Citizens fight to protect Edmonton River Valley from federal government’s diversity park plan
A group of concerned citizens took notice of what they perceived to be government overreach regarding the National Urban Park Initiative and are taking action.

Alexa Posa

April 18, 2024

Citizens of Edmonton are fighting to protect the River Valley from federal ownership and Parks Canada’s diversity plan. 

Citizens fight to protect Edmonton River Valley from federal government’s diversity park plan

A group of concerned citizens took notice of what they perceived to be government overreach regarding the National Urban Park Initiative, a federal program aimed to amplify urban parks in Canada. 

In 2022, Edmonton’s Mayor Amarjeet Sohi offered up the entire Edmonton River Valley for this program, saying it would help break systemic barriers and allow additional federal support.

The National Urban Park Initiative includes policies that many Edmontonians found questionable, including their plan to “provide long-lasting benefits to the urban area” by using “sustainability, conservation, equity, diversity, inclusion, and reconciliation.”

The River Valley could potentially be “fully owned by the Federal Government” if the program goes through and would actively demonstrate the urban park’s core values. 

Those values will address the impacts of climate change in cities, create more inclusive spaces where “diversity is welcomed”, and equity will be “intentionally advanced” while “respecting indigenous rights” through reconciliation. 

An Edmonton citizen named Sheila Phimester had major concerns when reading about the Urban Park Initiative and met with multiple MLAs regarding the issue.

MLA Jackie Lovely worked with Phimester to form a petition to prevent the River Valley from being federally owned, which eventually gathered over 1,000 signatures.

Lovely told The Counter Signal that the Urban Park Initiative was wholeheartedly an attempted overreach by the federal government, and she is worried her community in Camrose “would be next.” 

Private Members Bill 204

After increased citizen concern, Bill 204 was tabled by MLA Brandon Lunty to amend the Municipal Government Act.

This will prevent a municipality in Alberta from having a National Urban Park without provincial government input and participation in the process.

Bill 204 has passed the third reading in the Alberta Legislature and will come into force pending Royal Assent.

“What happens to Albertans’ parks and greenspaces is of paramount importance to all Albertans, and that it’s critical for the province to have a say and a role when it comes to the potential creation of National Urban Parks in the province,” Lunty said in a statement to The Counter Signal.

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