This Week in History
James Bernard Harkin – A Guardian of Canada's Heritage
For the week of Monday January 29, 2007
On January 30, 1875, James Bernard Harkin, the founding father of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) was born in Vankleek Hill, Ontario.
In April 1911, Harkin became the first commissioner of the Dominion Parks. As commissioner, his impact on Canada’s national park system was profound. During his tenure, he oversaw the expansion of the national park system from its base of five national parks in the mountains, to 18 national parks. He also oversaw the significant expansion of Banff, Jasper and Waterton Lakes national parks, which were reduced considerably before his appointment. To finance the expansion and protection of national parks, he promoted their tourism value, while ensuring they were not overdeveloped. Part of his vision was to remove industrial development from national parks, which he achieved in 1930 when Parliament passed the National Parks Act.
Harkin died on January 27, 1955. His namesake Mount Harkin, within Kootenay National Park, preserves his legacy. This 2 979-metre mountain overlooks one of his crowning achievements, the Banff-Windermere Highway, and is marked by a commemorative HSMBC plaque.
In honour of his dedication and achievements, James Bernard Harkin became a National Historic Person in 1955 and, in 1972, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society inaugurated the awarding of its Harkin Medal to individuals who are similarly dedicated to protecting Canada’s natural heritage.
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