World Heritage sites are areas designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with the goal of preserving places of cultural, natural and historic significance. There are 18 World Heritage sites in Canada, including one of the oldest, Nahanni National Park (designated in 1978), and one of the newest, Mistaken Point (designated in 2016).

Background

A convention concerning the protection of the world's cultural and natural heritage was launched by UNESCO in 1972. It aimed to recognize and protect sites around the world with universal natural or cultural significance. Designations require the co-operation of participating countries. Nearly 200 states have signed the convention, agreeing to protect designated properties within their boundaries and to contribute to the World Heritage Fund, which was established to help preserve endangered sites. World Heritage sites are selected by a committee according to established criteria.

As of 2016, there are 1,052 World Heritage sites around the world, including the Galapagos Islands, the Egyptian Pyramids, the Grand Canyon and the Taj Mahal. There are 18 sites in Canada, listed below.

Canadian United Nations World Heritage Sites

Site Year Designated Location Significance of designation
Nahanni National Park 1978 Northwest Territories Includes 4,700 km2 of undisturbed natural area with remarkable geological features.
L’Anse aux Meadows 1978 Newfoundland and Labrador This Viking settlement is considered evidence of the first Europeans in Canada.
Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek 1979 Yukon Territory, British Columbia The largest non-polar ice field in the world.
Dinosaur Provincial Park 1979 Alberta Park holds some of the most important dinosaur fossils dating from 75–77 million years ago.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump 1981 Alberta Site is one of the oldest and best-preserved communal hunting grounds.
SGang Gwaay 1981 British Columbia Includes remains of Haida civilization illustrating past culture and way of life.
Wood Buffalo National Park 1983 Northwest Territories, Alberta The park is one of the largest undisturbed grass meadows left in North America.
Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
(includes Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay)
1984 British Columbia, Alberta The area is a combination of four national parks and three provincial parks which illustrate glacial geological processes.
Historic District of Old Québec 1985 Québec The district is the most complete illustration of a fortified colonial town north of Mexico.
Gros Morne National Park 1987 Newfoundland and Labrador The landscape provides one of the world’s greatest examples of plate tectonics.
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park 1995 Alberta, Montana The landscape exemplifies diversity of scenery, wildlife, flora and topographic relief.
Old Town Lunenburg 1995 Nova Scotia Town is the best-preserved example of planned British colonial settlement in North America.
Miguasha National Park 1999 Québec This fossil site is considered to be the world’s most outstanding example of the Devonian period.
Rideau Canal 2007 Ontario The canal is the best-preserved North American slackwater canal.
Joggins Fossil Cliffs 2008 Nova Scotia These exposed rocks provide the finest and most complete fossil record of terrestrial life in Carboniferous period.
Landscape of Grand Pré 2012 Nova Scotia The marshland and archaeological remains serve as a remarkable example of traditional Acadian settlement.
Red Bay Basque Whaling Station 2014 Newfoundland and Labrador The station is the most extensive and best-preserved example of traditional 16th century Basques whale hunting techniques.
Mistaken Point 2016 Newfoundland and Labrador These cliffs on the east coast of Newfoundland contain some of the oldest known fossils on Earth. The fossils date back to the Ediacaran Period (630-542 million years ago) and chronicle the appearance of biologically complex organisms.