Posted on May 30th, 2011

Source: Province of Manitoba News Release

Proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site east of Lake Winnipeg would be Canada’s first to earn status for both natural and cultural value: Premier Selinger

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Canada—May 27, 2011

Over a dozen special guests from across Canada and the United States spent the last two days in the boreal forest of Manitoba learning first hand why the area is worthy of UNESCO World Heritage site status and world wide support. Premier Greg Selinger and Pimachiowin Aki Corp. Spokesperson Sophia Rabliauskas co-hosted the tour.

“It’s an honour to welcome new friends to Pimachiowin Aki, which means ‘The Land that Gives Life’ in Ojibwe,” said Rabliauskas. “As Anishinabe people we enjoy a special connection to the lands and waters that have sustained our ancestors forever. We look forward to sharing our culture and teachings with more visitors from around the world as we work to ensure this unique place remains here for future generations.”

The visitors included heads of foundations and funds; journalists and researchers; and representatives from governments. They met with First Nations leaders and Elders who are leading efforts to have the area inscribed on the World Heritage List for its outstanding cultural and natural value. They toured both the traditional territory of Bloodvein River First Nation and Atikaki Provincial Wilderness Park, which are both in the southern portion of a proposed Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage site.

Premier Greg Selinger co-hosted the trip that included a flight over the forest; a boat ride along the Canadian Heritage Bloodvein River; lunch with Bloodvein River First Nation Chief, Council and Elders; and visits to two fly-in lodges in the boreal forest just a 45 minute flight from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“This visit was a tremendous opportunity to showcase the last forest of its kind left in the world,” said Premier Selinger. “Our guests were quick to remind us of how lucky we are in Manitoba to have such an incredible unspoiled landscape right here in our own backyard. With continued First Nation leadership we have the unique opportunity to establish this area as an international destination, managed in a sustainable way by and for the people who live here.”

“The First Nations of Manitoba east of Lake Winnipeg understand the importance of maintaining this precious ecosystem and have voluntarily committed large tracts of their traditional territory for protection. This is a priceless gift,” said Dr. David Suzuki, who is in Winnipeg today to meet with Sophia Rabliaskas and Premier Selinger. “A hydro corridor through this proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site would cause irreversible damage to the land and the people who have lived off it for thousands of years. We cannot continue to opt for short-term economic gains at the expense of long term social, ecological and economic benefits that far outweigh them.”

“The boreal forest is one of the great natural treasures that must be carefully managed and conserved. The efforts by First Nations supported by the provincial government to engage in careful planning of the region with the goal of securing an heritage designation from UNESCO deserves the full support of Manitobans. A key element in this endeavor is to limit any major intervention by way of a hydro corridor,” said University of Winnipeg President and Vice-Chancellor Lloyd Axworthy.

The tour was just one part of the multi-year fundraising efforts of the Campaign for the Land that Gives Life designed to raise awareness about the proposed World Heritage site and to raise funds for the Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Fund.

The guests, who may have a future interest in supporting the project either financially or by helping to share information about the land, were invited to get a firsthand look at the area and meet some of the people who continue to live on the land, added Rabliauskas.

“Our Elders have told us for many generations that the Creator gave us this land to take care of, not just for us but for people all over the world who also need fresh air, clean water, good food and traditional medicines. We know that other people share that same vision and some of them were on this trip. We hope now that they’ve walked the land and been over the water, they will have an even a greater sense of why this area deserves special recognition and their support,” Rabliauskas said.

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The provincial government is distributing this news releases on behalf of Pimachiowin Aki and the Government of Manitoba.