MONTREAL — A non-profit working to protect Montreal's Mount Royal is making a push to have the famed mountain park considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But first, the three-headed mountain located in the heart of Montreal island needs to be added to the federal government's list of potential sites from which the world body can choose.
"Preliminary studies by experts in world heritage have advised the City of Montreal that there were some exceptional characteristics to Mount Royal," Helene Panaioti, spokeswoman for the non-profit, said Thursday.
Les amis de la montagne (friends of the mountain) said it's hoping to collect up to 30,000 signatures by the end of April to help bolster its case to the federal government, which is looking to update a list of potential Canadian world heritage sites.
The government's list hasn't been updated since 2004.
Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna called for suggestions to be submitted between August 2016 and January 2017.
A committee will unveil a new list later this year.
Being on the country's list of potential sites is a requirement before receiving the UNESCO distinction.
Les amis made an application and it's hoping thousands of signatures will convince Ottawa to choose Mount Royal.
Of the 11 sites the government submitted to the UN in 2004, five were granted the world heritage status.
Sites chosen by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture include places of cultural or natural significance that members of the global community have committed to preserve for future generations, sometimes through financial assistance or expert advice.
Mount Royal holds a symbolic place among many communities including First Nations and has resisted development despite the constant pressures of a growing city.
"It's incredibly rich in biodiversity and natural landscapes and cultural heritage and all of this is what would contribute to its interest as a UNESCO World Heritage Site," Panaioti said.
Dinu Bumbaru, policy director at Heritage Montreal, said from a world heritage perspective, the mountain represents the evolution of urban society.
"It's an ensemble — it's not just one site where you can say it's only natural or only historic or only architectural — it's all of this," Bumbaru said.
He added the mountain is home to two cemeteries that are national historic sites, Saint Joseph's Oratory, as well as the campuses of McGill University and Universite de Montreal.
"Together, they form quite a concentration of property that defines a landscape that is iconic, not just for Montreal, but for pretty much the history of the country," Bumbaru said.
Canada has 18 UNESCO heritage sites, including two in Quebec: Quebec City's Vieux-Quebec and the Miguasha national park in Gaspe.
On the web: www.montroyalUNESCO.ca
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press