Region 3 | Letters

Letter – Protect the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve

On January 10, 2022 the NFU’s National President and NFU Ontario President sent the following letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling on the federal government to transfer ownership of the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve to Parks Canada as soon as possible in order to protect this valuable farmland from being converted to housing.

Dear Prime Minister,

RE: Urgent need for Parks Canada acquisition of Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve

The National Farmers Union (NFU), and, the National Farmers Union – Ontario (NFU-O), are extremely concerned about the threat to Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve (DRAP) due to the Ontario government’s plan to allow housing development on these lands. Rouge National Urban Park is also threatened due to its important and essential connection with DRAP. We urge the federal government to protect this land by authorizing Parks Canada to acquire DRAP and expediting the process so it is accomplished before it is too late.

The NFU, established in 1969 by an Act of Parliament, works to achieve agricultural policies that ensure dignity and income security for farmers, while protecting and enhancing rural environments for current and future generations. The NFU’s Ontario region, the NFU-O, is an accredited farm organization representing thousands of sustainable farmers in Ontario.

Rouge National Urban Park is the only Parks Canada site with a mandate to protect agricultural landscapes. The park includes large tracts of Class 1 farmland, which is the rarest, richest, and most fertile in the country. The DRAP lands contain 4700 acres of Class 1 and Class 2 farmland. This farmland has the potential to produce local food for diverse GTA communities. Instead, the Ontario government has earmarked these lands for urban sprawl, breaking its contract with the Rouge National Urban Park and Parks Canada.

We are concerned about the staggering loss of farmland in the province, an average of 319 acres per day according to the 2021 Census of Agriculture. With recent changes to farmland protection in this province, the amount of land lost is poised to drastically increase. To counter this dangerous trend, we advocate for the protection and expansion of the Greenbelt, the protection of the DRAP, and we encourage the federal government to release the federally-held Pickering Lands to Parks Canada and Rouge National Urban Park.

The Ontario government has launched an attack on the Greenbelt and specifically the DRAP in the name of providing 1.5 million houses for new Ontarians. Solving the housing crisis in Ontario does not require the removal of finite, irreplaceable, and invaluable agricultural and natural heritage lands. Municipalities within the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and specifically the Region of Durham, have already identified that they have more than enough land for housing projections to 2051– land that already includes plans for servicing and infrastructure.

Prime farmland, natural heritage lands, and critical habitat for species at risk will be destroyed if the Greenbelt lands and the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve are opened for housing development. The agricultural lands and ecological function of the natural areas in Rouge National Urban Park itself are also at risk if the adjacent DRAP lands protection is removed.

On November 29, 2022 Parks Canada and the Rouge National Urban Park wrote to the Province detailing their concerns regarding potential development of the DRAP, including its importance to viable farming activities, federally listed endangered species and ecological function in the Park, saying “Parks Canada’s analysis suggests that there is a probable risk of irreversible harm to wildlife, natural ecosystems and agricultural landscapes within Rouge National Urban Park thereby reducing the viability and functionality of the park’s ecosystems and farmland.”

The NFU calls on the federal government to act quickly to acquire the DRAP and place it within the protection of the Rouge National Urban Park. Protecting these lands permanently for agriculture and natural heritage would represent an invaluable public investment in Canada’s and Ontario’s natural and agricultural systems. It will help protect habitat for endangered species, mitigate the climate crisis, enhance the well being of Ontario residents, and support the growth of Ontario’s $47-billion agri-food economy.

We would welcome a meeting to answer any questions and advance this initiative.

Jenn Pfenning,  President, National Farmers Union


Max Hansgen, President, National Farmers Union – Ontario

cc. Omar McDadi, Field Unit Superintendent, Rouge National Urban Park
Hon. Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Hon. Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Canada
Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources of Canada
Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the New Democratic Party
Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada