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Newly created Mealy Mountains National Park in Labrador.

Parks Canada

A new national park reserve the size of Jamaica has been created on the northern coast of Labrador to protect and showcase the region's glacially rounded hills, pristine rivers, and spectacular waterfalls.

The Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve, which has been under consideration since the 1970s, will be co-managed by the Innu who will develop aboriginal cultural experiences for visitors. Known to the indigenous people as Akami-uapishk and KakKasuak, Mealy Mountains is Canada's 46th national park.

The announcement of its creation was made Friday by Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq who, like other Conservative politicians, is trying to wrap up ongoing business in advance of an election call.

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It was made possible by the transfer of 10,700 square kilometers of land from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to the federal government.

"Getting this done is a huge accomplishment for both the region and Canada, and I am proud that today's hard work means future generations will be able to experience this beautiful part of our country," Ms. Aglukkaq said in a statement.

It is the second time in less than a week that the government had made a major announcement about a national park.

On Wednesday it finalized an agreement with the Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation and the government of the North West Territories to set the boundaries of a 14,000 square-kilometre swath of boreal forest and tundra on the eastern end of Great Slave Lake that will, in a year or two, become the Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve. That park will also be co-managed by the aboriginal people.

At Mealy Mountains, a benefits agreement must still be negotiated with the Nunatsiavut government. But it is agreed that the Innu continue to use the land and harvest its natural resources.

The Mealy Mountains, which stand as high as 1,100 metres, encompass both tundra and lush forests and are home to caribou, wolves, foxes, black bears and martens. The park will front on a 50-kilometre stretch of sandy beaches known as the Wunderstrand which were explored by the Vikings and written about in their sagas. Visitors will be able to canoe, camp and hike.

"Our elders have been stewards of Akami-uapishk for countless generations," Anastasia Qupee, the Grand Chief in the Innu Nation, said in a statement. "Innu Nation looks forward to sharing the natural and cultural heritage of our land and the Innu way of life with all Canadians."

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Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified one of the stakeholders of the park as the government of Nunavut. This has been corrected.

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