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Committed to Canada’s River Heritage

This plan is not simply a working document for the Board or the program’s jurisdictional members. It is designed to serve as a catalyst for governments, communities, and local people to take action for their river, their community, and their lives.

This strategic plan was approved at the Canadian Parks Council meeting of Ministers held September 11, 2007 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The ten-year plan will be implemented from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2018.

Aboriginal Heritage children smiling together at Soper River, Nunavut
CELEBRATING ABORIGINAL HERITAGE, SOPER RIVER , NUNAVUT. HERITAGE RIVERS CELEBRATE AND SUPPORT THE CULTURAL CONNECTIONS OF ABORIGINAL PEOPLES WITH RIVERS.

The Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS) has evolved into a community-inspired, cooperative program of the federal, provincial and territorial governments of Canada. The program celebrates and honours our shared river heritage and represents an enduring part of our national heritage and identity.

The CHRS is administered by the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board. The Board is made up of members appointed by federal, provincial, and territorial governments. This renewed ten-year strategic plan and its accompanying workplan set the vision and overarching priorities for the program and serve as the blueprint for the future of the system. This plan is not simply a working document for the Board or the program’s jurisdictional members. Rather, it is designed to serve as a catalyst for governments, communities, and local people to take action for their river, their community, and their lives.

This plan is written to engage all Canadians in caring for our rivers. However, as a Board, we recognize that the plan cannot be effectively implemented without strong leadership and sufficient resources. Through the Board, all participating government jurisdictions remain committed to providing that leadership and securing the resources required to move the program forward.

Clear communications are essential to building awareness of the CHRS as a model for river management and sustainable living. We are extending our efforts to spread the word about the CHRS and its benefits locally, nationally and internationally. As we continue to raise the profile of the CHRS and build on its many achievements, we are also working to facilitate a network of “river-people” who are committed to animating and conserving Canadian rivers and their communities.

This strategic plan represents a commitment to work together to fulfill a renewed vision for the Canadian Heritage Rivers program. The Canadian Heritage Rivers Board strongly endorses this strategy, and invites all Canadians to join us at the headwaters of this journey to build the best river conservation program in the world.

The Canadian Heritage Rivers Board

Young Canadian man proudly holding the Canadian Flag at Clearwater River, Alberta
BUILDING IDENTITY AND PRIDE CLEARWATER RIVER, ALBERTA. HERITAGE RIVERS TELL THE STORIES OF OUR NATION, BUILDING A SENSE OF IDENTITY AND PRIDE.

Managing a Water Legacy

A NEW ROLE FOR THE CANADIAN HERITAGE RIVERS SYSTEM

A group of people rafting at the Bonnet Plume River, Yukon
SUPPORTING RECREATION BONNET PLUME RIVER, YUKON. HERITAGE RIVERS PROMOTE ADVENTURE TRAVEL AND SUSTAINABLE TOURISM.

Canada is blessed with an abundance of freshwater. Annually, Canada’s rivers discharge 7% of the world’s renewable water supply. But even with such affluence, freshwater is a precious endowment. Our rivers have provided countless generations with a quality of life that uniquely characterizes our history, communities, and land. Rivers are central to our overall health and well-being.

To celebrate the role and value that rivers contribute to Canadians, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments united in 1984 to establish a collaborative program, the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, to provide significant Canadian rivers with a special heritage status. Interest and momentum for the program grew over time as governments, communities, and citizens began to understand and experience the many benefits made possible through river designation.

The main goal of the CHRS for the first ten years of the program was to cooperatively build a system with heritage rivers in each province and territory. For the next decade, as set out in the 1996-2006 strategic plan, the program focused on building value and recognition in the system, and sustaining river heritage.

Totalling almost 11,000 kilometres of waterways across the nation in 41 heritage rivers, the Canadian Heritage Rivers System has matured into a valued nation-wide program, which is recognized around the world as a model for river conservation and community engagement. Canadian Heritage Rivers include a myriad of renowned national waterscapes, magnificent cultural treasures, and deeply entrenched societal icons that affect how we view the world and ourselves. The Canadian Heritage Rivers System is an expression of our nation’s history, our beautiful landscapes, and our way of living.

The CHRS not only enhances the profile of “exceptional Canadian rivers” but also advances river stewardship throughout the country. This role has never been more important as rivers are being affected by unprecedented change and development. Canada’s abundant water supply and relatively small population contributes positively to some of these issues, but we know that we are not immune. Health problems related to water pollution in general are estimated to cost Canadians $300 million per year. Waterpower is currently used to meet 62% of Canada’s electrical needs. In-stream water uses and withdrawals are increasing. Settlement, industrial and agricultural uses are increasing competition for a finite water supply. 60% of Canada’s freshwater flows north, limiting water access to the 85% of our population that lives within 300 kilometres of our southern border with the United States.

Totalling almost 11,000 kilometres of waterways across the nation in 41 heritage rivers,  the Canadian Heritage Rivers System has matured into a valued nation-wide program, which is recognized around the world as a model for river conservation and community engagement.

As our communities grow and evolve, the vital role that rivers play in our lives must be considered and managed out of respect for our traditions, identity, and prosperity.

Image of boats on the port of The Three Rivers, Prince Edward Island
RAISING QUALITY OF LIFE THE THREE RIVERS PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND. HERITAGE RIVERS PROVIDE ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS THAT RAISE THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF CANADIANS.

As our communities grow and evolve, the vital role that rivers play in our lives must be considered and managed out of respect for our traditions, identity, and prosperity. This too is recognized by the United Nations, which declared 2005-2015 as “Water for Life – the International Decade for Action” in recognition of the importance of sustainable water management to food, health, environment, disaster prevention, energy, scarcity, culture, sanitation, pollution and agriculture.

Canada and the CHRS have a role to play in meeting this challenge. People take deep pride in the rivers that immediately touch and reflect their sense of place. This profound ethic of caring, fostered through the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, will help to ensure that Canada’s rivers continue to thrive for generations. More importantly, the CHRS can continue to grow as a model of river stewardship that can be shared with river communities around the world.

CHARTING A COURSE – THE NEXT 10 YEARS

Main River, Newfoundland and Labrador
PROMOTING ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP MAIN RIVER, NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR.HERITAGE RIVERS PROMOTE ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP AND CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT IN CONSERVATION.

In 2004, the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board confirmed the need for a renewed strategic plan, and began discussions to build a vision to lead the CHRS into its third decade. The Board recognized that the CHRS is more than a commemoration program. It reaches beyond the banks of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System by engaging society in valuing and sustaining rivers and their communities. To move the program forward in its third decade, the strategic plan must reflect that fundamental shift in the program’s philosophy.

Building on the success of the 1996-2006 strategic plan, and recognizing the range of new challenges and opportunities, in the following pages, this document identifies four key priority areas, and reaffirms the program’s core values and principles. In addition, the strategic plan is complemented by an implementation work plan that prioritizes outcomes, establishes clear targets, and specifies the actions required to meet those targets.


Vision and Principles

PRINCIPLES

At the heart of this strategic plan are seven principles that speak to the spirit of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System. These principles are integral to all aspects of the CHRS and are central to implementing this plan.

Elders educating some children about the Upper Restigouche River, New Brunswick
ENRICHING EDUCATION UPPER RESTIGOUCHE, NEW BRUNSWICK. HERITAGE RIVERS PROVIDE EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO PUBLIC APPRECIATION

Recognition: The CHRS celebrates select Canadian rivers by distinguishing them as Canadian Heritage Rivers. River designation has no legislative authority. Jurisdictions retain their traditional powers and management responsibilities.

Respect: The CHRS respects community, landowner, and individual rights and concerns in the nomination, designation and management of Heritage Rivers. The CHRS recognizes Aboriginal rights and interests, and the program honours the special relationship between Aboriginal communities and rivers. All Canadians enjoy the privilege to access and celebrate Canada’s river heritage – rivers are for everyone.

Voluntary  Participation: The CHRS is a public trust. Local citizens champion the program. Actions taken are grass-roots driven. Governments lend support and guidance.

Leadership: The federal, provincial, and territorial governments are strongly committed to the CHRS. The partners support the promotion of the CHRS and ongoing monitoring of designated rivers, and the long-term operation and management of heritage rivers within their jurisdictions.

Collaboration and Partnership: The CHRS strives to inform, inspire, and involve Canadians to connect with Canada’s river heritage and share in its safe-keeping. Education, awareness, and action is critical to successful river stewardship and wise management.

Integrity: Rivers in the system are designated and managed to meet the heritage values and guidelines set out by the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board. The CHRS values scientific and traditional knowledge.

Sustainability: The CHRS recognizes that healthy rivers are essential to life on earth. Successful river management must protect river health in order to deliver the full range of ecological, economic, and social benefits for present and future generations.

VISION

We envision a system of Canadian Heritage Rivers that serves as a Model of Stewardship – one that engages society in valuing the Heritage of Rivers and River Communities as essential to identity, health and quality of life.

PRIORITIES

  1. Build a comprehensive and representative system that recognizes Canada’s river heritage
  2. Conserve natural, cultural, and recreational values and integrity
  3. Engage partners to maximize the full range of benefits associated with the Canadian Heritage Rivers program
  4. Foster excellence in river management

Strategic Framework

The goals and outcomes outlined in this framework will be delivered through an implementation work plan that prioritizes outcomes, establishes clear targets and specifies the actions to meet those targets.

PRIORITY 1: BUILD A COMPREHENSIVE AND REPRESENTATIVE SYSTEM THAT RECOGNIZES CANADA’S RIVER HERITAGE

Margaree-lake Ainslie, Nova Scotia
UNITING COMMUNITIES MARGAREE-LAKE AINSLIE, NOVA SCOTIA. HERITAGE RIVERS PROMOTE COOPERATIVE RIVER MANAGEMENT THAT UNITES COMMUNITIES.

Since its beginning in 1984, the primary goal of the CHRS has been to establish and maintain a system of Canadian Heritage Rivers that commemorates the best of Canada’s river heritage. The CHRS may never be truly complete, but with 41 rivers already included in the system it is closer to reaching its ideal capacity.

To truly represent Canada’s entire river heritage, we need to understand what values are represented by existing Heritage Rivers, and where there are gaps that should be filled. Some of these gaps may be thematic in nature, while others may be geographical. It is also important to consider how to approach individual rivers that are clearly of national importance but do not fall neatly into planning criteria.

The CHRS has limited resources, and is naturally evolving to focus on promoting, monitoring and managing existing designations. Additional nominations to the CHRS will need to focus on the best available additions to the system. This will require both the consistent use of national theme-based frameworks for natural and cultural heritage values and fair consideration of the interests of the public and each nominating jurisdiction.

Of course, the celebration of rivers is not limited to the CHRS. Some of the best examples of river stewardship occur on regionally important rivers that may not be considered for the CHRS. With its broader interests in advancing river conservation, the CHRS can play a role in additional initiatives to recognize these rivers and their managers.

GOAL:

A group of New Canadians and Youth involved in activity of planting at Humber River, Onatrio
ENGAGING NEW CANADIANS AND YOUTH HUMBER RIVER, ONTARIO. HERITAGE RIVERS ENGAGE NEW CANADIANS AND YOUTH IN EDUCATION, CONSERVATION AND RECREATION.

By 2018, there will be a comprehensive system of Canadian Heritage Rivers representing the full range of natural, cultural and recreational values of importance to Canadians.

OUTCOMES:

  1. Components of a comprehensive and representative system of Canada’s outstanding rivers are identified and understood.
  2. Criteria and policies are refined to support the identification of additional rivers for inclusion in the CHRS.
  3. Opportunities to strengthen the CHRS are filled through the nomination of key outstanding rivers of Canadian significance that add value to the system.
  4. CHRS policies and the level and nature of government participation reflect the needs of the system, and support effective program implementation.

PRIORITY 2: CONSERVE THE NATURAL, CULTURAL, AND RECREATIONAL VALUES AND INTEGRITY OF DESIGNATED CANADIAN HERITAGE RIVERS

Heritage River designation recognizes a set of outstanding heritage values and the commitment of a river community to care for that river. In the context of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, river management reflects an ethic of river stewardship that helps to ensure the continued integrity of the values for which rivers are designated. While Heritage River designation does not impose a new set of rules, it is often accompanied by the expectation of a higher duty of care by formal management agencies and river users. As such, an effective and adaptable approach to river management and monitoring is important for the integrity of the CHRS.

The CHRS approaches the conservation of heritage values at two levels. The first is the national-level policies and instruments aimed at supporting the program. The second includes the activities associated with individual rivers that occur in line with an approved designation document. Designation documents (often referred to as management plans) outline a river’s heritage values, and speak to how these values will be maintained, consistent with the objectives of the CHRS.

Rivers are constantly changing. With time, the threats, challenges, and opportunities for Heritage Rivers continue to evolve. To remain effective, the CHRS cannot afford to be static with respect to river management and monitoring. Instruments and activities used to conserve a river’s heritage must adapt to the needs of the river. Strong decision-making is supported by up-to-date and high quality research. Effective conservation actions are guided by adaptable and practical management plans. Innovative tools emerge from the sharing of knowledge between heritage river communities.

Most importantly, actively managing the CHRS means empowering and supporting community-based organizations along each Heritage River. Monitoring change and measuring and sharing successes, relative to management plans, inspires confidence in river communities and builds enthusiasm for the continued commitment of future generations to maintain the river health and the integrity of heritage values.

Most importantly, actively managing the CHRS means empowering communities along each Heritage River. 

Image of a port with tourists and small boats on the Grand River, Ontario
ENHANCING TOURISM GRAND RIVER, ONTARIO.HERITAGE RIVERS CONSERVE CULTURAL, NATURAL AND RECREATIONAL VALUES THAT ENHANCE SUSTAINABLE TOURISM.

GOAL:

By 2018, all designated rivers will be monitored and managed in an active and effective manner.

OUTCOMES:

  1. High quality research and knowledge is applied to inform river management.
  2. River management tools are developed and shared.
  3. All designated rivers have effective management plans.
  4. Rivers are monitored and managed such that the values for which they were nominated are maintained or enhanced.
  5. Jurisdictions report annually on the state of Heritage Rivers, and this information and other performance measures are widely available and used for continued improvement.

The unique and visionary qualities of the CHRS are attractive to many people. Those who work closely with the CHR program come to appreciate the lasting value of its collaborative approach to river stewardship.

South Nahanni River, Northwest Territories
REPRESENTING CANADA TO THE WORLD SOUTH NAHANNI RIVER, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES. THE CANADIAN HERITAGE RIVERS SYSTEM IS AN INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED MODEL FOR RIVER CONSERVATION.

PRIORITY 3: ENGAGE COMMUNITIES AND PARTNERS TO MAXIMIZE THE FULL RANGE OF BENEFITS ASSOCIATED WITH THE CANADIAN HERITAGE RIVERS PROGRAM

Speaking of the CHRS, one river advocate was quoted as saying, “I know it is a club that I want to belong to, but I am not sure why.” This view of the CHRS is common, not only by river managers, but also by many people who live near a cherished Canadian river.

The unique and visionary qualities of the CHRS are attractive to many people. Those who work closely with the CHR program come to appreciate the lasting value of its collaborative approach to river stewardship. However, many Canadians still take rivers for granted and are largely unaware of the depth of Canada’s river heritage and its importance to the continued prosperity of our communities and country.

The Board and the program’s jurisdictional partners play an important part in promoting and advancing the program, but they cannot do it alone. The program relies on the continued engagement of the many individuals, communities and river management organizations who are the foundation of the CHRS. They can become leaders in communicating and fulfilling program goals. Industry can step forward to support program initiatives, benefiting rivers and their corporate position. Other government partners can also work with the CHRS to advance common initiatives.

The CHRS is a compelling program and engagement of citizens and river stewards nation-wide is key to its success. To capitalize on that interest and successfully forge strong partnerships, the CHRS needs to heighten its public profile, and create a positive and lasting impression that attracts participation. But simply creating a positive public image is not enough. Potential partners must understand the benefits of their participation, and how their actions will lead to success.

GOAL:

By 2018, the Canadian Heritage Rivers System will be supported by a range of formal and informal partnerships that advance the CHRS program and deliver broad environmental and societal benefits associated with responsible river management.

OUTCOMES:

Clearwater River, Saskatchewan
EXPANDING SPIRITUAL APPRECIATION CLEARWATER RIVER, SASKATCHEWAN. HERITAGE RIVERS BUILD SPIRITUAL CONNECTIONS TO PLACE.
  1. Society understands and embraces the CHRS and recognizes that all Canadians benefit from and share responsibility for the sustainable use of rivers.
  2. CHRS and related government policies and programs support key strategic partnerships.
  3. The CHRS is valued by partners and sustained by a diversified funding and resource base.
  4. Heritage River communities and residents have strong positive associations with their river and are engaged in conserving their river heritage.
  5. The CHRS is linked to complementary, high priority initiatives of other agencies and organizations that care for Canada’s water and heritage resources, promote health, fitness and quality of life, and advance socio-economic benefits through tourism and other means.

PRIORITY 4: FOSTER EXCELLENCE IN RIVER MANAGEMENT

Rideau Waterway, Ontario
MAKING CONNECTIONS IN URBAN COMMUNITIES RIDEAU WATERWAY, ONTARIO. HERITAGE RIVERS CONNECT URBAN CANADIANS TO HISTORY AND NATURE.

With more than 25 years of experience, the CHRS is recognized and highly valued as an advocate for heritage recognition and as the builder of a national river constituency. While the rivers that make up the system celebrate the best of Canada’s river heritage, they also embody true excellence in river management. Some have been showcased on the world stage, while others have seen the quiet development of innovative solutions to complex local and regional issues.

The Canadian River Heritage Conferences are perhaps the best example of how the CHRS is succeeding in serving all rivers, and the needs of the broader river community. The triennial conference brings together an international group of river managers, advocates, researchers, and government partners in a forum that inspires participants in their work and celebrates the place of rivers in our lives.

As a repository of information and a source of expertise, the CHRS is a powerful resource for all river managers. By reaching out beyond the family of Canadian Heritage Rivers, the CHRS will continue to make a significant contribution to the protection and enjoyment of rivers across Canada and around the world.

GOAL:

By 2018, the CHRS will play a significant role in promoting and supporting the effective management of all rivers as an essential component of sustainable living.

OUTCOMES:

Aerial View of the Fraser River, British Columbia
IMPROVING PUBLIC HEALTH FRASER RIVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA.HERITAGE RIVERS PROMOTE THE PROTECTION OF WATER RESOURCES, IMPROVING PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELL-BEING.
  1. The CHRS provides an international model of cooperative conservation and a centre for watershed education.
  2. Additional initiatives exist to recognize and share best practices and success stories in river management, focusing on rivers with outstanding provincial, watershed, or regional heritage values, as well as river communities that demonstrate exceptional conservation stewardship.
  3. An inclusive and accessible information and support network is in place to support river conservation and stewardship.
  4. Interested citizens, communities, and river advocates have the tools, knowledge, and capacity to play a significant role in sustainable river management.
  5. River managers from across Canada support the vision outlined in the CHRS Strategic Plan 2008-2018 and are playing an active role in its realization.

Advancing the CHRS

Committed to providing visionary leadership in an open, effective and accountable manner, the Board oversees the development and operation of the CHRS through a 10-year strategic plan, supported by extensive public involvement.

Map of CHRS System from 2008
Map of CHRS System from 2008

Administration of the CHRS is the responsibility of the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board, which is comprised of members appointed by federal, provincial and territorial governments. Committed to providing visionary leadership in an open, effective and accountable manner, the Board oversees the development and operation of the CHRS through a 10-year strategic plan, supported by extensive public involvement. A Board-approved workplan details priorities and actions for implementing the strategic plan directions.

As the lead federal agency in the CHRS, Parks Canada, through a Secretariat operated on behalf of the Board, promotes the system nationally and internationally, advocating responsible river and water stewardship and related conservation, education, recreation, and tourism initiatives. In its national leadership role, Parks Canada also provides important financial and technical support to provinces and territories for the preparation of studies and plans related to the nomination, designation and monitoring of CHRS rivers.

Developing strong, broad-based funding support is vital for the long-term viability of the CHRS. Federal funding leadership, provided through Parks Canada, is essential for program renewal. Provincial and territorial governments continue to make an essential commitment to the CHRS through assuming the long-term operational and management costs of having rivers within their jurisdictions designated to the System. Opportunities for developing additional innovative revenue generation mechanisms and funding sources also need to be sought.

Designated Rivers Province/Territory (Park/Protected Area) Designated Length (km)
French Ontario (French River Provincial Park) February 1986 110
Alsek Yukon (Kluane National Park) February 1986 90
South Nahanni Northwest Territories (Nahanni National Park Reserve) January 1987 300
Mattawa Ontario (Mattawa PP and Samuel de Champlain PP) January 1988 76
Athabasca Alberta (Jasper National Park) January 1989 168
North Saskatchewan Alberta (Banff National Park)

January 1989

49
Kicking Horse British Columbia (Yoho National Park) January 1990 67
Kazan Nunavut July 1990 615
Thelon Nunavut (Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary) July 1990 545
St. Croix New Brunswick January 1991 185
Yukon – The Thirty Mile Yukon January 1992 48
Seal Manitoba June 1992 260
Soper Nunavut (Katannilik Territorial Park) June 1992 248
Arctic Red Northwest Territories September 1993 450
Grand Ontario January 1994 627
Boundary Waters/ Voyageur Waterway Ontario (La Verendrye/Quetico/Pigeon River Provincial Parks) September 1996 250
Hillsborough Prince Edward Island January 1997 45
Shelburne Nova Scotia June 1997 53
Bonnet Plume Yukon February 1998 350
Upper Restigouche New Brunswick February 1998 55
Bloodvein Manitoba/Ontario (Atikaki/Woodland Caribou Provincial Parks) June 1998 306
Margaree Nova Scotia June 1998 120
Fraser British Columbia June 1998 1,375
Humber Ontario February 1999 100
Rideau Ontario (Rideau Waterway) February 2000 202
Thames Ontario February 2000 273
St. Mary’s Ontario February 2000 125
Detroit Ontario February 2001 51
Main Newfoundland and Labrador February 2001 57
Clearwater Alberta, Saskatchewan (Clearwater Provincial Park) October 2003 326
Cowichan British Columbia October 2003 47
Missinaibi

Ontario (Missinaibi Provincial Park)

May 2004 501
Tatshenshini Yukon May 2004 45
The Three Rivers Prince Edward Island May 2004 73
Bay du Nord Newfoundland (Bay du Nord Wilderness Park Reserve) August 2005 75
Hayes Manitoba August 2005 590
Red Manitoba June 2007 175
Total 37 Designated Rivers 9,032
Nominated Rivers Province/Territory (Park/Protected Area) Nominated Length (km)
Coppermine Nunavut June 2010 450
Ottawa Ontario June 2010 590
St. John New Brunswick May 2012 400
Churchill Saskatchewan June 2014 400
Total 4 Nominated Rivers 1,927
Total 37 Designated and 4 Nominated Rivers 10,959