Message from Alan Latourelle, Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada
© Parcs Canada
One hundred years ago, in 1911, Parks Canada was born. When you think about it, that’s a very short time in the history of this country. Parks Canada was born out of a dream shared by a few people who wanted to create an organisation that would help protect, for generations to come, the rich heritage of the many people who inhabit this land. It was created to help protect the natural beauty of this country, our most precious gems, to be enjoyed for generations to come in ways that leave them unimpaired.
One hundred years later, that dream has become a reality and it is Canada’s gift to the world. Parks Canada protects and presents some of the world’s biggest and most beautiful national parks and national park reserves. Our national historic sites present the history of this land and its people in magical historic settings and our marine conservation areas connect us from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Arctic to the Great Lakes.
As we look back on what has been accomplished, we have many reasons to be proud. We have come a long way as an organisation. In the beginning, parks were established without much consultation with the public, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. However, we have learned from the past. Today, we cannot imagine creating a new park, site or marine conservation area without the support and collaboration of the public, especially Indigenous peoples. In the past few decades, we have strived to build meaningful relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to ensure a more holistic stewardship of the land that include the cultural values and knowledge of its people. We have learned that by working together we can respect our differences and strengthen our common values. This, in itself, is the definition of true partnerships.
Today, Parks Canada is recognized as an international leader in working with Indigenous communities. Although our relationships are always evolving, we can still celebrate our many accomplishments. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you why I’m grateful and give thanks to the many people who have trusted us enough to share this vision with us.
I would like to acknowledge my many predecessors, in particular Tom Lee, who was Chief Executive Officer for Parks Canada from 1998 to 2002. As a Parks Canada staff member, I had the privilege of working with Mr. Lee and experiencing first hand his commitment to working with Indigenous peoples in a respectful manner. In 1999, Mr. Lee created the Indigenous Affairs Branch. The Branch is instrumental in supporting and providing opportunities for Indigenous partners to meaningfully engage with Parks Canada.
I appreciate the support and knowledge that I am fortunate to receive from the people who are members of the Aboriginal Consultative Committee; people such as Elder Stewart King from Wasauksing First Nation who was gracious enough to present us with inspirational words and teachings found in the next pages. I am grateful for all the other members who take time out to meet with me and who engage with me in frank and open discussions that help us grow as an Agency.
I welcome the involvement of the many people we work with in Indigenous communities all across Canada. Your wisdom, your knowledge and your willingness to help us respectfully manage these treasured places is one of the greatest gifts you could give to future generations.
I value the work that our staff does, every day, with Indigenous peoples. This document and the stories that are highlighted here reflect the engagement and the vision we have as an Agency. Our staff is committed to include and work with Indigenous communities. It’s only natural. Most of our national parks are in very remote areas where the closest community is quite often an Indigenous community. I recognize that our Indigenous staff have demonstrated their trust in Parks Canada’s mandate in a manner that far exceeds our expectations. I am proud to be able to say that over 8% of our staff is Indigenous, making us an employer of choice for Indigenous peoples in the public service. Every day, you help us build bridges, with your colleagues and with Indigenous communities.
These are YOUR stories. These are OUR stories.
They are real. They are inspiring.