Here's what I had to say after visiting Pimachiowin Aki, the Land That Gives Life, in Northern Manitoba at the end of May.

Transmission corridor or World Heritage site?


Published On Mon Jun 06 2011


David Israelson



BLOODVEIN RIVER, MANITOBA—Rob Whaley and his friends just discovered something about one of Canada’s most pristine wilderness areas: just when you get away from it all, you can’t, because a provincial premier and 38 other people might drop in.

That’s what Whaley, a Huntsville, Ont., family doctor, found out as he and his four-canoe expedition enjoyed the austere, rugged beauty of this roiling river near the Manitoba-Ontario border.

Things couldn’t have been more peaceful and isolated, when suddenly seven motorboats pulled up, bearing Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger along with two of his top cabinet ministers, aboriginal leaders, environmental scientists, international philanthropists and media.

“We hadn’t seen anybody for eight days, and now this,” joked Whaley, who organized the journey with friends from Huntsville, Flesherton and Markdale.

While the canoeists’ objective was relaxation, there was urgency to the premier’s two-day visit.

This river is part of a vast area called Pimachiowin Aki, or The Land that Gives Life. The Manitoba government, together with Ontario, five First Nations and with support from Ottawa, is ramping up efforts to have the area, the size of Denmark, designated by the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage site.

Gaining UNESCO designation is not a slam dunk, and it involves hurdles and challenges here in Canada as well as at the UN agency’s headquarters in Paris. Manitoba’s opposition Progressive Conservatives have vowed to locate a huge transmission line right through the nominated area — a move that supporters of the UNESCO bid say would undermine the case completely.

“We’re talking about the life-support systems of a planet — how can that possibly be a political issue?” said David Suzuki, Canada’s best-known environmentalist, who flew into Winnipeg to meet about Pimachiowin Aki. “If you put electrical wires through, you don’t have an intact forest.”

The UNESCO bid process began nearly a decade ago, yet today it’s drawing controversy in Manitoba and minimal public attention in Ontario. With provincial elections in both provinces this fall (Manitobans go to the polls two days before Ontario’s Oct. 6 vote), there’s a scramble to galvanize support, raise funds and educate the public about the bid.

The Manitoba and Ontario governments point out that the potential UNESCO site would be one of the biggest among nearly 900 around the world, only the second heritage site in Ontario (the other is the Rideau Canal) and one of the largest intact areas of boreal forest in the world. Combined with a buffer zone, it’s more than 43,000 square kilometres.

The people of Pimachiowin Aki, who come from five First Nations in both provinces, are as much a part of the UNESCO bid as the land, water and trees. They trace their ancestral presence in the territory back some 6,000 years. There are significant rock paintings in the area, many of the boundaries derive from traditional traplines, and the people in the area have one of the highest rates of indigenous language retention in the world.

UNESCO designation would be a signal to the world that this vast forest and its people enjoy a measure of protection against outside development and resource exploitation. The five First Nations supporting the bid (one in Ontario) came up with their own land-use plans as the basis for the proposal, and they see designation as a way to share the boreal and their traditions with the world without compromising them.

“I wasn’t always proud of my traditions, but today I am,” says Martina Young Fisher, also known as Blue Sky Eagle Moon, a traditional teacher who operates a lodge on the Bloodvein with her husband.

It will take up to 2014 for UNESCO to evaluate the Ontario-Manitoba bid, which will hinge on whether the UN body believes there is “Outstanding Universal Value” to this boreal forest.

Right now, “it’s the largest intact boreal forest on the planet,” says Faisal Moola, science director for the David Suzuki Foundation. The boreal is considered “the lungs of the Earth,” absorbing carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change.

The question is, will it still be outstanding to UNESCO if there’s a giant power line running through this canoe tripper’s paradise?

Former Star reporter David Israelson is a Toronto writer and consultant.









05/07/2016 00:49

I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me to start my own BlogEngine blog now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a fine example of it.

09/24/2017 05:41

There may be a debate about this thing, and people may have their respective opinions. But for me, I would always go to the side that protects our environment! Pimachiowin Aki should be protected in the first place. There are people who aim for the destruction of our nature. As a good person, it is our responsibility to make sure that they are equally protected from different kinds of danger, especially from people's bad motives!


This question is very difficult... really...

02/17/2017 17:34

Here's my stand regarding this debate: as possible as we can, let's try to preserve the beauty and rawness of Pimachiowin Aki. We should always choose to protect our environment and never exchange it to anything less. As one of the heritage sites in the world, UNESCO should extend its power in protecting the "Land that Gives Life".

03/21/2017 04:04

I appreicate the work done and its cool

04/14/2017 22:59

Norton Security is the latest computer software security suite developed by Symantec.

04/24/2017 04:19

Hi, Guys! Am glad to share such a big news with you all it is viral

04/26/2017 04:40

A headphones or earbuds about $50 or $100 is the smart choice for affordable headphones. Take a look top 10 best headphones under 100 to review them.

05/19/2017 02:53

Geometry Dash a challenging “running” side-scrolling games with lengthy levels have gained tremendous popularity, especially mobile phones and tablet computers.

06/10/2017 05:25

Mobdro for iOS, iPhone is the best app available for ios users. For ios or iPhone users,Mobdro for iPhone and Mobdro for ios helps in watching tv shows, videos, movies online for free

08/07/2017 09:11

Oh this is very interesting.


Loved the way this article is explained.

08/24/2017 01:25

This place is indeed a very good place to be visited with the family and friends in order to enjoy the eternal peace by laying down in the grass and getting so close to the natural beauty. I always consider this place ideal for the couples.

10/05/2017 10:38

Beauti Queen amazing kolkata escorts agency alwyas ready for you at your doorstep. Beauti Queen provide you high profile independent girl in kolkata, escorts service in kolkata, kolkata escorts. If you are looking for the ultimate encounter in Kolkata then I am your sophisticated young Kolkata escorts that provides upscale companionship for making your night becomes true.

10/13/2017 02:08

Jiya Roy is a high class luxury and premium independent escorts agency in Gurgaon offering sexy independent escort Girls, models and cheap rate call girls for incalls and outcalls and travel arrangements. Female companions available 24/7 for business events, tour guide and much more.

10/13/2017 10:25 offers highly educated model from Gurgaon and best Escorts service in Gurgaon through some of its sizzling Independent escorts in Gurgaon Call Girls who are available to customers 24*7.


Renu Das Kolkata Escorts Services has gorgeous females provides Independent Escorts Service in Kolkata call girls at 100% satisfaction with VIP models. Provided Kolkata escorts at our agency are professional in nature and are eager to serve you at your place.


Leave a Reply