Government of Canada Seeking Nominations for New World Heritage Sites

Minister McKenna re-opens UNESCO World Heritage nominations for first time in over a decade

From Lunenberg, N.S., to Kluane in Yukon to the great Rocky Mountains, Canadians are lucky to have some of the world’s most incredible historic and natural wonders right in our backyards.

Canada is already home to 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites, that Canadians and international visitors can discover and learn more about Canada’s rich and diverse natural and cultural heritage.

Now, for the first time in over a decade, Canadians have the opportunity to suggest additions to that list. (This week), in Grand Pré, N.S., the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, launched the call for nominations for Canada’s next set of candidates for World Heritage Sites.

The Government of Canada is inviting communities from coast to coast to coast to nominate our country’s most exceptional places to Canada’s Tentative List for World Heritage Sites as a way to celebrate Canada’s heritage. Canada’s new nominees as UNESCO World Heritage Sites will be announced in 2017 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

As part of the nomination process Minister McKenna also announced the Government is seeking candidates for a Ministerial Advisory Committee that will review the nominations. The Committee will be made up of Canadian experts in the field of natural and cultural heritage, and will include Indigenous representation.


“The designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is reserved for humanity’s most outstanding achievements and nature’s most inspiring creations. This is an opportunity for all Canadians to think about the natural, historic and cultural wonders in their communities. As we prepare to come together as a nation to celebrate our 150th birthday in 2017, I invite Canadians and communities from across the country to nominate their unique and exceptional places for consideration as future World Heritage Sites, so we can share more of our treasures with the world.”

The Honourable Catherine McKenna
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

Quick facts

  • World Heritage sites are exceptional places around the world that are considered to have Outstanding Universal Value — these sites are as diverse as the Pyramids of Egypt and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. There are 18 World Heritage Sites in Canada and Parks Canada is responsible, in whole or in part, for the conservation and protection of 12 of those sites.
  • Parks Canada is the Government of Canada’s representative for the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Only two nominations per year can be submitted by each country for consideration by the World Heritage Committee.
  • Canada’s nomination list, called the Tentative List for World Heritage Sites, was last updated in 2004. Five of the 11 sites on the current list have since been inscribed as World Heritage Sites. The most recent site inscribed was Mistaken Point, NL, recognized just a few weeks ago in July 2016.
  • July 23, 2016 marked the 40th anniversary of Canada’s ratification of the World Heritage Convention.
  • For information on how to nominate a site, please visit:


Canada’s World Heritage Sites

Globally, UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites include places such as the Egyptian Pyramids, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Great Wall of China. There are 18 World Heritage sites located in Canada and there are another six sites on Canada’s Tentative List of World Heritage Sites.

On behalf of Canada, Parks Canada is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in Canada. The Agency also has responsibilities for the protection and conservation of 12 of the Canadian World Heritage Sites.

Parks Canada and World Heritage sites

L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978

L'Anse_aux_Meadows,_recreated_long_houseThis archaeological site at the northern tip of Newfoundland contains the excavated remains of an 11th century Viking settlement consisting of timber-framed peat-turf buildings (houses, workshops, etc.). These are similar to those found in Norse Greenland and Iceland at the same period. The site is thus unique evidence of the earliest known European presence on the American continent. Some buildings have been reconstructed and interpreters recount tales from the past.

Nahanni National Park Reserve
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978

Nahanni National ParkNahanni National Park Reserve is an undisturbed natural area of deep river canyons cutting through mountain ranges, with huge waterfalls, hotsprings and complex cave systems. Within the park are examples of almost every distinct category of river or stream that is known, along with one of North America’s largest waterfalls, Virginia Falls, which is twice the height of Niagara Falls.

The Flat and South Nahanni rivers are older than the mountains they dissect and have produced the finest examples of river canyons in the world with their spectacular granitic peaks. Animals of the boreal forest, including wolves, grizzly bears and caribou, live throughout the park. 

Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek
First inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979, then expanded in 1992 and 1994

The Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek national and provincial parks along the boundary of Canada and the United States of America contain the largest non-polar icefield in the world and examples of some of the world’s longest and most spectacular glaciers.

Characterized by high mountains, icefields and glaciers, the area has a high biodiversity with plant and animal communities ranging from marine, coastal forest, montane, sub-alpine and alpine tundra, all in various successional stages. The Tatshenshini and Alsek river valleys allow ice-free linkages from coast to interior for plant and animal migration. The parks demonstrate some of the best examples of glaciation and modification of landscape by glacial action in a region still tectonically active, spectacularly beautiful, and where natural processes prevail.  

SGang Gwaay
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981

At the 19th century village of SGang Gwaay llnagaay (Nan Sdins), remains of large cedar longhouses together with a number of carved mortuary and memorial poles illustrate the power and artistry of Haida society. These tell the story of the culture of the Haida people and their relationship to the land and sea and offer a visual key to their oral traditions. The village was occupied until shortly after 1880.

Wood Buffalo National Park
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1983

Wood-Buffalo-NP_Pine_Lake_98-07-03Wood Buffalo National Park is an outstanding example of ongoing ecological and biological processes, encompassing some of the largest undisturbed grass and sedge meadows left in North America. Along with huge tracts of boreal forest, the park provides crucial habitat for concentrations of migratory wildlife of world importance. The continued evolution of a large inland delta, salt plains and gypsum karst are also internationally significant. In Wood Buffalo, the world’s largest herd of wood bison can be found and the predator-prey relationship between wolves and bison has continued, unbroken, over time.

Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
First inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1984 and expanded in 1990

Renowned for their scenic splendor, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are comprised of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho national parks and Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber provincial parks in British Columbia. Classic illustrations of glacial geological processes – including mountain peaks, icefields, remnant valley glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons and limestone caves – are found throughout the area. The Burgess Shale Cambrian and nearby Precambrian sites are renowned worldwide for their remains of soft-bodied marine animals.

Historic District of Old Québec
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1985.

Quebec_City_WallFounded in the 17th century, the city of Québec illustrates one of the major stages in the European settlement of the Americas. It was the capital of New France and, after 1760, of the new British colony.

The Historic District of Old Québec is made up of two parts: the Upper Town, defended by a fortified citadel and ramparts, together with numerous bastions, gates and other defensive works; and the Lower Town, which developed around the Place Royale and the harbour. A well-preserved integrated urban ensemble, the historic district is a remarkable example of a fortified city of the colonial era, and unique north of Mexico.

Gros Morne National Park
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987

The magnificent Gros Morne National Park, on the west coast of the island of Newfoundland, is a rare example of the process of continental drift, where deep ocean crust and the rocks of the earth’s mantle lie exposed. Gros Morne National Park presents the complete portrayal of the geological events that took place when the ancient continental margin of North America was modified by tectonic plate movement, as a large portion of oceanic crust and ocean floor sediments was relocated above sea level. The spellbinding scenery of Gros Morne National Park, complete with coastal lowland, alpine plateau, fjords, glacial valleys, sheer cliffs, waterfalls and many pristine lakes produces a landscape of high scenic value. 

Waterton Glacier International Peace Park
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1995

The world’s first International Peace Park, comprised of Waterton Lakes and Glacier national parks, is situated on the border between Canada and the United States, where the mountains meet the prairies. This area of significant scenic value occupies a pivotal position in the continent, resulting in unique plant communities and spectacular landscapes found nowhere else in the world.

Rideau Canal
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2007

The Rideau Canal is a monumental early 19th century canal covering 202 km of the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers from Ottawa to Kingston. This large strategic canal was constructed for military purposes at a time when Great Britain and the United States vied for control of the region. It is the best preserved example of a slackwater canal in North America and the only North American canal from the early 19th century to remain operational along its original line with its original structures intact.

Landscape of Grand Pré
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2012

Grand_PréThe Landscape of Grand Pré is a dynamic agricultural landscape bordering on the Bay of Fundy, home of the world’s highest tides. The area’s cultural landscape bears testimony to the inventive use of dykes and aboiteaux to develop farmland, and to its community-based management system, established by the Acadians and later used by the Planters and their modern-day successors. Inhabited for thousands of years by the Mi’kmaq, the area is a symbolic landscape for Acadians, reflecting their 17th and 18th century history and their deportation. Grand-Pré National Historic Site, owned and managed by Parks Canada, is a key component of the World Heritage Site and encompasses slightly under two percent of the Landscape of Grand Pré. It was an important Acadian settlement from 1682 to 1755, and today is a place where the stories of the Deportation of the Acadians and their accomplishments are told, and to which Acadians continue to have a strong attachment.

Red Bay Basque Whaling Station
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2013

RedBay-LabradorRed Bay is an exceptional example of the Basque whaling tradition overseas and, at its peak in the 16th century, was the largest and most important port in the world associated with the initial phase of international whaling. Through its extensive archaeological remains, it presents the most outstanding and complete evidence of the origins of the large-scale commercial whaling industry and of the associated traditions and techniques that developed and thrived globally for three centuries.

The Basque Whaling Station at Red Bay is the most outstanding example of land and sea use associated with early industrial-scale commercial whaling and whale oil production. The archaeological resources found at Red Bay provide unprecedented insights into the adaptation of the 16th century Basques to the harsh terrestrial and marine environment of Labrador as they became world leaders in the hunting of whales and the processing of whale oil more than four centuries ago.

World Heritage sites in Canada not under the responsibility of Parks Canada

Dinosaur Provincial Park
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 and expanded in 1992

Dinosaur Provincial Park in the heart of Alberta’s Badlands contains some of the most important fossil specimens discovered from the “Age of Dinosaurs.” The site is unmatched in terms of the number and variety of high quality dinosaur specimens, which date back 75-77 million years.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981

The significance of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump lies in its cultural, archaeological, and scientific attributes. Using their excellent knowledge of bison behaviour for millennia, the Blackfoot killed their prey by chasing them over a precipice. Carcasses were later carved up in the camp below. The remains of marked trails and of an Indigenous camp can still be found. Huge burial mounds containing deep layers of bison bones below the cliff represent nearly 6000 years of use of the buffalo jump by Indigenous people of the Northern Plains. This site throws valuable light on the way of life and practices of traditional hunting cultures worldwide.

Old Town Lunenburg
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1995


Old Town Lunenburg is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. Established in 1753, it has retained its original layout and overall appearance, based on a rectangular grid pattern drawn up in the home country. The inhabitants have safeguarded the town’s identity throughout the centuries by preserving many of its houses and public buildings, some of which date from the 18th century. Their spirit is captured in the wooden architecture, built in a distinctive tradition that evokes the town’s European roots and shipbuilding heritage.

Miguasha National Park
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1999

The palaeontological site of Miguasha National Park, on the southern coast of the Gaspé Peninsula in the province of Quebec, is considered to be the world’s most outstanding illustration of the Devonian Period known as the “Age of Fishes.” Dating from 370 million years ago, the Miguasha formation contains five of the six fossil fish groups associated with this period. Its significance stems from the presence of the highest number and best-preserved fossil specimens of the lobe-finned fishes that gave rise to the first four-legged, air-breathing terrestrial vertebrates. For more than a century, the flora and fauna fossils of Miguasha have been recognized as unique and numerous scientists and collectors from Europe and America have visited the site.

Joggins Fossil Cliffs
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008

The Joggins Fossil Cliffs on Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy are the world reference site for fossils of the Pennsylvanian (or Carboniferous) period. Their complete and accessible fossil-bearing rock exposures tell the stories of some of the earliest animals on earth. The origin of amniotes, the first vertebrates to achieve the capacity to reproduce on land, can be found at Joggins.

Mistaken Point

Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2016 

Mistaken Point NfldMistaken Point is an Ediacaran fossil site located on the southern tip of Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula. The fossils found at Mistaken Point date to the Middle Ediacaran Period (580 to 560 million years ago) and represent the first appearance in the fossil record of large, complex, multicellular, animal-like organisms – i.e. “when life got big” – a pivotal event in the evolution of life on Earth.

Source: Parks Canada Agency