‘A park in name only’: How the absence of legislation affects the planning and use of Gatineau Park

Authors: Michael Lait*, Community Development Institute
Topics: Land Use, Historical Geography, Canada
Keywords: national parks, private property, land use
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom B, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the 1910s, the Gatineau Hills – located adjacent to Ottawa, Canada’s capital – were proposed as a national park. However, when the federal government finally established Gatineau Park in 1938, it was not as a national park. Whereas national parks are administered according to the National Parks Act, Gatineau Park was never enshrined in law. Drawing from archival research, access to information requests, and expropriation cases in federal court, this paper describes the consequences that this lack of legal status has had on the park’s administration by the federal government. It examines how property owners used and even amended municipal property law to ensure their interests were protected as Gatineau Park encircled their cottage communities. It also describes the role of real-estate developers who proposed hotel and residential subdivisions that ran directly counter to the park’s conservation mandate. I argue that Gatineau Park provides a critical case of the absence of law in the regulation and use of public space. First, it shows how private owners can take advantage of competing and overlapping jurisdictions. Second, it reveals the limits of federal regulations over land as the Park was designated as a National Interest Land Mass in 1988, but federal officials have since struggled to protect the ecological integrity of the park from new development. The conflicts between public and private use have been avoided in Canada’s national parks, and this underscores the ongoing need to enact legislation for Gatineau Park.

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