Mapping Change: Fostering a Culture of Reconciliation within Parks Canada

Parks Canada is honoured to work with many Indigenous communities across the country, and is proud of the many achievements that we have accomplished in collaboration with Indigenous partners throughout the system of protected heritage places. Over the past several decades, Parks Canada has prioritized building positive relationships with Indigenous peoples and is committed to a system of national heritage places that commemorates the contributions of Indigenous peoples, their histories and cultures, as well as the connections and special relationships Indigenous peoples have with traditional lands and waters.

In spite of recent successes, more can and should be done to advance relationships with Indigenous peoples with traditional connections to heritage places. Parks Canada team members provided feedback to improve the policies and tools available to facilitate working together. To guide the required internal shifts, Mapping Change: Fostering a Culture of Reconciliation within Parks Canada outlines a path forward with key actions to ensure that Parks Canada’s policies and practices support the important work ahead to further advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Table of contents

CEO Foreword

Fostering a Culture of Reconciliation within Parks Canada

Michael Nadler
A/Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada

The Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation and renewed relationships with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.

Parks Canada is honoured to work with Indigenous communities from coast to coast to coast. While we are proud of our many successful collaborations with Indigenous peoples, we recognize that more can be done to advance relationships with current and future Indigenous partners. I am pleased to share the work plan Mapping Change: Fostering a Culture of Reconciliation within Parks Canada.

Rooted in our relationships with Indigenous peoples and developed with extensive input from Parks Canada team members across the country, this important document provides a road map for actions to deepen and strengthen our relationships with Indigenous partners.

Parks Canada is committed to a system of national heritage places that recognizes and honours the contributions of Indigenous peoples, their histories and cultures, as well as the integral relationships Indigenous peoples have with their traditional lands and waters, many of which are found within the places administered by Parks Canada. Through this plan, Parks Canada can begin to address barriers and better coordinate and advance the transformational work that will advance reconciliation.

The direction provided in this document will move Parks Canada forward in a manner that reflects the spirit and intent of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, fosters reconciliation, and implements Section 35 rights, treaty obligations, and related commitments.

Reconciliation means different things to different people – all of whom bring unique stories, perspectives and histories. I encourage you to review Mapping Change and identify opportunities where we can work together to move forward.

Thank you, Miigwetch.
Michael Nadler

A/Chief Executive Officer,
Parks Canada Agency


Drumming group performing

The Government of Canada is committed to a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, cooperation, and partnership.

Among federal organizations, Parks Canada is uniquely positioned to demonstrate leadership in renewing and strengthening the relationships with Indigenous peoples, due in part to the Agency’s role as a manager of a significant amount of federal lands and waters. Parks Canada administers over 90 per cent of federally-owned lands, nearly all of which have been traditionally used by Indigenous peoples.

The cultures and identities of Indigenous peoples are rooted in the land, and honouring connections to place are an important element for actions and outcomes related to reconciliation. Unfortunately, past government policies meant many Indigenous voices have been silenced as connections to places were severed.

Parks Canada works with numerous Indigenous peoples and communities across the country and contributes in a variety of ways to meaningful and tangible progress towards reconciliation. Many heritage places are managed cooperatively with Indigenous peoples, resulting in inclusive site-specific collaborations.

Parks Canada is proud of its successes and reputation as a leader in engaging and partnering with Indigenous peoples. However, more can be done to advance renewed relationships with Indigenous peoples.

Advancing Reconciliation in Parks Canada

Hands holding a colourful Métis sash, Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site.

In order to advance reconciliation and renewed relationships, Parks Canada first needed to ensure its policies and practices supported the work ahead and that key challenges and obstacles to progress are identified.

This work plan presents strategic, Agency-wide direction on actions in priority areas to better enable the advancement of relationships with Indigenous partners, address barriers, and coordinate and promote the transformational work required for progress towards reconciliation.

Laying the foundation for longer-term change, the plan details commitments for specific actions within Parks Canada over a two- to five-year timeline to support progress towards reconciliation-based outcomes. As Parks Canada implements change to lay the groundwork for reconciliation, the plan is expected to evolve.

This shared journey requires time and respectful dialogue to promote healing and envision a shared future. Parks Canada is listening and is committed to the journey of exploring, with Indigenous partners, what reconciliation means for heritage places and Parks Canada policies and programs. As we move further along the path of reconciliation, we will continue to be guided by Indigenous partners.

Parks Canada’s actions are grouped in four themes that highlight areas where we can make advancements in or lay the groundwork for reconciliation. The themes are:

  • On the Land & Water
  • Indigenous Voices
  • Culture of Reconciliation
  • Governance

See Annex for a complete list of actions.

Supporting opportunities for Indigenous peoples to share their stories and for intergenerational knowledge transmission are focal points for actions.

Actions in the On the Land and Water theme will support Indigenous peoples’ connections to traditional territories, connections that in many instances were severed when heritage places were created, resulting in intergenerational harm through loss of Indigenous knowledge, culture and identity.

Actions in Indigenous Voices will usher in a shift from telling the ‘Parks Canada story’ to supporting and empowering Indigenous peoples in sharing their own stories in their own voices, in a manner that promotes truth-telling – a fundamental aspect of reconciliation.

Actions in Culture of Reconciliation will develop a Parks Canada–wide approach to improve internal and external understanding and appreciation for Indigenous peoples’ cultures and histories, and develop guidance, collaborations, networks, communications products, and human resource programs in a manner that both creates and reinforces a culture of reconciliation.

Actions in the Governance theme support shifts in Parks Canada’s decision-making related to policy, programs and operational practice to recognize Indigenous peoples’ roles, responsibilities and knowledge in stewarding their traditional territories, and support implementation of rights and fulfillment of obligations.

Anticipated Results

Through these actions, Parks Canada will be better positioned to advance reconciliation as an overarching priority that supports the Government of Canada’s commitment to build renewed nation-to-nation, government-to-government, and Inuit-Crown relationships with Indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.

Parks Canada will advance the goal of managing heritage places in a manner that reflects the spirit and intent of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), advances reconciliation as guided by the 2015 Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and implements Section 35 rights, treaty obligations, and related commitments.

New and revised legislation, policy, guidance and tools will be developed that respect Indigenous rights and worldviews, and enable implementation of shared stewardship at heritage places.

In addition, Parks Canada’s financial and human resources practices will better support implementation of treaties and other foundational agreements, and will be adapted to the requirements of Indigenous peoples.

Through these actions, heritage places will support an approach to reconciliation that is informed by Indigenous partners.

In the longer term, Parks Canada’s decision-making and governance around conservation will be grounded in collaborative approaches that reflect both Indigenous and western values and knowledge. Designations, commemoration, and communications at heritage places will honour and reflect Indigenous connections with heritage places, Indigenous voices, and the historic and ongoing contributions of Indigenous peoples to Canada.

In addition, Parks Canada programs and practices will support the Government of Canada’s priority of closing the socio-economic gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians by generating opportunities to advance the socio-economic well-being of Indigenous partners.

Throughout this work, Parks Canada will continue to deliver on its mandate, ensuring that Canada’s natural and cultural heritage is protected for future generations and providing people the opportunity to connect to and experience these places in ways that are meaningful to them.

Next steps / Conclusion

Inuit hunter overlooking Saglek Bay from Shuldham Island. Torngat Mountains National Park.

As stated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) in the 2015 report Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, reconciliation is a process that requires “awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour” (TRC 2015, p.7).

Some of the actions identified reflect long-standing concerns Indigenous partners have expressed to Parks Canada, while others reflect the Agency’s own internal understanding of its processes and programs. In addition, analysis of comments from participants in two gatherings focused on understanding Indigenous perspectives and expectations regarding Indigenous culture and heritage (Indigenous Gatherings on Cultural Heritage held by Parks Canada in Calgary and Gatineau in November 2018) provided a valuable opportunity to validate the actions identified in this plan.

Some of the actions identified can be undertaken immediately, while others will require longer term planning. As we move forward with initiatives that support reconciliation, Parks Canada – working with other federal departments as required – will be proposing new approaches and will be entering into new types of conversations with both Indigenous communities and other non-Indigenous communities.

This is meant to be an evolving and collaborative approach. Parks Canada understands that our approach to each relationship should be tailored to fit its unique context. More work needs to be done and will be done as Parks Canada continues reconciliation and relationship building with Indigenous peoples. Cumulatively, the actions identified lay the groundwork for more effective relationships with Indigenous partners. Listening to Indigenous partners is critical to understanding how effective our efforts are in making change.

Parks Canada is committed to the co-development of approaches to enable Indigenous peoples to fulfill their roles as traditional stewards of lands and waters within heritage places, maintaining the reciprocal relationships that have existed for millennia.

Annex: Actions to Support Reconciliation within Parks Canada

On the Land and Water

  • Support and implement projects and programs at heritage places that provide Indigenous partners active roles and responsibilities for stewardship of heritage places (e.g. Elder-Youth camps, Indigenous Guardians programs).
  • Support rights implementation and facilitate Indigenous peoples’ uses of heritage places, including via collaboratively developed policy required for planning, managing and implementing Indigenous renewable resource harvesting.
  • Pursue legislative and regulatory change to support Indigenous traditional activities in heritage places.
  • Work with Indigenous partners to develop training and new approaches to Parks Canada’s law enforcement, including the application of restorative justice within heritage places.
  • Provide guidance to clarify options for heritage places to honor traditional territories and reflect cooperative management arrangements through the uniform.
  • Support the funding decision-making processes related to the Nature Fund and the Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program.

Indigenous Voices

A local First Nations girl and her grandmother demonstrate traditional knitting processes at McDonald Campground. Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.
  • Work with Indigenous partners to advance Canadians' understanding of Indigenous peoples as partners in the management of protected heritage places by highlighting their ongoing roles and responsibilities as stewards of their traditional territories.
  • Support Indigenous-led tourism to improve non-Indigenous Canadians’ understanding of Indigenous cultures by:
    • Supporting implementation of the Indigenous Tourism, Experiences and Story-Telling initiative at heritage places through collaborative development and delivery of Indigenous visitor experience opportunities.
    • Developing strategic collaborations with Indigenous partners at national and regional levels to directly support tourism initiatives.
  • In keeping with the International Year of Indigenous Languages, develop tool(s) to advance inclusion of Indigenous languages in communication materials at heritage places (e.g. Visitor activity guides, brochures including maps, and interpretive signage).
  • In keeping with The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action #79, Parks Canada will:
    • Add three Indigenous representatives (First Nation, Métis, and Inuit) to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
    • Update the historical narrative at heritage places through integration of Indigenous perspectives and voices in presentation of the importance of these places.

Culture of Reconciliation in Parks Canada

Two female visitors follow along to a Métis dance jig with an Indigenous woman leading the steps at the Métis Campfire station. Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site.
  • In partnership with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, and in keeping with the TRC Call to Action #79, undertake a collaborative planning and engagement process to develop a national level designation for residential schools and a national Residential School narrative.
  • Enable acknowledgement of Indigenous traditional territories at heritage places across the country through culturally relevant signage, with design and messaging developed with Indigenous partners.
  • Establish an Indigenous Conservation Community of Practice in Parks Canada to:
    • Support awareness and understanding of the benefits of working with Indigenous partners towards conservation objectives.
    • Identify communication requirements related to the intersection of heritage places and ecological integrity with Indigenous rights and responsibilities related to their traditional territories.
  • Enhance capacity of Parks Canada interpretation team members to engage on challenging topics, including Indigenous peoples’ histories in relation to heritage places.
  • Develop tools for staffing processes to include cultural competencies in job posters and interview/evaluation processes.
  • Implement mechanisms and strategies to support and promote Indigenous employment and recruitment.
  • Develop key relationships with local and regional Indigenous organizations to establish a network to be used when job opportunities arise.
  • Develop an Indigenous youth hiring program.
  • Develop a learning offer to support Indigenous learning and leadership within Parks Canada.
  • Update and deliver a renewed program to support the retention of Indigenous team members.
  • Support projects focusing on establishing, improving or strengthening meaningful relationships with Métis through the Métis Reconciliation Fund.
  • Develop local strategies with Indigenous partners regarding Indigenous economic opportunities.
  • Advance understanding of Indigenous archeological objects in the Parks Canada collection through:
    • Development of an inventory of Indigenous objects in the archaeological collection with Indigenous Knowledge Holders.
    • Learning opportunities at Parks Canada for Indigenous curators.
  • Develop a long-term internal engagement strategy, capacity building, internal communications, and training opportunities to support Parks Canada team members in working with Indigenous partners towards reconciliation.
  • Develop and deliver internal training to better prepare Parks Canada managers for engaging with Indigenous partners, public and stakeholders regarding reconciliation and related conversations.
  • Expand delivery of the Kairos Blanket Exercise to Parks Canada team members to foster a greater understanding of the history of Crown-Indigenous relations in Canada, in keeping with TRC Call to Action #57 (Professional Development and Training for Public Servants).


Fishing and guided hikes by locals from Paulatuk in Tuktut Nogait National Park.
  • Develop a mechanism to enable Indigenous Knowledge Holders and experts to participate effectively in Agency governance.
  • Enhance Indigenous peoples’ decision-making roles in the management of heritage places through relationship-building structures, collaborative arrangements and/or formalized cooperative management boards.
  • Foster involvement of Indigenous partners in natural resource conservation; better support Indigenous knowledge and knowledge holders; and more meaningfully work with Indigenous partners in conservation practices (i.e. the Conservation and Restoration (CoRe) program, the Ecological Integrity Monitoring program, and improving the Research & Collection Permit System).
  • Align Parks Canada knowledge and research priorities with those of Inuit, First Nation, and Métis groups, where appropriate, and develop collaborative arrangements to facilitate joint work towards conservation priorities and interests.
  • Review past and in-progress management planning processes for examples of successful and innovative approaches to involvement of Indigenous peoples, and compile best practices/lessons learned as a reference tool to inform future programs.
  • Enhance training of management planners in best practices for working with Indigenous peoples.
  • Review and revise key management planning direction and tools to ensure appropriate involvement of Indigenous peoples in management planning processes.
  • Support timely processing and understanding of various payment options (honoraria, etc.).
  • Provide training and guidance in procurement processes to ensure Indigenous economic opportunities are optimized and modern treaty obligations and park establishment/impact and benefit agreement commitments are met.
  • Review management of and access to the archaeological collection through engagement with Indigenous Knowledge Holders, communities and experts, while proactively ensuring collections accessibility.
  • Engage with Indigenous Knowledge Holders and experts to ensure effective mechanisms for involvement of Indigenous peoples in design and decision-making of archaeology projects.
  • Review cultural heritage commemoration and conservation policies, practices and processes with Indigenous Knowledge Holders to reflect Indigenous values, perspectives and world views.
  • Coordinate implementation of the Modern Treaty Management Environment (treaty obligations reporting system) and develop internal communications regarding Treaty obligations.
  • Coordinate and lead efforts to augment capacity to support and advance reconciliation.

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