Independent Working Group Report to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada
Report to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Final – March 31, 2019
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Ecological and commemorative integrity
- 3. Recommendations for the Minister
The Parks Canada Agency Note de bas de page 1 has the mandate to, on behalf of the people of Canada, “protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity of these places for present and future generation.” As such, Parks Canada delivers programs related to national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas across the country, in partnership with Indigenous governments Note de bas de page 2, and in collaboration with communities, businesses, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations.
The Parks Canada Agency Act (1998) requires the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to hold a round table every two years to seek advice from Canadians on matters for which Parks Canada is responsible. Let’s Talk Parks, Canada! was released in May 2018 and represented the results of the eighth Minister’s Round Table since 2001. The report summarized what was heard from Canadians and the Minister’s responses.
One of the central messages emerging from the round table was that Canadians want Parks Canada to “reaffirm that ecological integrity will be the first priority in decision making in national parks and marine conservation areas, and that commemorative integrity will the first priority in decision making in national historic sites.”
The Minister responded by stating:
“I unequivocally reaffirm that the maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, will be the first priority when considering all aspects of the management of national parks. I reaffirm also that maintaining ecological and commemorative integrity will be prerequisites to the use of national parks and national historic sites. To do this, we will:
Create a short-term independent working group with expertise in governance, policy development, ecological science, and heritage conservation to review Parks Canada practices, policies, planning and monitoring programs, and approval processes, and make recommendations to ensure that maintaining ecological and commemorative integrity are priority considerations in decision making.” Note de bas de page 3
1.2 Independent Working Group
The Working Group was established in October 2018 with a mandate to review decision making at Parks Canada, including practices, policies, planning, monitoring programs, and approval processes; and, develop a report reviewing how decision making at Parks Canada incorporates ecological and commemorative integrity, and providing recommendations on how to ensure that maintaining ecological and commemorative integrity are priority considerations in decision making at Parks Canada. Details on the Working Group members are provided in Appendix A.
The Working Group reviewed documents and heard a broad range of inputs on the topics of natural areas conservation, cultural heritage conservation, visitor experience, and infrastructure spending. The group visited Banff National Park, five national historic sites (Cave and Basin, Grand-Pré, Fort Anne, York Redoubt and Halifax Citadel) and the Conservation Labs in Ottawa. During these visits, perspectives were provided by Parks Canada staff and external stakeholders. In addition, a small gathering of people with expertise in Indigenous and environmental laws was held in Banff to discuss how Indigenous knowledge can help to improve both ecological and commemorative integrity in national parks and historic sites (see Appendix B).
The Working Group examined how the priority of preserving ecological and commemorative integrity interacts with other priorities that Parks Canada and the Minister must consider. The group reviewed how evidence, analysis, monitoring, planning, reporting and training/orientation/staff capacity support decision making at Parks Canada, as well as the transparency of decision making processes in relation to achieving the mandate. Note de bas de page 4 The recommendations developed by the Working Group will help to provide a foundation for future funding allocations and infrastructure investments.
It is clear that Parks Canada employees are passionate about the work they do and are committed to protecting the nationally important sites under their stewardship. The Working Group would like to thank Parks Canada staff, at all levels, who contributed to this report.
2. 2. Ecological and commemorative integrity
2.1 What is Ecological Integrity?
The Canada National Parks Act (2000) specifies that ecological integrity shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks, and defines the ecological integrity of parks, as: “a condition that is determined to be characteristic of its natural region and likely to persist, including abiotic components and the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes.” Parks Canada elaborates on this definition by indicating that ecosystems have integrity when their native components are intact, including:
- Physical elements, such as water and rocks;
- Types and abundance of species, such as black bears and black spruce;
- Types and abundance of landscapes, such as tundra and rainforest; and
- Processes that make the ecosystems work, such as fire and predation. Note de bas de page 5
As the manager for national parks, national park reserves Note de bas de page 6,and national marine conservation areas, Parks Canada is responsible for conserving ecosystems that represent Canada’s natural heritage for current and future generations.
2.2 What is Commemorative Integrity?
The preamble of the Parks Canada Agency Act (1998) states that “it is in the national interest to commemorate places, people and events of national historic significance, including Canada’s rich and ongoing Indigenous traditions and to ensure the commemorative integrity of national historic sites.” The Act further requires Parks Canada to maintain commemorative integrity as a prerequisite to the use of national historic sites; and, to manage visitor use and tourism to ensure both the maintenance of commemorative integrity and a quality experience in such heritage Note de bas de page 7. Parks Canada indicates that a national historic site possesses commemorative integrity when it is healthy and whole Note de bas de page , and when:
- The resources directly related to the reasons for designation as a national historic site are not impaired or under threat,
- The reasons for designation as a national historic site are effectively communicated to the public, and
- The site’s heritage values (including those not related to the reasons for designation as a national historic site) are respected in all decisions and actions affecting the site. Note de bas de page 9
National historic sites are formally designated by the Minister responsible for Parks Canada on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.Note de bas de page 10 There are 981 national historic sites in Canada managed by Parks Canada (171), other federal departments (63), and other levels of government, institutions, and private citizens (758). The scope of this report is limited to the 171 national historic sites under the stewardship of Parks Canada.
There is no specific legislation for national historic sites and, as a result, commemorative integrity is not defined in legislation, nor does legislation require commemorative integrity to be the “first priority” in decision making, as is required with ecological integrity in the Canada National Parks Act (2000).
2.3 How Are Ecological and Commemorative Integrity Applied?
Parks Canada works to apply ecological and commemorative integrity throughout its many decision making processes. This is primarily achieved through the management planning cycle, which includes a management plan and a “state of” assessment for each national park and most national historic sites every 10 years Note de bas de page 11. Moreover, all new projects (such as infrastructure, activities, and trails) are evaluated to determine if they are consistent with the site’s management plan, and their potential impacts on ecological and commemorative integrity are assessed. Ecological integrity is scientifically monitored, and conservation action may be taken to address poor or declining ecosystems and/or species. For national historic sites, commemorative integrity statements set parameters for conservation and presentation activities based on direction from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
However, these decision-making processes are complex and consider more than just ecological and commemorative integrity. They reflect a balance of many factors and priorities, including commercial activity, promoting visitation, available resources, community concerns, public health and safety, and other government priorities (e.g. increased accessibility). In such an environment, it is important to have clarity about what the “first priority” of ecological and commemorative integrity actually means.
The Working Group’s assessment is that ecological and commemorative integrity are understood or interpreted differently both within Parks Canada and among partners and stakeholders. Furthermore, maintaining ecological and commemorative integrity in national parks and national historic sites can be challenging, despite the best intentions, in the face of climate change, limited or underutilized scientific data, and resource limitations.
3. Recommendations for the Minister
3.1 Ecological Integrity
Park-based management planning, on-the-ground ecological monitoring Note de bas de page 12, State of the Park reporting, and investments in conservation and restoration are the cornerstones of maintaining and restoring ecological integrity in Parks Canada.
Because of the large amount of high-quality data collected by Parks Canada, the Agency’s indicators of ecological integrity likely constitute one of the largest datasets on ecosystems in Canada. The purpose of the ecological integrity monitoring program is to create a baseline of information about the ecosystems in national parks and to identify problems so that conservation actions can be taken and resources can be invested, in a prioritized and evidence-based manner. This has great value to inform Canadians on biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and a changing climate. However, Parks Canada is currently not monitoring and reporting all ecological integrity indicators, and field unit managers emphasized the need for year-round capacity to do so. There is often a difference between national parks – some of which fully report their indicators while others are challenged to monitor and report.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada fully implement its ecological integrity monitoring program, in particular the collection of remote sensing and year-round data. As part of this program, Parks Canada should engage local Indigenous governments in developing ecological integrity indicators informed by traditional knowledge and incorporate them into the related monitoring program.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada adopt a flexible, adaptive management approach that addresses the shifting baselines that will result from climate change. This may mean that additional indicators are required to help establish the relationship between climate change and ecosystem integrity as well as the carbon sequestration value of national parks.
A high volume of visitation within national parks may lead to negative environmental effects at some popular or sensitive locations, in addition to detracting from the overall visitor experience.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada adopt or develop standardized tools to estimate the limits of acceptable change/carrying capacity of sites in national parks receiving a large number of visitors.
- Where the environmental effects occur due to visitation, it is recommended that Parks Canada implement adaptive management processes to provide a framework for managing the number of visitors and commercial activities.
3.2 Commemorative Integrity
Commemorative integrity is the measure of the health and wholeness of national historic sites. It starts with ministerial decisions on the national historic significance of places, based on recommendations from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Commemorative integrity statements are key drivers for decisions on national historic sites, and ensuring commemorative integrity has been the guiding principle in Parks Canada’s policy for national historic sites since 1979.
Designations of national historic sites have been made for over 100 years and are products of their time. They reflect views of history from different eras and are sometimes divisive and exclusionary. Interpretations of the past are continually evolving and can lead to expanded historical understandings.
- It is recommended that the Minister direct the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to review, using a prioritization approach, existing designations so that they reflect contemporary conceptions of history and ensure the inclusion of different perspectives, histories and worldviews. In particular, in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, existing designations should be revisited to identify the historic and ongoing contribution of Indigenous peoples to Canada. In adding layers of significance to existing statements of commemorative intent, no existing designations should be erased.
Parks Canada’s Cultural Resource Management (CRM) policy provides requirements for managing cultural resources administered by Parks Canada. However, the CRM policy was revised in 2013 to provide flexibility by introducing corporate and other priorities alongside the priority consideration for ensuring commemorative integrity.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada revise the CRM policy to strengthen commemorative integrity objectives.
Parks Canada assesses commemorative integrity as part of national historic site management planning. The Agency reports annually through its Departmental Results Report on the numbers of designations, condition of assets, and Canadian support for heritage programs. In the most recent version of the State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places (2016), the assessment of effective communication of national significance, one of the pillars of commemorative integrity, has been replaced by general visitor experience indicators of satisfaction, learning, and enjoyment.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada introduce meaningful indicators to report on the state of commemorative integrity for national historic sites under its management. As part of this exercise, Parks Canada should engage local Indigenous governments in helping to develop commemorative integrity indicators and in the related monitoring.
Establishing a strong constituency for cultural heritage sites will help all Canadians better appreciate history and heritage conservation. The role of Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in this area is not well known. In the context of limited financial and human resources, commemorative integrity objectives can only be met by levering the contributions of other federal departments, other levels of government, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and other civil society actors.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada make a targeted effort to strengthen a national constituency for national historic sites by cultivating relationships with non-governmental organizations, universities, and other civil society actors; as well as within the federal government and other levels of government.
3.3 Gouvernance et leadership
Governance refers to matters of oversight, accountability, external engagement, and clarity of the mandate. Leadership refers to how the executive team leads and manages Parks Canada, and creates a culture that fosters the inclusion of ecological and commemorative integrity.
The Parks Canada Agency Act (1998) states that it is in the national interest “to ensure the commemorative integrity of national historic sites,” and “to maintain or restore the ecological integrity of national parks.” The Canada National Parks Act (2000) states: “Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of the parks.” However, it is not clear what “first priority” means. As well, there is no specific legislation that makes commemorative integrity the “first priority” of the Minister for national historic sites, as it is for ecological integrity.
- It is recommended that the Parks Canada mandate for ecological and commemorative integrity be strengthened by clarifying what exactly “first priority” means in decision making.
- It is recommended that the Minister legislate that commemorative integrity will be the first priority in the management of national historic sites to be consistent with the similar objective on ecological integrity.
The convening of a round table every two years is legislated under the Parks Canada Agency Act (1998) and was intended to ensure greater engagement and accountability regarding strategic challenges facing the organization. The Act provides for a round table of people “interested in matters for which the Agency is responsible,” resulting in advice to the Minister “on the performance of the Agency.” In practice, there has not been a long-term strategy for the choice of topics reviewed and the level of engagement undertaken. Furthermore, there is no formal mechanism to report back to stakeholders on the implementation of recommendations from previous round table reports.
- It is recommended that the Minister appoint a Chair of the Minister’s Round Table, to serve at pleasure, who will work with Parks Canada to determine future round table topics, oversee the consultation process, and monitor and report on the implementation of recommendations from round table sessions. The Minister’s Round Table reports should be tabled with the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, and consultations and reporting may be tied to other related business processes in Parks Canada.
At present, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Parks Canada does not benefit from regular interactions with deputy ministers within the federal government. Of particular importance is a closer collaboration between the CEO and the lead departments with which Parks Canada interacts (currently Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage).
- It is recommended that the CEO be integrated into the broader Deputy Minister community to facilitate discussions that may impact Parks Canada and to communicate how Parks Canada’s activities interact with the rest of the government.
Climate change will increasingly impact the integrity of national parks and national historic sites. Parks Canada can play a significant leadership role in both adapting to and mitigating the impacts through its programs and infrastructure investments.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada net operations become carbon neutral by 2030.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada develop national parks and national historic sites as sustainability hubs on behalf of the Government of Canada showcasing, for example, “greening” operations Note de bas de page 13, decarbonizing energy use and integrating public transportation; and that Parks Canada’s Long-Term Asset Strategy identify funding to support this recommendation.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada develop a communication and engagement program, informed by social, cultural and natural science as well as local and Indigenous knowledge, to inform the public about climate change actions in national parks and national historic sites.
Parks Canada is recognized as a leader among federal government agencies in building relationships with Indigenous governments and seeking their input into park management through collaborative management boards and similar bodies. Notable examples are found in Gwaii Haanas and Thaidene Nene, where shared decision-making responsibilities for management and operational decisions reflect what the Indigenous Circle of Experts (2018) describes as “ethical space.” In these arrangements, both parties (Canada and Indigenous governments) are acknowledged as decision makers, and work together based on shared objectives, mutual respect, and appreciation for the different knowledge and skills that they respectively bring to management and operations. Despite these gains, shared governance and strong relationships between Parks Canada and Indigenous governments are highly uneven across the country, and greater attention should be paid to improving relations across the system.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada extend shared governance across the system to strengthen the integration and application of ecological and commemorative integrity within national parks and national historic sites. Parks Canada may want to consider working with a group of Indigenous leaders to determine how best to operationalize this recommendation.
3.4 Knowledge and Capacity
Knowledge refers to a deep understanding gained through research, learning, engagement, sharing, experience, and communication. Strengthening knowledge and internal capacity will provide tools, capacity, and expertise to support effective decision making and foster public support.
Effective partnerships with Indigenous governments can provide a more robust set of indicators for ecological and commemorative integrity as well as more fulsome storytelling and interpretive materials/activities. Expanding Indigenous stewardship programs with Parks Canada is the best way of realizing these benefits. Furthermore, Indigenous stewardship initiatives such as the Guardians program present an opportunity to address some of the human resource constraints experienced by Parks Canada, as guardians are trained in on-the-ground monitoring and safeguarding and can enhance programming with Indigenous perspectives, knowledge, and worldviews. Functional partnerships with Indigenous stewardship initiatives can help supplement the staff already in place.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada explore every opportunity to expand Indigenous stewardship programs by having field units gauge the interest of local Indigenous governments in establishing initiatives such as the Guardians program and, if appropriate, facilitate their establishment. This could also include supporting field units in their efforts to develop better relationships with local Indigenous communities.
Determining factors that support and constrain Parks Canada’s effectiveness in maintaining ecological and commemorative integrity can be hindered by limited resources, capacities, and training. Increased collaborations with universities and other research institutions, including those within the federal government’s science and technology community, could advance successful conservation and restoration actions.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada expand its collaborations with universities and other research institutions to develop joint conservation science initiatives for natural and cultural heritage. Such collaborations will enhance a science culture at Parks Canada and allow for external peer review of processes or evidence that contribute to decision making and continuous improvement. Collaborations could also include Protected Areas Management Conferences that facilitate an interdisciplinary examination of park management and planning challenges. Parks Canada could work with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to develop specific funding programs to support such collaborations.
The emergence of diverse new ecological threats, the magnitude and pace of environmental changes, past reductions in budgets, and restrictions on fee increases have impacted the Agency’s capacity to fully respond to some aspects of natural and cultural heritage conservation.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada strengthen its analytical capacity to ensure policies, programs, and fees are designed to help meet and restore ecological and commemorative integrity objectives. Policy analysis capacity that examines the interconnected issues of ecological and commemorative integrity, partnerships, appropriations, and fees is required.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada expand its social science capacity to document more fully site-related outcomes (i.e. economic, social, and environmental) and plan for impacts related to social/global change. Integration of social and ecological science, along with local and Indigenous knowledge, is essential for advancing effective ecological and commemorative integrity decision making.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada conduct a review of its organizational structures and processes to support centres of expertise and personal development programs. These can facilitate research, monitoring, and information sharing with respect to ecological and commemorative integrity expertise and improve service capacity across the Agency. The objective is to ensure that all field units can access and retain the expertise and knowledge required.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada consider the creation of a Chief Cultural Resource position (similar to the Chief Ecosystem Scientist and Chief Social Scientist) to heighten the profile of cultural heritage expertise within Parks Canada.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada enhance its staff training practices in relation to ecological and commemorative integrity.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada revisit its assessment of ecological and commemorative integrity communications. In addition to the use of visitor experience indicators of satisfaction, learning and enjoyment, measurement of the public’s understanding of ecological and commemorative values should be refined and reinstated.
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) and the Treasury Board of Canada have signed a series of memoranda of understanding (MOA) related to scientific integrity. As a result, the Chief Science Advisor of Canada and PIPSC have jointly developed a Model Policy on Scientific Integrity that is to form the basis of department specific policies for applicable departments. In addition, the Chief Science Advisor of Canada has put out guidance on scientific integrity. The government’s direction is to “foster a culture that supports and promotes scientific integrity in the design, conduct, management, review, and communication of research, science, and related activities.” The policy details principles and conduct that will help to strengthen the role of science in government. Although Parks Canada is not subject to any of the MOAs, it has initiated the development of a scientific integrity policy.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada complete the development of a Policy on Science Integrity that aligns with the model policy while reflecting the Agency’s mandate, organization, and work.
3.5 External Engagement
Building productive and collaborative relationships with partners outside of the Agency will strengthen the bonds with stakeholder groups and contribute towards a shared approach to understanding, communicating about, and working in national parks and national historic sites.
Provinces, adjacent communities and stakeholder organizations can all play a valuable role in contributing to the enhancement of ecological and commemorative integrity.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada fully engage provincial and municipal governments and civil society organizations on transboundary concerns related to ecological and commemorative integrity. This will help to integrate Parks Canada’s ecological restoration efforts into the broader landscape level (e.g. Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative) and commemorative interpretation efforts in communities where national historic sites play a culturally significant role.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada continue to expand its natural and cultural heritage education outreach efforts, including citizen science and volunteer programs to connect more Canadians with Parks Canada’s cultural and natural heritage.
Licensees, operators, and contractors can play a complementary role in ensuring ecological and commemorative integrity through their planning and operations.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada encourage licensees, operators, and contractors to undertake training for their staff that acknowledges the importance of ecological and commemorative integrity in their operations, and conveys these concepts in the visitor service activities they conduct. Licensees, operators, and contractors operating in national parks and national historic sites should be engaged in the implementation of their respective park or site’s management plan, ensuring commercial activities are compatible.
- It is recommended that Parks Canada explore partnerships with licensees, operators, and contractors to encourage their commitment to sustainability, including the eventual achievement of carbon neutrality by 2030.
A. Independent Working Group
The Working Group is comprised of a chair and six members chosen by the Minister with broadly based expertise as detailed below.
Peter Robinson — chair of the Working Group.
Peter Robinson began his career as a park ranger working in wilderness areas across British Columbia, where he was decorated for bravery by the Governor General of Canada. After his park career, he became the CEO at BC Housing, and later the CEO of Mountain Equipment Co-op. Most recently he led the David Suzuki Foundation through a decade of work on climate change, marine and terrestrial conservation, and public education.
Yaprak Baltacioglu — responsible for providing expertise on public sector governance and decision making.
Yaprak Baltacioglu is an accomplished public sector leader with over 25 years of progressive federal government experience shaping strategic policy, overseeing programs, contributing on many senior committees, and impacting government affairs at the highest levels of decision making. Ms. Baltacioglu has served as the trusted advisor to four prime ministers and numerous ministers, Cabinets and departmental officials on programs, issues, legislation and policy in areas including the economy, treasury, transportation, infrastructure, security, agriculture, healthcare, and the environment. She is an expert in legislative/regulatory issues, policy development, international/government relations, and the workings of government, including its principles for sound governance and government-wide policy.
Christina Cameron, Ph. D. — responsible for providing expertise on heritage conservation.
Dr. Christina Cameron holds the Canada Research Chair in Built Heritage at the Université of Montréal where she directs a research program on heritage conservation in the School of Architecture. She previously served as a heritage executive with Parks Canada Agency for more than thirty-five years providing national direction for Canada’s historic places with a focus on heritage conservation and education. She has written extensively since the 1970s on Canadian architecture, heritage management, and world heritage issues. She has been actively involved in UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention as Head of the Canadian delegation (1990–2008) and as Chairperson (1990, 2008).
Dr. Elizabeth Halpenny — responsible for providing expertise on sustainable tourism, recreation, and protected areas management.
Dr. Elizabeth Halpenny has a Ph.D. in Recreation and Leisure Studies from the University of Waterloo (2006), a Master’s in Environmental Studies from York University (2000), and a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from Wilfrid Laurier University (1992). Prior to her work as an academic, Dr. Halpenny worked with an international NGO, the International Ecotourism Society (2000–2005) as Research and Workshop Coordinator. Dr. Halpenny conducts research in the areas of tourism, marketing, environmental psychology, and protected areas management. Some of her current research projects include examining the use, acceptance, and impact of mobile digital technologies among tourists (i.e. festival patrons and protected area visitors); investigating the impact of world heritage designation and other park-related brands on travel decision making; and, exploring individuals’ attitudes towards and stewardship of natural areas.
Steven Nitah — responsible for providing expertise related to Indigenous peoples, reconciliation, and protected areas.
Steven Nitah’s career has thus far been dedicated to the advancement of Indigenous nations and the resurgence of Indigenous knowledge and governance as key features of ecological, cultural and economic sustainability. He was Chief of the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, President and CEO of Densoline Corporation and an MLA in the General Assembly of the North West Territories. Currently, through his consultancy, he is acting as Chief Negotiator for the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation on the establishment of Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve and Territorial Protected Area resulting in the protection of 26,380 km2 of traditional territory. He is also an advisor to the Indigenous Leadership Initiative and Ducks Unlimited Canada and is working with the NWT Treaty 8 Tribal Corporation on their land use planning process as they negotiate their lands, resources and governance relationships with both federal and territorial governments. He has previously played a number of other leadership roles, ranging from CBC North TV Associate Producer to liaison in the mining industry to core member of the Indigenous Circle of Experts to support Pathway to Canada Target 1. Through these positions, he has developed significant expertise in Treaty and Aboriginal Rights, nation-to-nation relationship building and cultivated a strong ability to work across disciplines with a variety of individuals to promote synergistic relationships between First Nations, industry, and crown governments.
Dr. Catherine Potvin —responsible for providing expertise on biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and climate change.
Dr. Potvin holds the Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) on Climate Change Mitigation and Tropical Forests and is a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s Academy of Science. She has been working on the link between biodiversity and climate change since her Ph.D. research, at Duke University in the mid-1980s. Her expertise ranges from plant physiological ecology to plant community responses to elevated CO2 concentration, biodiversity, and ecosystem functions, and biodiversity conservation in the context of land use change. Her work on tropical rainforest conservation focusses on reducing uncertainties around estimates of forest carbon stocks relying on participatory methods.
Dr. Munir Sheikh — responsible for providing expertise on relevant public policy issues, such as the interaction of economic and environmental/ecological conservation.
Dr. Munir Sheikh served the Government of Canada for over 35 years, rising to the senior-most civil service position of a Deputy Minister. He advised many Canadian Prime Ministers and Ministers of Finance on economic, fiscal and tax matters. His last position with the government was as the Chief Statistician of Canada.
After his retirement, he was appointed a Research Professor at Carleton University where he teaches public policy to graduate students.
B. Statement from the Banff Indigenous Knowledge Brainstorming Session
A small group, under the guidance of Steven Nitah, met in Banff in January 2019 to discuss how Indigenous peoples can help Parks Canada achieve its mandate to ensure ecological and commemorative integrity in decision making. The group concluded with the following statement.
National parks are a highly valued Canadian institution. Their ecological and commemorative integrity is essential to the story of our country and the health of nature and our cultures. Bringing together western science (which is based on measurement) and Indigenous science (which is based on relationship) will improve both ecological and commemorative integrity. Healthy nature inside our national parks can serve as a source for restoring the health and wildlife populations of the broader landscape. Fulsome telling of the story of place and understanding of place through foundational Indigenous knowledge will improve management and visitor experience. Bringing together Indigenous knowledge systems and western science can contribute to a healthier and expanded national park system. Understanding local language and its relationship to place will deepen the understanding of place and inform management through helping identify keystone species, ecological relationships, and the cultural relationships that can sustain the resilience of biodiversity and cultural diversity. Place-based laws and protocols combined with western science should be brought together to improve ecological and cultural integrity and shared responsibility for establishing a functional relationship between peoples and place both inside national parks and across the broader landscape.
Recognizing that national parks sit on traditional territories of Indigenous peoples with place-based laws and histories, we recommend bringing these forward to merge with the goals of national parks to achieve ecological and cultural integrity in the national interest of all Canadians and Indigenous peoples.
Reconciliation and Section 35 involve both rights and responsibilities. With national parks, we can achieve a fundamental goal of reconciliation stated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians from an Aboriginal perspective also requires reconciliation with the natural world. If human beings resolve problems between themselves but continue to destroy the natural world, their reconciliation remains incomplete… Reconciliation will never occur unless we are reconciled with the earth.
This can be illustrated in Leroy Little Bear’s statement in the National Geographic Guide to Canada’s National Parks (2nd ed.):
“When one comes to appreciate the paradigm of Blackfoot people and applies that paradigm to relationships with the land, one will find that sustainability, conservation, leaving the land as pristine as possible, leaving the land to bring about an ecological balance, and having humans fit themselves into the ecological balance are renewal goals of Blackfoot society. It seems that, in many ways, national parks have the same goals. One can say, if the Blackfoot paradigm were applied to all of our lands in Canada, all of Canada would become a ‘national park.”