This article is over 5 years old and may contain outdated information.


Six sites awaiting UNESCO World Heritage status

Parks Canada wants the public to nominate Canadian places worthy of UNESCO World Heritage status. Here are the six sites still on the waiting list.

  • Nov 29, 2016
  • 925 words
  • 4 minutes
Ivvavik National Park landscape Expand Image

Ancient freshwater ice shelves. Evidence of the first Indigenous Peoples in the Canadian Arctic. Mining sites from the Klondike Gold Rush. These are just some of the important Canadian cultural and natural heritage sites awaiting official designation from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The last time Canada updated its Tentative List of World Heritage Sites was in 2004. Eleven sites were identified at that time and five of them have gained world heritage status since, while six sites are still awaiting the designation. In August 2016, Parks Canada launched a public call for nominations to identify new places to add to Canada’s tentative list by January 27, 2017. 

To get you thinking of your own nominations that are worthy of UNESCO World Heritage status, here are the six sites from the 2004 list that are still awaiting the coveted designation.

Quttinirpaaq, Nunavut

Expand Image

Gull Glacier in the Tanquary Fiord, Quttinirpaaq National Park. (Photo: Ansgar Walk/Wikimedia Commons)

This 37,775 square kilometer region at the apex of Ellesmere Island contains sedimentary mountains, glaciers, ancient freshwater ice shelves, ice caps and fiords. It’s also home to numerous species including muskox, wolves, arctic hare and the endangered Peary caribou. A large portion of the park is a polar desert, receiving less than 2.5 centimeters of precipitation per year. Lake Hazen, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the circumpolar region, sits inside the desert and acts as a thermal oasis for plants and animal species. The park also has a treasure trove of pre-contact archaeological sites, including a route used by early Indigenous Peoples of the Canadian Arctic to settle in Greenland 4,500 to 3,000 years ago.

Learn more about the scientific research going on in Quttinirpaaq’s polar desert.

Ivvavik/Vuntut/Herschel Island (Qikiqtaruk), Yukon

Expand Image
Ivvavik National Park (Photo: Steyr/ Wikimedia Commons) 

Ivvavik National Park, Vuntut National Park and Herschel Island (Qikiqtaruk) Territorial Park form a 15,500-square-kilometer network of protected areas in northwestern Yukon that contain countless Indigenous archeological sites and important wildlife habitat. The area forms part of the Beringia corridor, a glacier-free land bridge over the Bering Sea from Siberia to the Yukon traversed by the ancestors of North America’s Indigenous Peoples around 15,000 years ago, and has evidence of human occupation as they adapted to the climate over thousands of years. Its natural heritage includes a portion of the Old Crow Flats, an internationally-recognized wetland area for breeding and migratory waterfowl, and supports the Porcupine caribou herd, which accounts for 10 per cent (123,000 caribou) of the world’s caribou population.  

See the region’s natural beauty through Ivvavik’s Artists in the Park program.

Tr’ondëk Klondike, Yukon

Expand Image
The Yukon River near Dawson City. (Photo: Phillip Grondin/Flickr)

This area at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers depicts the exceptional adaption and innovation of the region’s Indigenous peoples over thousands of years, including their present-day accommodation and negotiations of land settlement agreements and resource development. As the site of the Klondike Gold Rush from 1896-1898, the area, which includes Dawson City, is also an example of a mining landscape.

Explore the region’s First Nations heritage with writer Teresa Earle and photographer Fritz Mueller.

Gwaii Haanas, British Columbia

Expand Image
Old growth forest at Windy Bay, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. (Photo: Sam Beebe/Wikimedia Commons)

The tiny island of SGang Gwaay in the Queen Charlotte Islands off the northwest coast of mainland British Columbia is already a world heritage site (inscribed in 1981) for its cultural significance to the Haida people. However, the Haida homelands are represented by the entire Gwaii Haanas area, which includes 138 islands and more than 600 archeological sites in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area and Haida Heritage Site. The natural heritage of the site includes the San Christoval Mountains, old growth temperate rainforests and diverse wildlife.

Learn about the Haida homelands and the Haida Nation’s efforts to preserve their cultural heritage.

Áísínai’pi (Writing-On-Stone), Alberta

Expand Image
The hoodoo formations at Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park. (Photo: Matthias Süßen/Wikimedia Commons)

This sacred landscape in the Milk River Valley is the traditional territory of the Niitsítapi (Blackfoot Confederacy) and contains more than 50 rock art sites on the valley’s eroded sandstone cliffs. The area includes burial sites, vision quest locations and a medicine wheel. The mixed grass prairie landscape is also of ecological and geological importance, supporting numerous wildlife species and housing interesting rock formations called hoodoos.

Learn more about Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park and watch a video of the region.

Pimachiowin Aki, Manitoba-Ontario

Expand Image
Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Ontario. (Photo: Kate Ming-Sun/Wikimedia Commons)

First Nations in the boreal regions of Manitoba and Ontario proposed a network of UNESCO designated areas that encompass 33,400 square kilometers of their traditional lands, including Manitoba’s Atikaki Provincial Park and Ontario’s Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and Eagle-Snowshoe Conservation Reserve. The area represents traditional Indigenous settlements and the environment that supports their ways of life. It includes many tree, plant and animal species, including the threatened woodland caribou and the chestnut lamprey, a species of special concern.

Read more about Pimachiowin Aki’s bid for UNESCO World Heritage status.


Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Related Content

Russel Kenny taking writer Laurie Sarkadi and Gzowski for a boat ride on Great Bear Lake to check his nets for trout.


Inside the fight to protect the Arctic’s “Water Heart”

How the Sahtuto’ine Dene of Déline created the Tsá Tué Biosphere Reserve, the world’s first such UNESCO site managed by an Indigenous community

  • 1693 words
  • 7 minutes
Joggins Fossil Cliffs in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley


Five of Canada’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Parks Canada is seeking nominations for potential places to add to its impressive list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here are five sites that were most recently added.

  • 755 words
  • 4 minutes
One of 11 monolithic churches in Ethiopia chiseled entirely out of rock


Ten curious facts about world heritage beyond Canada’s borders

Trivia nut Heather Yundt uncovers some of the lesser known, yet compelling curiosities of UNESCO's past and present global icons

  • 1002 words
  • 5 minutes
Mountains, sea ice in Nunavut's Sirmilik National Park


Eight Canadian places that could become UNESCO World Heritage Sites

A look at the fascinating sites Parks Canada has proposed for UNESCO World Heritage Site designation

  • 1119 words
  • 5 minutes