Kirsty Duncan, Elizabeth May and John McCallum submitted copies of the Rouge National Park petition — signed by a total of 3200 Canadians — to the federal government.

The petition asks the government to respect and strengthen existing Rouge Park Plans and establish an ecologically healthy and sustainable 100 km2 Rouge National Park that links Lake Ontario to the heart of the Oak Ridges Moraine with publicly-owned Greenbelt lands.

You can access the petition online at http://www.change.org/petitions/create-a-sustainable-ecologically-healthy-100-square-kilometre-rouge-national-park

Over the last 25 years, visionary federal, provincial and municipal political leaders have listened to the public and worked together to create the existing Rouge Park, a Greenbelt gem near Toronto.

In May of 2012, the federal government announced a plan to create a Rouge National Urban Park and a park concept document was released. “Unfortunately, the draft national park concept is critically inconsistent with the vision, plans and legislative framework already developed for the current Rouge Park,” says Jim Robb of Friends of the Rouge Watershed (FRW). “Continuing in this direction would undermine the park’s ecological health, water quality, First Nation heritage and visitor enjoyment potential.”

And it’s not only community groups like FRW who are worried about the proposed concept of the park. Local MPs Rathika Sitsabaiesan and John McKay have commented on the new “National Urban Park” concept.

“The vision of approved Rouge Park Management Plans (1994 and 2001) centres on the protection and appreciation of the park ecosystem,” says MP John McKay, who went on to say that “the federal government should create a 100 km2 Rouge National Park which supports and implements this longstanding public vision.”

“During the creation of Rouge National Park, the federal government has a clear responsibility to strengthen and implement the vision and objectives of existing Rouge Park Plans,” says MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan. “That includes the Provincial Greenbelt Plan, the Rouge Natural Heritage Action Plan (2008) and the International Agreement for improving Great Lakes water quality.”

MP Kirsty Duncan, Etobicoke North riding, has stated that “the publicly-owned lands surrounding the Rouge River in Toronto, Markham and Pickering should be permanently protected.  A 100 km2 Park will protect and restore part of Canada’s endangered Carolinian Life Zone, improve the quality of water returning to Lake Ontario and Toronto Area beaches, and provide millions of Canadians with a transit-accessible National Park.”

The new National Park will not only serve millions of residents in the GTA, but all Canadians and visitors alike.

“Having worked on protection of the Rouge since the late 1980’s, I wish I could be more enthusiastic of the current plans,” says MP Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party. At this point they fall far short of the protection and restoration of a sustainable natural habitat system which links Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine. It is critical that we defend Canadians’ ability to appreciate this beautiful part of Canada’s endangered Carolinian and mixed woodland ecological zones.”

In celebration of Canadian Environment Week, MPs Rathika Sitsabaiesan, Chris Alexander, John McKay, Kirsty Duncan and Elizabeth May will submit copies of the Rouge National Park petition, signed by a total of 3200 Canadians.

The petition asks the federal government to respect and strengthen existing Rouge Park Plans and establish an ecologically healthy and sustainable 100 km2 Rouge National Park which links Lake Ontario to the heart of the Oak Ridges Moraine with publicly owned Greenbelt lands.

The theme of Canadian Environment Week is Water: Working Together. “By voicing public concerns and working together, these MPs are encouraging the Canadian Government to create a healthy 100 km2 Rouge National Park which will help to protect and restore water quality, ecological health and public health within Toronto’s Great Lakes water quality “Area of Concern,” says Mr. Robb.

You can access the petition online at http://www.change.org/petitions/create-a-sustainable-ecologically-healthy-100-square-kilometre-rouge-national-park