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UNESCO Commends Canadian Governments, First Nations; Resolves To Address "Fundamental Issues" In World Heritage Process Raised By Canada's Pimachiowin Aki Nomination

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, June 22, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In its review of Canada's Nomination of Pimachiowin Aki for World Heritage Status, the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) deferred final decisions until the next World Heritage Committee meeting.  UNESCO pointed to "fundamental issues" in the evaluation process that prevented them from recognizing the value of "the indissoluble bonds that exist in some places between culture and nature."  It further resolved to, "examine options for changes to the criteria and/or Advisory Body evaluation processes to address the issues raised by the nomination."

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UNESCO commended the Governments of Canada, Manitoba, Ontario and the five aboriginal nations who drafted their nomination.  It praised their, "exemplary efforts to develop a nomination that will protect, maintain and restore the significant cultural and natural assets and values associated with Pimachiowin Aki." 

Pimachiowin Aki, an aboriginal territory whose name means, "The Land Which Gives Life" in Ojibwe, encompasses 33,400 square kilometers (12,895 square miles) of Ashinaabek aboriginal territory in northern Canada within the North American Boreal Shield, the largest of Canada's terrestrial eco-zones.   Five aboriginal nations: Bloodvein River First Nation, Little Grand Rapids First Nation, Pauingassi First Nation, Pikangikum First Nation, and Poplar River First Nation have occupied the land for more than 6,000 years.

At this meeting, the nomination drew praise from other nations throughout the world who acknowledged the exceptionality of the site, particularly in regards to its focus on the interrelationship between culture and nature, and expressed regret at the current inability of the process to adequately recognize the value of that relationship.

"The Governments of Manitoba, Ontario, and the five First Nations of Pimachiowin Aki are to be commended for seeing the value in forging a new path based on recognizing not just the value of the land and the indigenous cultures, but the unique relationship between the two," Mathew Jacobson, boreal conservation officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts. "It is our belief that ultimately this nomination process will result not only in the inscription of Pimachiowin Aki as a World Heritage Site but also in an improved evaluation process that is more open to and respectful of the values of all aboriginal people."

This decision was made at a meeting of the World Heritage Committee meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The World Heritage List is maintained by UNESCO, which seeks to encourage the identification, protection, and preservation around the world of cultural and natural heritage that is considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. 

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