World heritage site in question after Doer announces 10-year delay

Other government officials deny there will be a delay

The government insists the process for creating a world heritage site on the east side of Lake Winnipeg is moving along as planned. Garth Lenz

The timeline for the establishment of a 4 million-hectare world heritage site (WHS) on the east side of Lake Winnipeg has been called into question and unresolved since mid-August, when Premier Gary Doer said it will take another 10 years for the WHS designation to be complete.

“It will take longer but it will be more sustainable for the people living in that area and more sustainable for our planet,” Doer told a New Democratic Party convention in Halifax on Aug. 14.

Conservation minister Stan Struthers said this quotation is taken out of context and that the delay is not real.

“Things are moving along just as they should,” he said. “The provincial government, under the current premier, has been absolutely supportive of this site and that element of priority will remain there even after the leadership contests later this month.”

The site will be recognized internationally as part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) once First Nations groups in the area approve.

“The documentation will be ready to be submitted to UNESCO in 2012,” said Struthers. “We’ve been at this for 10 years, but it’s not 10 years on a go-forward basis.”

However, not everyone is convinced.

“The premier, on YouTube, in a large public gathering, told the world it’d take another 10 years,” said Gaile Whelan Enns, director of Manitoba Wildlands. “There’s some nasty questions here, like: Is the premier making policy and making announcements when he already knows he’s going to be the ambassador to the United States?

“I don’t think any of the communities, government staff, or other partners in the WHS are aware of this decision, this delay,” she added.

Struthers maintains that the heritage site is not looking at a 10-year delay and that the work with UNESCO will be finished by 2012.

Published in Volume 64, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 8, 2009)

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