A meeting of a UN group in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, has upheld recommendations to defer considering declaring a unique swath of boreal forest east of Lake Winnipeg as a World Heritage Site.
At a meeting Saturday of the UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage
Committee held in Phom Penh, the committee upheld the recommendations of IUCN and ICOMOS, the advisory bodies to the committee, to defer consideration of the Pimachiowin Aki nomination.
Comprised of 33,400 square kilometres, the Pimachiowin Aki area is located in eastern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. The site was nominated as a mixed site reflecting both its cultural and natural values.
"The committee recognized issues in the evaluation process that prevented them from effectively evaluating the interrelationship between culture and nature and directed that a discussion paper be presented at its meeting next year," said a statement from Pimachiowin Aki communications.
"Pimachiowin Aki First Nation board member Ed Hudson, who attended the meeting said, ‘The advisory bodies have asked us to work with them to refine our nomination to ensure that it will be successful in the future. They want to use our nomination to help improve their evaluation process.We are disappointed, but at the same time we received many positive comments about the high quality of our nomination and the fact that this nomination was led by the First Nations.’ "
Pimachiowin-Aki is considered a mixed natural and cultural site. Only 29 of the 962 approved World Heritage Sites are mixed, while 745 of them are cultural and 188 are natural.
World Heritage Sites are chosen based on individual countries nominating them for consideration. ICOMOS and IUCN do independent analyses prior to the annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee, but the committee itself makes the final decision.
The NDP government has backed the UNESCO site for years and put more than $14 million toward it. Ontario has also contributed some money toward the project. The site straddles the Manitoba-Ontario border.
Pimachiowin-Aki is one of two Canadian sites nominated. The other is the Red Bay National Historic Site in Labrador, which was approved as a World Heritage Site.
Canada now has 17 UNESCO sites, including the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump in Alberta and Old Town Lunenberg in Nova Scotia.
Pimachiowin-Aki would be the first UNESCO site in Manitoba. It’s hoped it will lead to a rise in ecotourism for the area.