Wapusk National Park Use Regulations – Why celebrate?

Cam Elliott
Superintendent, Wapusk National Park & Manitoba North National Historic Sites

Picking berries
Picking berries
© Parks Canada

Usually people don’t view the implementation of new rules and regulations as a reason to rejoice, but in the case of the Wapusk National Park Use Regulations, which came into effect on March 26, 2010, there is reason to celebrate.

The Wapusk regulations are unique in Canada’s national park system. By allowing certain activities customarily prohibited in other national parks, they reflect and respect the unique history and traditional local use of the Wapusk National Park (NP) lands.

The commitment to the distinct local use of Wapusk NP was made by the Government of Canada in the Federal- Provincial Agreement to Establish Wapusk National Park, an agreement that grew out of public consultations in the Churchill area. Certain activities are generally prohibited in national parks: hunting, trapping, gathering natural products from the land, using all terrain vehicles to access park lands, and using cabins to support these activities. However, the Wapusk Park Establishment Agreement (1996) recognizes these as traditional user activities for the longtime residents of Churchill at the time the agreement was signed. Aboriginal and treaty rights in the park, continuation of traditional use of park lands by First Nation people, and continuing specified traditional uses of park lands and resources by eligible non-Aboriginal people are outlined in the agreement and are allowed through the park use regulations.

In short, the Wapusk Park Use Regulations, which respect the acceptable activities as outlined in the Wapusk Park Establishment Agreement, take precedence over the National Park General Regulations that prohibit these activities. Having the tools and knowledge to keep oneself safe when on the land in polar bear country is second nature to the residents of the Hudson Bay coast in Manitoba. The Wapusk Park Establishment Agreement has provisions for carrying firearms for protection from polar bears. Parks Canada recognises this as a need in all areas frequented by polar bears, not just in Wapusk NP. The National Parks Wildlife Regulations currently being developed will allow eligible individuals to carry firearms for protection in all the northern national parks and national park reserves that have polar bears. Interim Guidelines for this were adopted in January, 2010.

Through the Wapusk National Park Use Regulations and the Interim Guidelines for Use of Firearms (to be replaced by the new National Parks Wildlife Regulations) all of the provisions committed to in the Wapusk Park Establishment Agreement will have been implemented. March 26, 2010 is truly a day to celebrate.