Parks Canada Scientists

Updated September 23, 2015

John Wilmshurst, a resource conservation manager with Parks Canada, speaks in May 2014 about the receding glaciers of the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park. JEFF MCINTOSH / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Pressure rising against the firing of Parks Canada scientists

In an unprecedented open letter, more than 100 former Parks Canada employees and scientists are protesting the firing of a respected Jasper Park scientist and the “deep fear instilled” among those who remain.

The group is also protesting recent development decisions, including the expansion of Lake Louise ski resort, saying they erode parks policies that demand ecological integrity be protected based on a scientific approach.

Jasper Park manager John Wilmshurst was fired in mid June. No reasons were given and the veteran Parks Canada scientist has not spoken publicly.

“The reason for Dr. Wilmshurst’s firing is unknown,” the letter says. “But it appears consistent with the purging of science-based management taking place in the national parks of Canada.”

A decision last month announcing the Lake Louise development didn’t reflect the scientific evidence presented about the proposal, said Nik Lopoukhine, retired director general for National Parks Directorate, Parks Canada.

“The issue here is the broader question of scientific staff told not to speak, and environmental policies being eroded,” he said in an interview Wednesday morning.

“The final straw was the August announcement on Lake Louise expansion — we decided we need to step and say something.”

The letter asks the Liberals, New Democrats and Green parties to outline what commitments they are prepared to make “to protect and restore” the ecological integrity of the parks.

“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,” says the letter.

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