Open Letter from former Parks Canada Scientists and Employees

Updated September 24, 2015

Restoring Science in Canada’s National Parks and National Historic Sites

An Open Letter to the Leaders of the New Democratic Party of Canada, Liberal Party of Canada, and the Green Party of Canada as well as the Media

September 23, 2015

Dear Hon. May, Mulcair, and Trudeau,

As former Parks Canada staff, we are deeply troubled by the seemingly unjustified

and arbitrary firing in mid-June of Dr. John Wilmshurst, who was the Resource

Conservation Manager in Jasper National Park.

Dr. Wilmshurst is a highly respected scientist and well-regarded manager. His career

with Parks Canada spanned just 15 years, yet in this relatively short time, he made

very significant contributions to the advancement of ecological integrity within the

national park system. As a Grasslands Ecologist based out of Winnipeg, he developed

and led an integrated engagement and research project designed to better understand

and communicate native prairie ecosystems. In 2008, he transferred to Jasper National

Park where he assumed responsibilities as Ecosystem Science Leader, then as Caribou

Program Project Manager, and finally as Resource Conservation Manager. All the

while, he also served as an adjunct professor at Laval University and University of

Saskatchewan.

In recognition of his outstanding work, the Agency bestowed on him its most

prestigious honour, the CEO Award of Excellence, in 2009 for his contribution to the

development of principles and guidelines for ecological protection in Canada’s

national parks. More recently, in 2012, he was given the Public Service Award for

conceiving and leading a restoration and monitoring program for Grasslands National

Park.

The reason for Dr. Wilmshurst’s firing is unknown but it appears consistent with the

purging of science-based management taking place in the national parks of Canada.

Like a spectre, the threat of these seemingly arbitrary firings has haunted not just the

corridors of Parks Canada but also those of other federal departments. As those who

dare to speak up on issues related to the ecological integrity of the national parks or

the commemorative integrity of the national historic sites are removed from their

positions, a deep fear is instilled to ensure that those remaining toe the party line.

Canadians are proud of their national parks and national historic sites. They have

entrusted them to successive governments to care for as irreplaceable legacies and to

ensure that these special places are passed along to future generations in as good, if

not better, condition then when received. They understand that maintaining ecological

or commemorative integrity can only be achieved with science and that this science

must be integrated into park and site management decision-making. They also

rightfully expect that science to be communicated back to them. A government that

blocks, twists, or diverts this communication commits an undemocratic act by

denying their citizens the knowledge to make informed decisions.

Therefore, we are asking you to state publicly commitments you are prepared to make

to protect and restore the ecological and commemorative integrity of our national

parks and historic sites if you and your party form the next government. In particular,

what are you prepared to do to restore science capacity to Parks Canada and other

federal departments so they can carry out and communicate social, ecological and

traditional ecological knowledge? Would you undertake an investigation into what

appear to be politically motivated dismissals of scientists and managers within the

Agency under the Harper government and, where appropriate, offer amnesty or an

apology to the affected individuals?

Additionally, we urge all Canadians to ask these questions of the candidates in their

riding and then to seriously consider these matters when they vote on Oct. 19.

 

The letter is signed by 120 former Parks Canada staff employees including;

Bruce Amos, Director-General, National Parks Directorate,

Nik Lopoukhine, Director General of National Parks

Michael Porter, Director General, National Parks Directorate;

Pat Thomson, Director-General, National Parks Directorate;

Stephen Woodley, Chief Scientist, Ottawa;

 

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