Letters regarding the dismissal of Dr. John Wilmshurst

Updated July 4, 2015

It’s all about money in our parks

Posted from The Jasper Local  July 1, 2015

Does Parks Canada recognize the path they are going down?

It is with deep sadness that I learned of the recent dismissal of Dr. John Wilmshurst as the head of Resource Conservation in JNP. John was dismissed last week “without cause,” which in government “new speak” means that he was not dancing to the tune that the current administration is playing on the jukebox.

In recent years Parks management have shifted their priorities from ecological integrity to enhancing attractions and developing visitor experiences in the Parks. This shift is thought to make national parks more relevant to Canadians and provide attractions which will bring more visitors and their money to the parks. It’s all about money!

In this shift they have fallen into the trap of dreaming up an ever increasing stream of   new ideas to attract more visitors without considering if these activities are even appropriate to the parks or what the impacts on the park, animals and environment might be.

The Harper government and Parks Canada have been putting science under the microscope for years now and only support science when it supports the current political agenda. Often staff members who dare to speak up are muzzled or sidelined by management.

John Wilmshurst is one of these people. He is a scientist and a man of integrity, principles and values. He stood strongly for the environment and national parks and felt that he had a moral and ethical duty to speak up.

He paid the price for this integrity.

Stand tall John and be proud, we are with you.

Sincerely yours, Terry Winkler (Parks Canada employee until 2012)


Connecting observations

Posted by:  Posted date: June 24, 2015 In: ArchiveLetters To The Editor |

Dear Editor,

My heart sank into deep sadness when I learned that Dr. John Wilmshurst had been fired as the Head of Resource Conservation in Jasper National Park.

I feel the pain and tough implications this has for the family as much as it has for this National Park and our community.

John is a highly skilled, smart man with high values and standards for ecological and personal integrity, people skills that allowed him to rebuild a team out of a group of employees that were left shaken and demoralized after the dubious staff cuts of 2012 and he understands the essence and fibre needed to create community fabric.

These elements put together grow resilience—something either Parks Canada or this current government don’t seem to value, because people displaying qualities such as John displayed can’t be manipulated or “bought” easily, so “best” to cut them out; this way the rest of the organization will go back without question to the new agenda of “attracting more money” rather than being prudent about protecting this National Park and our community for those who come after our time.

Who do we have left as genuine mentors for the greater good of wholeness in this National Park?

When will we stand together? What has to happen for us to stand for each other, rather than our own personal agenda? What has to die for us to move from “me” to “we”?

The divide and conquer method currently being applied will kill us all one by one and it will not stop within the organization of Parks Canada, it will affect Jasper and our country in its entirety.

I know most don’t want to hear this.

Can we finally learn from the animals in this Park? It seems to me the elk stand together.

Can we make the connection from wolf predation/caribou to visitor experience—big business/integrity?

Can we make the connection from cougar mother/juvenile cat (and it’s death) to mentor/young inexperienced or silenced staff?

I could come up with more of those. All along our wildlife has been trying to teach us about how we humans are connected to the wildness of life and instead we “manage” in strange ways, and those like John who are awake get “cut out” so not to disrupt the slumber and comfort of others—sad—or we could choose to wake up.

John, our heart is with you and your family. Stand proud and tall, you have every reason for it.

Ursula Winkler
Jasper, Alta.

Fired for what reason?

Posted by:  Posted date: June 17, 2015 In: ArchiveLetters To The Editor | comment : 0

Dear Editor,

Jasper National Park’s Manager of Resource Conservation has been fired for no stated reason but anyone who knows Dr. Wilmshurst is well aware of the great love and deep concern that he has for this park. So we may presume that he was fired because he chose to carry out his job according to his high principles, extensive knowledge and considerable experience to fulfill Parks Canada’s mandate to protect Jasper National Park for future generations.

Whether this demonstrably underhanded order ultimately came from the federal government or senior Parks Canada staff in Ottawa is irrelevant. The faceless individual who took this step is part of a bureaucracy that has become so poisoned with suspicion and intolerance that anyone who does their job according to what they believe is best for a national park is now in danger of facing this kind of draconian measure.

There is honour in Dr. Wilmshurst being fired for following the high standards of protection for Canada’s revered national parks. Nothing but dishonour can be ascribed to those who see fit to getting him out of the way so they can follow the government agenda without question or conscience.

The federal government hand in hand with powerful business interests has brutally crippled a once-proud department. Thousands of staff have either lost their jobs or voluntarily left the now noxious atmosphere of these magnificent areas protected over a century ago by a far-sighted government to become an integral part of Canada’s heritage and psyche.

If we are not to lose these areas altogether to commercialization we need to ensure that highly principled staff like Dr. Wilmshurst are permitted to voice their concerns so Parks Canada may begin to return to its mandate to protect these wild places and their wildlife for future generations of Canadians and visitors from around the world.

Jill Seaton (Chair)
Jasper Environmental Association

There’s good reason to worry

Posted by:  Posted date: June 17, 2015 In: ArchiveLetters To The Editor | comment : 0

Dear Editor,

Another cold, grey pallor has settled down on the town of Jasper, another unsettling and unnerving quiet smothers the June streets. We all feel the icy cold stabs of disbelief, shock and outrage as it whips through the town, with a bite more vicious than a December north wind—the unprecedented dismissal of JNP employee John Wilmshurst has stunned the JNP family and the community of Jasper.

I grew up in JNP and in a Park Warden family; until this date, there has never been such a perplexing and gut wrenching act, as the recent dismissal of John Wilmshurst, a good and honourable man, who for five years was the science coordinator for the Mountain Parks, and recently (in old time Warden lingo), the Chief Park Warden of JNP.

The big question is WHY? But here’s where things get confusing; severely vexing with shades of questionable political grey. Many of us are concerned about the way things are now being conducted, with regards to managing our national parks. How can a man as highly regarded and respected as John be treated in such a disrespectful fashion? What could he have done to warrant this dismissal? Some speculate he was a marked man. Could he have challenged the dogma of a paranoid and protective government?

Many of us are aware that PC staff are ordered “not to talk”, trained PC media personnel spin a coloured yarn with efficient brain washing, interwoven with layers of secrecy that seem to be insidiously attached to managing our national parks.

John Wilmshurst is a decent man that shrink wraps integrity and honesty around his thin frame. During the PC open house in 2013, over 200 winter users of JNP, packed toques and merino wool into the basement of the Crimson Hotel. The heated topic was caribou conservation and why PC was closing a vast majority of JNP to winter users. He stood up, with hundreds of upset eyes boring into him; he explained and defended PC’s position with humour and conviction. I could see the inner frustration build, as John, the scientist tried to explain the complexities concerning the importance of caribou conservation. He passionately said, “I’m not going to give up on a single animal.”

I’ve worked on many trail related matters with John; he was on one side of the table, in a PC uniform, and I on the other side, trying to defend and promote trail use. These sides often clash; it takes effort and perseverance to understand each other, but at the end of the day, we remained friends and shared many trail and street side laughs. I will really miss John.

What were the real reasons behind the dismissal of John Wilmshurst? If he was terminated for political reasons, the words of Shakespeare come to mind, “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark” and there is good reason to be worried.

Loni Klettl
Jasper, Alta.

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