Memories - CPAWS

by Jacques Gérin

Financial pressures in the 90s pushed Parks Canada into greater commercial approaches, often at the expense of its mandate to protect for future generations.

In 1998, CPAWS made strong representations to the Minister responsible for National Parks to correct this situation. At CPAWS’ suggestion, the Minister appointed an 11 member Panel to, “identify issues, examine Parks Canada’s approach to maintaining ecological integrity and provide recommendations for improvement.”

This CPAWS initiative and the Minister’s commitment led to amendments to the National Parks Act to make it absolutely clear that Ecological Integrity is the first priority in managing national parks.

The Panel on Ecological Integrity of Canada’s National Parks, which I had the privilege to chair, made its mark by the relations it established with Parks Canada people, aboriginal communities and citizens and by the support it received from the Minister, the Honourable Sheila Copps, who, on making the Panel’s Report public, declared “This report will not be studied, it will be implemented.”

Parks Canada did indeed take strong action to implement the Panel’s recommendations. It was an important turning point for national parks.

In 2010 the J.B.Harkin Award was presented to the Panel on Ecological Integrity of Canada’s National Parks in recognition of the long term impact of its recommendations and for “for its success in integrating ecological integrity into the legislation, management and science of Canada’s National Parks.” Panelists included: Louis Bélanger, Stephanie Cairns, Jacques Gérin (Chair), Luise Hermanutz, Michael Hough, F. Henry Lickers, Thomas D. Nudds, Juri Peepre, Paul F. Wilkinson, Stephen Woodley, Pamela Wright (Vice Chair ).

Today, CPAWS worries anew that recent economic pressures upon Parks Canada are putting at risk the strict application of its mandate to protect.

Jacques Gérin
Interim Executive Director, CPAWS (2006)
Chair, Ecological Integriy Panel (1998-2000)
Associate Deputy Minister Northern Development (1985-1989)
Deputy Minister of Environment (1982-1985)