Parks Canada Honored as World’s First National Park Service

The Honourable Peter Kent, Canada’s Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Friday (January 27) commemorated the importance of the Creation of the Dominion Parks Branch and the birth of Parks Canada as an event of national historic significance, according to a news release.

“Since it was established a century ago as the Dominion Parks Branch, Parks Canada has worked tirelessly to protect Canada’s diverse national heritage and encouraged Canadians everywhere to appreciate, experience, and enjoy all of Canada’s national treasures,” said Minister Kent.

“The plaque formally recognizes Parks Canada’s ongoing contributions to Canada’s heritage year after year as well as its own historical significance as the world’s first national park service.”

The designation commemorates Parks Canada’s 100 years of world leadership in conservation and tourism.

Founded on May 19, 1911 as the Dominion Parks Service, Parks Canada now manages one of the most extensive networks of protected national heritage places in the world, encompassing 167 national historic sites, 42 national parks, and four national marine conservation areas.

The plaque will be located in the Cascades of Time Garden on the grounds of the Parks Canada Banff Administration Building in Banff National Park.

“As the Minister for Parks Canada, my objective is to enable all Canadians to have meaningful opportunities to connect with Canada’s treasured places in order to build a stronger Canada, now and into the future,” said Minister Kent.

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Created in 1919, and supported by Parks Canada, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advise the Minister of the Environment regarding the national historic significance of places, persons, and events that have marked Canada’s history.

Parks Canada manages a nation-wide network of national historic sites that make up a rich tapestry of Canada’s cultural heritage and which offers visitors the opportunity for real and inspiring discoveries.

Creation of the Dominion Parks Branch

Canada established the first national parks service in the world in 1911. Under the leadership of James B. Harkin, the Dominion Parks Branch became a leading conservation body, both nationally and internationally.

Influenced by the rise of a conservation movement and the rise of tourism as a significant part of Canadian economic development, the Dominion Parks Branch linked together exceptional natural and historic Canadian landscapes, giving them a shared identity as “Dominion Parks.”

Harkin’s work culminated in the passage of the National Parks Act in 1930, and left a legacy that is the basis of the modern system of national parks and national historic sites that welcomes millions of visitors annually.

Since the 1885 creation of what is known today as Banff National Park, Canada’s earliest parks illustrate the recognition of the enduring beauty of such places and their appeal for public enjoyment and benefit.

Rocky Mountain Sheep are a common sight in Banff and Jasper national parks. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Under Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s government, The Dominion Forest Reserves and Parks Act passed on May 19, 1911. The act provided for the creation of a new branch to oversee Dominion Parks. Minister of the Interior, Frank Oliver, brought this bill through parliament, promoting the need for a parks service on the grounds that existing parks were lacking appropriate oversight and administration. Shortly thereafter, Oliver appointed his personal secretary and former journalist, James B. Harkin to the position of Commissioner.

In expanding the system, the Dominion Parks Branch looked beyond the natural realm and into the historical, adding “historic parks” to its list of protected places.

Fort Howe in Saint John, New Brunswick was the first historic park acquired in 1914. To assure integrity for the selection of historic places, a special arms-length advisory board, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, was created in 1919.

Wapiti (elk) grazing in Canada's mountain parks. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plaque Text
In 1911, Canada established the first national parks service in the world. What began as a cluster of parks in the Rocky Mountains gradually became a national system, fostering tourism and economic growth while upholding conservation ideals. In 1914, the definition of a “Dominion Park” was expanded to include significant historic places, laying the groundwork for a modern system of iconic national parks and national historic sites, which welcome millions of visitors annually, and initiating a tradition of national and international leadership in the management of protected places that continues to this day.


Parks Canada


Worth Pondering…

Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another.


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