Parks Canada (PC; French: Parcs Canada; legally incorporated as the Parks Canada Agency (French: Agence Parcs Canada)), is an agency of the Government of Canada run by a chief executive who answers to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. Parks Canada is mandated to "protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage, and foster public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment in ways that ensure their ecological and commemorative integrity for present and future generations". Parks Canada manages 38 National Parks, three National Marine Conservation Areas, 171 National Historic Sites, one National Urban Park, and one National Landmark. The agency also administers lands and waters set aside as potential national parklands, including eight National Park Reserves and one National Marine Conservation Area Reserve. More than 450,000 km2 (170,000 sq mi) of lands and waters in national parks and national marine conservation areas has been set aside for such purposes. The Canadian Register of Historic Places is supported and managed by Parks Canada, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments and other federal bodies. The agency is also the working arm of the national Historic Sites and Monuments Board, which recommends National Historic Sites, Events, and Persons.
Parks Canada was established on May 19, 1911, as the Dominion Parks Branch under the Department of the Interior, becoming the world's first national park service. Since its creation, its name has changed, known variously as the Dominion Parks Branch, National Parks Branch, Parks Canada, Environment Canada – Parks Branch, and the Canadian Parks Service, before a return to Parks Canada in 1998. The service's activities are regulated under legislation such as the Canada National Parks Act, and the Parks Canada Agency Act, which established the current legal incorporation of the agency in 1998.
The Parks Canada Agency was established as a separate service entity in 1998 and falls under the responsibility of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Before 2003, Parks Canada (under various names) fell under the jurisdiction of the Department of Canadian Heritage, where it had been since 1994. From 1979 to 1994, Parks Canada was part of the Department of Environment, and before it was part of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (1966 to 1978), and the Department of the Interior. With the organizational shifts and political leadership in Canada, the priorities of Parks Canada have shifted over the years more towards conservation and away from development. Starting in the 1960s, Parks Canada has also moved to decentralize its operations.
Parks Canada is currently headed by Ron Hallman following Daniel Watson, who was appointed in August 2015, following the retirement of Alan Latourelle, who had been reappointed on August 7, 2007. As of 2004, the annual budget for Parks Canada is approximately $500 million, and the agency has 4,000 employees.
Park Wardens protect natural and cultural resources by conducting patrols of National Parks, National Historic sites and National Marine Conservation Areas. They ensure the safety of staff, visitors and residents, and conduct strategic enforcement activities aimed at public peace maintenance, resource protection, visitor enjoyment and administrative compliance. They are designated under as Park Wardens and are peace officers pursuant to the Criminal Code of Canada. They carry firearms and non-lethal intervention options.
The Minister may also designate provincial and local enforcement officers under section 19 of the Act for the purpose of enforcing laws within the specified parks. These officers have the power of peace officers only in relation to the Act.
In May 2012, it was reported that Park Wardens may be cross designated to enforce certain wildlife acts administered by Environment Canada. Should the designations go ahead it would only be for Park Wardens that are stationed near existing migratory bird sanctuaries.
Essentially the intent of the change is to allow for a faster and lower-cost response to environmental enforcement incidents, particularly in remote areas in the north where Environment Canada does not have an ongoing presence, but Parks Canada has a Park Warden nearby who could act on its behalf, rather than have Environment Canada responded from a farther office.