Parks Canada works with over 300 Indigenous communities across the country and views Indigenous peoples as partners in the management of Parks Canada’s heritage places. The Agency’s approach to working with Indigenous peoples continues to evolve as the legal/policy environment and the needs and interests of Indigenous partners change. In 2015, Parks Canada released Promising Pathways, a guide to working with Indigenous partners. The Agency has made efforts to ensure that this collaborative spirit is embodied in Parks Canada’s work as a means of advancing reconciliation through meaningful relationships with Indigenous peoples.Footnote *

Parks Canada developed and adopted the “PARKS” Guiding Principles below, as articulated in Promising Pathways, to promote relationship building with Indigenous partners. These principles have since been adapted for use as an evaluation tool by Parks Canada team members and have replaced national indicators on Indigenous relations.Footnote *

Partnership: Working collaboratively in heritage place planning, management and operation.
  • Indigenous partners are involved in the management and operation of heritage places throughout the country. Most of the lands and waters under Parks Canada’s jurisdiction are managed through cooperative relationships in accordance with treaties or other agreements with Indigenous peoples, and increasingly support local communities to maintain connections with traditionally used lands and waters.
  • Parks Canada participates in a range of whole-of-government initiatives related to Indigenous affairs. In 2015, Parks Canada set up a Treaty Implementation Unit to support the whole-of-government approach to implementing modern treaties.
Accessibility: Encouraging access to traditional lands and traditional activities.
  • In 2014, Parks Canada created the Aboriginal Peoples Open Door Program to provide ease of access to community members who have traditional ties with Parks Canada heritage places. The program encourages Indigenous peoples’ reconnection with Parks Canada heritage places by removing entry fees.
  • Parks Canada heritage places often invite Indigenous partners to hold events or traditional activities on site. For example, the annual Calling All Nations Pow-Wow at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site has been a success, bringing Indigenous communities from all across the Americas together to celebrate with visitors.
Respect: Building mutual respect, trust and understanding.
  • Parks Canada spends $1.15 million yearly on a Métis Reconciliation Program to promote renewed relationships between Parks Canada places and Métis peoples. Between 2011 and 2016, over 55 projects were funded, most of these in Western and Northern Canada, giving a voice to the Métis in Parks Canada heritage places. Projects focus on relationship building, presentation of Métis stories at national heritage places, research for interpretation activities, training in cultural awareness, and recording of Parks Canada’s reconciliation efforts.
  • Twenty-three Indigenous places, people, and events received a national historic designation between 2011 and 2016, bringing the total number of Indigenous historic designations across Canada to 264.
Knowledge: Honouring and incorporating traditional knowledge.
  • The Land is Our Teacher (2015), provides guidance to Parks Canada team members on integrating Indigenous traditional knowledge into heritage place management.
  • In 2013, a national guide was released to encourage Parks Canada heritage places to include Indigenous voices and languages.
Support: Supporting Indigenous partners’ community interests.
  • Parks Canada seeks opportunities to develop economic agreements with Indigenous partners. From 2011 to 2016, over 2,400 contracts to procure goods and services were awarded to Indigenous businesses and businesses associated with Indigenous communities for a total estimated value of $21.9 million.
  • Representation of Indigenous employees at Parks Canada remains consistently above the national labour market availability.
  • Parks Canada participates in the government-wide Chairs and Champions Circle for Aboriginal People and continues to run the Aboriginal Leadership Development Program to support the skill and leadership development of Indigenous team members.

Parks Canada is proud of the successful collaborations and the evolution of our approach to working together with Indigenous partners over the last five years. Examples include:

Celebrating together: On August 15, 2013, more than 400 people participated in the raising of the Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole in the remote location of Hlk’yah GaawGa (Windy Bay) on Lyell Island, British Columbia. The pole’s “Land, Sea, People” theme is inspired by the connections between the Haida Nation and all those who take care of Gwaii Haanas from mountaintops to seafloor.

Inuit traditional knowledge in action: Years of hard work and collaboration between a range of government and non-government partners, including Inuit researcher Louie Kamookak from Gjoa Haven, paid off in 2014 when the shipwreck of HMS Erebus was found near King William Island, Nunavut. Inuit oral history that had been passed down over nearly 170 years, combined with modern technology, were key to the discovery of the “Ugjulik” (Ook-joo-lik) wreck (HMS Erebus) from the Franklin expedition.

Supporting regional tourism: Over the years, Parks Canada team members from Terra Nova National Park in Newfoundland have been working with Miawpukek First Nation (MFN) on a variety of initiatives, building and cross-promoting each other’s visitor offers to tourists in the region. To support this work, Parks Canada and MFN jointly held Quality Visitor Experience training for staff at both organizations to learn about and from each other and provide consistent service delivery across their programs.

Building a signature experience: In Torngat Mountains National Park, the Base Camp Project was developed to improve access and visitor experience while offering economic opportunities and increased Inuit presence in the park. Operated by the Nunatsiavut Group of Companies (Nunatsiavut Government business), the Base Camp is generating revenue and employment for local Inuit communities and increasing the value of the park’s visitor offer.

Key Issues and Focus for the Future

As an Agency responsible for federal lands, waters and heritage programs, Parks Canada is well positioned to advance reconciliation and a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. The Agency highlighted in its 2016–2017 Reports on Plans and Priorities that there is a risk that Parks Canada in moving to strengthen relationships with Indigenous peoples in the context of reconciliation, will not have the skill sets or strategies to effectively engage all those involved.

Parks Canada will build on its past successes to contribute to the whole-of-government approach to reconciliation, focusing on these three priorities:

  • Strengthening Indigenous connections with traditionally used lands and waters in a manner that respects Aboriginal rights and treaty rights in all heritage places.
  • Expanding presentation and commemoration of Indigenous histories and cultures in Parks Canada’s heritage places and programs.
  • Increasing economic opportunities related to Indigenous tourism in heritage places and raising the profile of Indigenous tourism products across the network of heritage places.