This report is of the first phase of Parks Canada 15 year “Vision Plan” for National Parks in Canada. The main four categories of workshops included, restoring ecological integrity, protecting cultural heritage, enhancing visitor experience and working together.
Attendees came from Government (BC Parks, CRD Parks, Islands Trust Fund, Islands Trust Council), User Groups (Council of BC Yacht Clubs, Soiuth Island Sea Kayak Association of BC, Outdoor Club of Victoria, Club Tread, West Coast Trekking, Hanggliding and Paragliding Association/Island Soaring Society, Sidney Harbour Cruises Ltd., Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre), Other Interests (Pender Islands Conservancy, Mayne Island Conservancy, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Marine Life Sanctuaries Society, Gulf Islands Centre for Ecological Learning, Glenlynon Norfolk School Society, Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club Volunteer Marine Hosts, Mahoi House Volunteer Hosts, Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce/Tourism Association, Saturna Island Tourism Association,
Pender Islands Chamber of Commerce, Pender Ilsands Museum Society, Saturn Islands Heritage Committee, Pender Islands-Parks Canada Liaison Committee, Saturna Island- Parks Canada Liason Committee).
Conspicuously absent were representatives from any aboriginal groups or anyone under the age of 55. Aboriginal issues are going to have separate meetings directly between Parks and native groups. The workshops afforded opportunities to discuss a wide range of issues amongst a good cross-section of participants. Most marine interests revolved around usage and access to the parks themselves. Kayakers wanted places to park their vehicles overnight and yachters wanted to ensure moorage/anchoring/wharves. MLSS was one of the few groups to bring up the need to integrate the marine component of the Parks strategy to the land component. There didn’t seem to be an overall awareness of the Marine Spatial Planning Atlas which provides an excellent overview of marine usage and marine information. This lack of awareness of the atlas seemed to encompass most of the groups attending, including Parks. MLSS strongly encouraged all groups to review the atlas.
As much as the first phase of consultation revolves around establishing the Vision, it seemed it would be wise to consider the challenges of where the vision comes up against implementation issues. The most significant challenge seems to revolve around initiating a policy that can be applied to such a wide variety of different parks. The workshop participants were all sensitive to ecological impacts and how their own usage would affect parks. The majority of participants were sensitive to maintaining the ecological integrity of the parks. That said…there seemed to be minimal interest in marine species.
When the National Marine Conservation Areas was discussed, it was always deferred to political will. We are disappointed that Parks Canada has spent so much time promoting the creation of NMCAs only to defer it to their political masters for implementation. There are some serious concerns that this 15 year vision will also get stalled when it’s time for implementation. It did become evident that Parks does not have the ability or authority to implement the NMCA. No one seems to remember that this plan was initiated by Minister Anderson on behalf of then Prime Minister Jean Chretien. The NMCA program had numerous meetings, workshops, and meetings all introduced by Parks Canada. Now when it’s time to actually implement the program, Parks is distancing itself from it. This is a clear indicator for MLSS to put pressure on the Federal Government to fulfill its’ long forgotten promise to implement National Marine Conservation Areas.
The lack of young attendees is an obvious oversight in the process. We are entering an age when social media and digital media production play an integral part in reaching our youth. The attendees at this workshop were the wrong demographic to address these issues. As Parks will be using these workshops as guides as to create a Parks Vision, it will be missing several of the integration tools being used by today’s youth. There wasn’t a lot of discussion about i-pod applications, interactive websites or digital media. This will need to be addressed if the vision is going to be that of our upcoming Canadians. Most of the participants of this workshop will be in their 70s and 80s before the 15 year plan is complete. This means that the plan will likely not address the concerns of today’s youth and tomorrows adults.
One of the main concerns revolved around community engagement. It was clear that community involvement and consultation was a key concern when initiating policy. Once again it seems counter-productive to go through the consultations without the inclusion of aboriginal groups sitting at the same tables. We need to initiate the engagement from day 1 to be effective. Although bringing 19 native groups to the table would prove to be unwieldy, it would reveal all of the issues at once. Doing it separately will result in a divisive process and not allow everyone to engage and understand (or at least hear), each other’s concerns. The upcoming aboriginal workshop will no doubt face the same problem with none of today’s participants attending their workshop.
MLSS was effective in raising some of the marine issues in Parks, without having the implementation of the NMCA strategy in place. This missing segment of the workshops leave’s Parks playing catch-up if and when the NMCA is implemented. It is one of the most important components and is still being ignored. MLSS will have to put an effort into pushing on the Federal Government to implement the NMCA program and integrate it immediately into the Vision Parks Canada is creating. To undertake this vision without it is a serious issue.
Roy Mulder, President, Marine Life Sanctuaries Society