Capstone Team G: Applying the RAD Framework in Climate Informed Planning and Decision Making

This post was written to report the work of Capstone Team G, one of the teams of Park Leaders involved in the Winter 2021 Park Leaders Development Program

With the growing pressure of climate change, cultural and natural heritage sites in Canada’s parks and protected areas are facing continuously greater challenges. Parks leaders and stakeholders are having to problem solve on tight timelines, tighter budgets, and with the knowledge that many Canadians have a vested interest in the outcome of their decisions. Our capstone team was interested in understanding the challenges that come with making these decisions, and ways in which to simplify complex decision making processes.

Our interest began with wanting to explore both the natural and cultural impacts of climate change. Often, cultural landmarks are left out of the discussion when talking about the impacts of climate change on Canada’s landscape. However, valuable cultural sites, such as the centuries old Totem Pole stand at Haida Gwaii, are facing possible destruction as a direct result of rising sea levels. Important decisions are being made on whether or not to preserve these landmarks, and how to do so.

Our group was first inspired by the infographic created by Capstone Team A in the Fall 2020 CPCIL eResidency. Capstone Team A had created an infographic outlining climate-informed planning and decision making when responding to climate change in Canada’s parks and protected areas. Our goal was to further their study by focusing on one decision making tool to see how it would fare in climate-informed decision making. 

 

During the winter 2021 eResidency, we learned about the Resist-Accept-Direct (RAD) framework for decision making. Published in December 2020, the RAD framework is a decision making tool created by the National Park Service. The decision maker has three options when approaching a problem: resist change, accept change, or direct change. The RAD framework lays out clear avenues of thought when making climate change-related decisions. Throughout the months that followed the eResidency, our team researched many decision making tools, however the RAD framework continued to prove the most relevant when approaching natural and cultural heritage.

 

With this in mind, and the permission of Capstone Team A, we decided to update their infographic to integrate the RAD framework and include cultural resources as well as natural resources. We found the RAD framework could be tested using real conservation case studies. We also found in our exploration of decision making tools, that while many tools exist, few are tailored specifically to climate change, and even fewer address climate change as it relates to natural and cultural heritage sites. This is an area where little work has been done. We think that expanding upon this topic will not only be of interest in the future, but necessary to preserve, or accept the loss of, Canada’s natural and cultural heritage landmarks.

Open .pdf of Infographic

 Decision making in Canada’s parks and protected areas will only get more complex with the increasing pressure of climate change. The infographic that we have created can contribute to park leadership by laying out a simple, yet effective method of working through difficult decisions. It also shows that these decisions do not need to be made in isolation. Many leaders across Canada are facing similar issues, and coming together to discuss seemingly impossible decisions will help foster a dialogue in which ideas can be shared, problems can be solved, and ultimately, responsible and tough decisions can be made.

 

Moving forward, we believe next steps could include:

  1. Sharing the updated graphic across the parks network via the CPCIL website 
  2. Our team sharing the infographic internally within our park organizations, and offering our cohort to do the same
  3. Future CPCIL Capstone groups looking further into case studies, and put this theory into practice with the help of site managers and stakeholders. Examples our team explored to determine the usefulness of decision making tools include:
  • The declining Woodland Caribou herd in Jasper National Park due to altered predator-prey dynamics, human disturbance, and habitat loss.
  • Rising sea levels impacting the existence of the totem poles in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.
  • Other sensitive climate change impacted examples currently under review with various park agencies.

Capstone Team H: Engaging Youth Through Parks

The Winter 2021 Cohort of the CPCIL Park Leaders Development Program presented a unique challenge to all participants: connecting entirely in an online space during the peak of a global pandemic. This program typically presents plenty of challenges even when operating as usual: connecting with other park leaders from different parks organizations, all at different points in their careers, and with different worldviews and experiences. This year, none of our cohort ever got to meet each other in person!

How does a Capstone Team of four different people from four different parks organizations unite and find common interests? Fortunately for the Winter 2021 Capstone Team H, we were able to overcome the distance, time zones, and occasional technological issues to focus on one topic that we all care about: youth engagement in our parks and protected spaces.

In March of 2021 during our two-week eResidency, our group was thrown together and had to decide, through nothing but a series of creative team building activities and conversations, what we thought our Capstone Project might focus on. Our Capstone Team has representation from four different agencies: Parks Canada, Sépaq (Québec), Ontario Parks, and Alberta Parks. We spoke a lot about themes that were important to all of us: reciprocity (giving to and receiving value from parks); connecting (and reconnecting) people with parks and protected spaces; youth; and the inspiration we took from some of the amazing guest speakers we saw during the eResidency.

One common theme we were all able to identify from our individual journeys in Parks is that of youth involvement (or lack thereof) in parks and protected spaces. We all agreed that young people – whether they work for our organizations, recreate in our spaces, or just care about nature and the environment – are critical to informing the future direction of our organizations. We know that Canadian youth have valuable opinions about issues related to our parks and protected spaces, such as inclusion, diversity, accessibility, resource management, and visitation. We also know that youth have a desire to be involved in our organizations and spaces, but sometimes encounter barriers that deter them from engaging to the fullest.

From these conversations we developed our Capstone Team idea: a Youth Council for Parks. We developed a “poster” that summarized our vision and what we hoped a Youth Council could achieve.

While the idea of a pan-Canadian Youth Council for Parks’ agencies was appealing, we realized very quickly that the scope of this idea was far too broad for us to tackle over a few months. Our team engaged in several thought-provoking discussions which led us to narrow our focus to a project that kept the core values and purpose of our initial idea but was much more manageable for our timeframe. We developed the following goal statement: Things would be better if parks agencies had a tool to keep youth more engaged with Parks’ goals and values, allowing current, former, and future/prospective youth workers to connect with one another and with mentors or other park agencies, share thoughts and ideas, and participate in meaningful projects and dialogue.

Our Capstone Team had a number of personal observations and theories as to why youth may or may not engage fully with parks’ agencies, as well as many ideas about how to connect and engage youth further, but we wanted to hear these thoughts directly from young people. We finally settled on developing a survey which could be administered to youth to assess youth values, concerns, and ideas surrounding parks and protected areas. With a limited timeline to prepare, launch, and evaluate survey results, our team created a short survey of 11 questions and distributed the survey within our networks. The survey was conducted from July 16 – July 26 and was intended to provide baseline results showing general trends.

When the survey period closed and we got a chance to look at the results, we were blown away by the quality and depth of responses. Respondents generally validated a lot of the initial observations and ideas that our Capstone Team had proposed, but also revealed deeper understanding of park issues and a greater passion for parks than we might have expected.

Despite respondents having self-identified as avid users of parks both personally and professionally, several barriers to their continued or increased enjoyment of parks and protected areas were identified. These included distance and accessibility, cost, time, overcrowding, and mistreatment by visitors. Many respondents are seeking improved job opportunities, career continuity, and improved accessibility to parks and protected area systems. Most respondents also clearly indicated an interest in having more opportunities to engage with other youth in parks and connect about jobs, training, and diverse work experiences.

Though the initial results are limited and not statistically representative, Capstone Team H believes that a survey of this nature could and should be developed further and would be an excellent tool for the CPC, CPCIL, or other parks’ agencies to employ. The data that can be gathered from our youth workers and Canadian youth in general will be invaluable to the future direction of parks’ agencies and ensuring that parks remain an accessible place for all. The youth we surveyed demonstrated thoughtfulness in their responses and proved that the next generation of park leaders are already out there. The survey and resulting data can be utilized to support the development of a community of practice for youth to engage in park leadership, by offering an open safe space for dialogue, collaboration, and to encourage youth continuity and growth.

Capstone F: Pathways to Cultural Competency

This post was written to report the work of Capstone Team F, one of the teams of Park Leaders involved in the Winter 2021 Park Leaders Development Program

Team Members: Sarah Boyle, Brendan Buggeln, Megan Bull, Rachel Goldstein, Caroline Ipeelie-Qiatsuk, Tobi Kiesewalter

The federal and provincial governments of Canada have made commitments to advance reconciliation and renew relationships with Indigenous peoples based on rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. The road towards reconciliation is inevitably complex and difficult, and should involve the participation of all Canadians, on both a personal and professional level.

Every park, marine protected area, and heritage site administered by a parks organization in Canada is located within the traditional and ancestral territory of Indigenous peoples. This creates both an opportunity and a responsibility for parks leaders to advance reconciliation and foster respectful and positive relationships with Indigenous partners and communities.

Capstone Team F acknowledged that many non-Indigenous conservation staff, including at senior levels, have limited knowledge about how to develop cultural competency. While many staff want to learn more, they are often unsure where to start or become overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of resources, especially those designed for staff already experienced in working with Indigenous partners. As high-level discussions of reconciliation within parks continue to advance, there is a risk that the knowledge ‘ceiling’ may leave the ‘floor’ behind unless appropriate tools are available to help all parks employees develop baseline cultural competencies.

Capstone Team F’s goal was to create a collection of reconciliation-focused resources which allowed learners to proceed at their own pace. The resources were curated to allow for a natural progression from foundational learning on Indigenous communities and the impacts of colonialism toward constructive action to advance truth and reconciliation. To achieve this, the Team developed a user- friendly resource package, comprised of a thematically-organized database of resources and a suite of 12 learning pathways, all of which feature an organized set of resources centred around a particular theme. Most pathways are designed for learners with limited background of Canada-Indigenous relations, and each lists a Truth and Reconciliation Commission “Call to Action” which it aims to support.

The database and example pathways are by no means comprehensive, but provide a solid basis from which to begin a learning journey. The resource package may be used by supervisors to coordinate training sessions for staff (though it should never replace in-person training or the hiring of an Indigenous consultant), or it may be used by individual parks leaders for independent learning. The resource package is designed to develop cultural competency to help parks leaders advance reconciliation in their personal lives, in their professional relationships, and in their work. Above all, the resource package is intended to be a springboard for further learning, and to provide individual motivation for advancing reconciliation at a team, departmental or organizational level.

Recommendations for expanding the scope and increasing the impact of this work include:

Housing the database and learning pathways on a learning platform, such as the CPCIL website, where other users can continue to update the content

  • Testers, or site users, could provide feedback to help refine the tool, with the potential to add in a comment section or rating system so people can rate their experience with each resource as they use them.
  • The webpage would ideally be made publicly available, to make it accessible to a broader audience (e.g., teachers, municipal staff, health care workers).
  • Expansion of the database and pathways or the addition of other learning tools by future Capstone teams
  • A number of themes could continue to be explored and have pathways developed for them in the future, including but not limited to:
    • Northern cultural competency
    • Ethical Space
    • Environmental justice
    • Food sovereignty
    • Indigenous story and law
    • Status of women
    • Health
    • Language
    • Removing barriers to access
  • Some agencies, such as Parks Canada and the Federal Public Service, have invested significant resources towards creating in-depth learning websites and training resources, but these resources are not available publicly, even to other civil servants. Consideration should be given to options for providing access to these excellent resources to all civic servants, or the general public.

It is our hope that this Capstone project, and our recommendations for expanding the scope of the work, will contribute to existing efforts to advance understanding of Truth and Reconciliation in the public service. We have aimed to create a simple yet effective introduction to cultural competency, which may be useful to learners of all knowledge levels and spark motivation for a much deeper learning journey.

Webinar Summary – Parks Day: Past, Present, Future

Parks Day CPCIL Webinar

The first Parks day, back in 1990, was based on a paper commissioned by the Canadian Parks council which provided an opportunity for all public parks to participate in the celebration of parks and their role in natural and cultural heritage conservation in Canada, and to increase public awareness and support for parks. From here, Parks day emerged, and has changed throughout the years and looks different for different jurisdictions. This webinar explores these different contexts and perspectives of these jurisdictions.

Presenters

  • Nic DeGama-Blanchet, Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park, Alberta
  • Caroline Ipeelie-Qiatsuk, Nunavut Parks and Special Places, Qikiqtaaluk Region
  • Tobi Kiesewalter, Ontario Parks, Learning and Discovery Program
  • Michael Nadler, Parks Canada External Relations and Visitor Experience

5 Key Takeaways

  1. For Fish Creek Provincial Park, Parks Day is run by community volunteers so that it can involve a great number of people. Park isn’t merely a space, but rather becomes so because of the relationship people have with that place. 
  2. In Nunavut Parks, Parks Day is utilized as an opportunity to highlight the local cultures’ deep ties to the land and expand the outdoor classroom. For example, they showcase cultural activities like drum dancing, throat singing, tea and bannock, and fried fish.
  3. For Ontario Parks, the concept of Parks Day has melded with the Healthy Parks, Healthy People movement, however the spirit of Parks day is still present as a way to engage people with Parks who might have been otherwise uninterested
  4. Parks Days were collectively seen as an opportunity to host discussions about Reconciliation, equity, and how to keep these conversations and relationships going year round.
  5. All panelists connected with the element of human connection to the land. The future of Parks Day is seen as an opportunity for people to celebrate this connection and contribute to part of a broader national identity.

Meet the CPCIL Knowledge Gatherers – Karly Upshall

Karly Upshall hiking in the Purcell mountains.

A recent graduate from Mount Royal University’s Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership program, Karly Upshall joined the Knowledge Gatherers team with previous valuable research experience to bring to her role. This included an immersive field school in Peru for research and a past position working for the Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership as a Research Assistant. During this time, she contributed to the Accessibility Parks Leaders program and the creation of the Inclusion and Accessibility Community of Practice. As well, in 2020 she worked as a research assistant at Mount Royal University in a practicum role, analyzing and interpreting data around travel fears and aspirations throughout COVID-19. Karly’s strong work ethic and diligence have contributed immensely to the quality of her parks and protected areas content, where she has explored topics ranging from environmental podcasts to assessments of post-secondary environment programs to palliative care in natural spaces. 

Let’s get to know more about Karly’s experience with CPCIL. 

Photo of Karly Upshall in a tree.

What were some of your first formative experiences that helped you feel connected to nature?

My dad was a pretty outdoorsy guy. So as a kid, he would take me hunting, which is a far cry from who I am now, but I remember as a kid I just wanted to be out there with him. We’d go camping every summer, but I also really love that mom’s not as much outdoorsy, but she’d be happy to join along with the trailer, as long as she had an indoor bathroom. But those were the big ones, hunting and fishing and camping with dad as a kid.

Did you always know you kind of wanted a career path in conservation?

No, I was fairly into English and literature and poetry growing up. On my first round through university I was working on an English degree and had started out with the intention of being an editor, and through that I found speech pathology and started to pursue that path but eventually I realized that I hated it. So I took some time off to finally travel and figure out what I wanted to do. When I did decide to come back to school, I didn’t actually get in right away. So instead of moping about it I decided to follow another dream to volunteer with elephants. I ended up in a sanctuary in Cambodia and fell in love, it was kind of the epitome of ecotourism and that’s how I chose Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership as my undergrad, expecting to pursue tourism as a career. I didn’t really come into the conservation side of things until meeting Don and participating in the CPCIL Accessibility Park Leaders program back in November 2019.

Has your experience with CPCIL shaped or altered this path in any way? If so, how?

It definitely has. I wouldn’t say I was very interested in working for parks originally. Where I grew up, there’s not really any provincial parks nearby and the nearest national park was four hours away, and it was considered a tourism destination. So that concept of being connected to nature through parks was not familiar to me. While I was at Mount Royal, I was starting to learn more about the darker history of parks. When I began the leadership programme I was anticipating some resistance around inclusion. But then you start talking to people, you start realizing, these are my people. These are weird, compassionate, funny, easy going people who love what they do. They know the things that are going on, they know what’s wrong and they know what needs to be improved and they care.

What are your main takeaways from your experience as a Knowledge Gatherer?

In terms of projects, it has been interesting to go more in depth on the topics that I’m covering, such as with the jurisdictional scans, and figuring out what’s important to park leaders. Figuring out how to take an idea and make it digestible to a reader, in the most effective way. And as much as I love writing and learning and figuring out how to do this work, the highlight is definitely our weekly meetings and getting to hear from different park leaders with all sorts of backgrounds, and even from the other knowledge gatherers. 

 

Read some of Karly’s articles here:

What I’ve Learned About Learning: University Degrees for Parks People

Close up of hands on laptop, woman sitting on park bench in nature.

By Karly Upshall

Karly Upshall is part of a team of CPCIL Research and Knowledge Gatherers producing content and compiling resources on themes such as inclusion, ecosocial justice, partnerships, conservation, organizational sustainability, climate change and biodiversity, connection to nature, conservation financing, and ecotourism, to support effective and equitable leadership and inclusion in parks and protected areas across Canada.

There are a lot of ways to come to Parks. People from all backgrounds end up working in Parks. Some actively chose this route — they worked in parks as teenagers, picked a green degree, interned in conservation fields, anything that would lead to a career in parks. Others, like myself, kind of just fell into it somewhere along the way. As one of my university professors, Joe Pavelka, likes to say, “There are a lot of ways to live a life, and most of them are good.” I believe this applies to Parks as well — there are a lot of ways to come to Parks, and most of them are good. 

That being said, the more I get to know park leaders, the less clear I am about what that actually entails. These wonderful people have opened my eyes to a variety of backgrounds, interests and experiences, all of which make up the parks world beyond a singular definition. More and more, the parks field is becoming an interdisciplinary playground filled with jacks of all trades.

This fact is partially what made my task of curating a degree list so complicated. While I hope that this list is a meaningful resource for those looking to pursue or further a “green” type education specifically relating to Parks, this list was made through my own lens of what I’ve seen from current Park Leaders, what I understand to be the direction of Parks in general, and what I personally would like to see be a part of the future of Parks. 

Plenty of Paths in Parks Professions

Within that struggle to define a Park Professional also lies the question of the definition of Parks. There are National Parks, Provincial Parks, Municipal Parks, Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, Marine Protected Areas, and hundreds of other protected land designations across Canada, and they all need a variety of people to run the show. The breadth of knowledge and experience required by parks is vast, however, a list that includes every area of expertise would not have been that helpful of a resource. Applicable programs such as Human Resources, Organizational Management, and even Environmental Engineering were mostly left off of this list due to their non-specificity to Parks or environmental protection in general. Geology and Anthropology are also rarely found on the list as Geology often focused on resource extraction rather than land protection and Anthropology often lacked an environmental element. Some green sounding degrees were also left out because their focus was in agriculture and crop production. I am not perfect, however, and I am certain that some things have snuck in that shouldn’t have, and other things were left out that should have been included. 

While I aimed to be as unbiased as possible in my creation of this list, it is never possible to be truly neutral. Being a part of something, creating something, means it was created through your worldview, and that’s okay. I come from a humanities background, so you’ll definitely see my bias show up in this list. Because of this, I tended to give a little more wiggle room to degrees that involved community development, leadership, Indigenous studies, and the kind of social equity programs you might not typically associate with parks. I believe that diversity includes a diversity of educational backgrounds. By no means am I trying to overshadow some much more abhorrent inclusion issues that parks across the nation are tackling such as gender, race, and LGBTQ+ inclusion, but some of these degrees reflect the knowledge and interests of the people often left out of the conversation.

I was also more likely to include the certificate or diploma in some topics rather than a full degree, as they made more sense as complementary knowledge rather than an educational focus for someone aiming to be a parks professional. Therefore, the following list will generally fall into one or more of these topics:

  • Environmental Sciences/Studies
  • Environmental Management
  • Earth Sciences
  • Forestry
  • Geography
  • Tourism/Ecotourism
  • Outdoor Guiding/Adventure Studies
  • Sustainability/Sustainable Development

If you are interested in a general cacophony of these niches, this list was made for you.

Canadian Parks Relevant Degrees List

British Columbia

Undergraduate:

Graduate Studies:

Undergraduate:

Graduate: 

Other: 

Undergraduate:

Graduate:

Other:



Alberta

Undergraduate:

Graduate:

Other:

Saskatchewan

*Included more agricultural programs given the location and focus on agriculture in the province

Undergraduate:

Graduate:

Other:

Manitoba

Quebec

Programmes de 1er Cycle: 

Études Supérieures:

Autre: 

Programmes de 1er cycle:

Etudes Supérieures:

Autre:

Ontario

Undergraduate:

Graduate:

Other: 



Undergraduate:

Graduate:

Undergraduate:

Graduate:

Other: 

Newfoundland and Labrador

Undergraduate:

Graduate:

Other:

 

Nova Scotia

New Brunswick

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Prince Edward Island

Method of auditing:

  • Degrees that resulted in careers linked to the Parks and Protected Areas field (environmental consultants, parks planners, etc) were normally included 
  • Reputable Indigenous Studies programs, particularly ones with environmental/planning links, were normally included
  • Programs with required courses that pertained to the interests of Parks and Protected areas were normally included
  • Major degree programs that are offered at most Universities such as Human Resources, Operations Management, Engineering, etc, were mostly excluded from this list as they are not directly linked to Parks and are readily available at many Universities. 
  • Specializations that were only offered as minors were also primarily excluded from this list. Exceptions were made in cases where outstanding or unique programs were found. 
  • Format for listing programs may vary slightly between schools depending on how the school presented information i.e some schools highlight exceptional minor programs and so more minors were included 

Which Universities made the list:

The list was determined using the Government of Canada’s List of Designated Educational Institutions and setting the filter to “University” for each province. An exception was made for Mount Royal University, which is designated as a Junior College on this list but has recently attained its University status. Vocational schools, technical colleges, and private institutions are not a part of this list.

Format:

Designation – Major: Specialization or Concentration

Examples:

Bachelor of Arts – Geography: Human Geography (All Three Components)

Bachelor of Science – Environmental Science (Designation and Major)

Bachelor of Resource Management (Specialized Designation, no listed Major or Concentration)

Do you know of a really great program related to parks? Leave us a comment below, we would love to see what you are all learning! 

Webinar Summary – Black Experiences in Parks

Black Experiences in Parks Webinar

Co-hosted with Park People and BlackAFinSTEM

In the ‘Black Experiences in Parks in Canada’ webinar, the panelists explored the underrepresentation of the BIPOC community in Canadian parks and protected areas, including staffing. Frustrated with “business as usual” and the lack of government engagement and action, BIPOC grassroots organizations have taken matters into their own hands. As the Canadian population changes and minority groups become the new majority, parks agencies across the country will need to better accommodate and involve this growing demographic in order to survive. Attendees of the webinar had an opportunity to provide feedback and commit actions in order to make parks more inclusive for BIPOC individuals in their respective jurisdictions. Read their commitments and calls to action here.

Presenters

  • Jacqueline L. Scott, University of Toronto (OISE)
  • Demiesha Dennis, BrownGirlOutdoorWorld
  • Judith Kasiama, ColourTheTrails
  • Rhiannon Kirton, Western University

5 Key Takeaways

  1. The impacts of colonialism can still be felt today, as many BIPOC individuals feel unwelcome or are seen as out of place in outdoor spaces. Systemic racism continues to be an issue in Canada’s parks, where managers and people in power are too uncomfortable to partake in discussions concerning race.
  2. Opportunities for grants and parks-related education are often “hidden in plain sight” for BIPOC peoples. Access to funding and career opportunities still remains more readily available to a majority white beneficiary audience.
  3. Financial barriers are one of the primary obstacles that impede greater inclusivity of BIPOC individuals in Canadian parks and contributes to their underrepresentation.
  4. Many of those involved in the Canadian outdoor industry come from a predominately white background and operate from a high place of power and privilege, and the lack of diversity in recreational marketing further attests this issue.
  5. Significant actions are required to facilitate greater involvement and representation of the BIPOC community in parks participation and employment. This includes creating trust and rapport with BIPOC communities, collecting race-based data to determine BIPOC needs and cater programs to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity for involvement

Knowing. Doing. Learning: The 2021 Pan-Canadian Parks and Protected Areas Research Sumit

From March 9th to 13th, 2021, knowers, doers, and learners from across the country came together virtually at the inaugural Parks and Protected Areas Research Network Virtual Research Summit. This conference was made possible thanks to the collaborative partners of Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership, Mount Royal University, Parks Canada, Canadian Parks Council, and York University Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change.

Nearly 200 registrants from British Columbia to Nunavut to Prince Edward Island  were in attendance for various sessions throughout this pan-Canadian summit. All came with the common goal to learn, collaborate, and share knowledge about parks and protected areas. The summit opened with an introduction by Gùdia – Mary Jane Johnson, a Lhu’ààn Mân Ku Dań Elder. Her words resonated with the audience, as she said: 

“We pay our deepest respects and give our heartfelt thanks to those knowledge carriers, keepers, both past and present. For us to be good caretakers we must respect each other’s abilities to learn from the past. By being present, today. For a future where our strength will be each other. Our legacy will be communities where First Nations, Inuit, Metis and other world people can be curious, playful, intelligent, industrious, creative and respectfully strong. Where the winged, the finned, the four legged, the two legged, the rooted and the flowing all continue to thrive to be part of the next seven generations.”

At the start of the event, Dr. Don Carruthers Den Hoed mentioned that both the definition of parks and protected areas and park leaders is not static.

“Park leaders don’t just work for national, provincial, or territorial park agencies. They are also Indigenous knowledge holders and community partners, academics and students, municipal and private landholders, and more. And parks can be the entire continuum of protected areas from private conservancy to local greenspace to IPCAs to marine parks – as Bruce Downie of Yukon Parks once told me, ‘parks are wherever you learn to love life.’”

Though every presentation related to parks and protected areas, topics were incredibly diverse, ranging from knowledge mobilization to behavioural change in parks visitors, accessibility barriers to reconciliation in natural sciences. Presentations challenged common biases and assumptions and increased our awareness of issues, from Reconciliation to youth involvement in parks. To increase the accessibility of the information, presenters were invited to speak in their preferred national language (French or English), and almost all presentations offered a simultaneous live interpretation.

Keynote sessions included “The state of parks-related knowledge mobilization in Canada, cases from Alberta, BC, and Ontario”, presented by Dr. Elizabeth Halpenny with the University of Alberta; “Ecological corridors and networks: key ingredients for enduring conservation in Canada and Globally”, presented by Dr. Jodi Hilty with Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, David MacKinnon with Nova Scotia Environment, and Chris Lemieux with Wilfrid Laurier University; “Towards reconciliation: 10 Calls to Action to natural scientists working in Canadian protected areas” presented by Dr. Carmen Wong with Parks Canada and Gùdia – Mary Jane Johnson, Lhu’ààn Mân Ku Dań Elder; and “Blurring the boundaries: a panel on understanding, valuing, and supporting the ocean and coastal community well-being”, presented by Noémie Roy, Munju Ravindra, Jessica Lambert, Garrett Mombourquette, Gabrielle Beaulieu, Meaghen McCord, and Hali Moreland with Parks Canada. A range of concurrent sessions were part of the conference, allowing attendees to pick from presentations most aligned with their personal interests, as well as several shorter rapid talk presentations. During each presentation, attendees were invited to continue on the conversation through forums and feedback forms exclusive to conference attendees.

The goals of the conference were first to help connect individuals and create an inclusive community of park leaders, and second, to share and gain knowledge. Based on the feedback received to date, we are confident that the Park Summit has made an impact in both these areas. One youth attendee remarked, “thank you for creating such a meaningful space for youth to voice our opinion — we often talk about youth engagement, but it is rarely done as well as today”, while another said, “since (the conference), I’ve had a couple of fruitful conversations with federal colleagues — I look forward to digesting the presentation a little bit more when they’re available online and to continue participating with the CPCIL”. 

Although the reality of COVID-19 meant hosting this event online, many registrants expressed appreciation for this virtual format. It allowed them the opportunity to attend the conference when they otherwise would have been limited by travel or cost. But this conference wasn’t made up entirely of screen time. Attendees were encouraged to take a break from their desk and connect with nature throughout the conference. During these nature break sessions, all were encouraged to test the ParkSeek online GIS application by making observations about parks in their local areas. During other nature breaks, participants were encouraged to simply go out in nature and engage with their senses to reflect and connect with their local environments, sometimes involving prompts from mailed leaflets included in participant welcome packages.

The interactive component was also brought back online through breakout sessions and regional task groups. These groups were invited to collaborate on virtual murals with the goal to map the network of key players in the parks and protected areas field, make both personal and landscape level connections, and brainstorm and prioritize possible research projects. 

Through these generative activities, real life connections were made, whether it be an individual with resources to support a project, or networking suggestions for potential contacts. Some attendees even met colleagues from within their own office or agency for the first time via the summit, an occurrence that is surely unique to our current reality!

Over 40 youth registrants were also in attendance, and this energized group gave accolades on their experience as individuals newer to the field of parks and protected areas research or practice. One of the CPCIL Knowledge Gatherers, Ebany Carratt, shared her perspective on what it means to be a park leader, and that we are all park leaders regardless of our educational background or experience. This was echoed by more youth attendees touching on the role of youth and inclusivity, including Rhiannon Kramer, a member of the Canadian Black Scientists Network , and Peter Soroye, a PHD student at the University of Ottawa, both with the grassroots group Kaleidoscope Canada. Both highlighted that people who are Black, Indigenous, or persons of colour have had a big role in the outdoors in ways that are often not part of the narrative, and that it is common to not feel comfortable participating in these spaces. Going forward, they challenged Summit attendees to find the many areas in which we can improve this because we are all park people. 

The conference ended with moving words from Gilles Seutin, Chief Scientist of Parks Canada and champion of the Pan Canadian Parks and Protected Areas Research Network. Providing his perspective on contributing to the institution of knowledge and what is needed as a community of conservation-minded people to be able to deliver on living in harmony with nature, Seutin shared:

“It’s a growing ambition to have 30% of the planet’s waters and lands under a good form of protection,” he said. “To be successful, we’ll need to be better equipped than we are now. In Canada, there are currently about 10,000 people working full time at managing protected areas, from lock operators on historic canals to project managers in provincial parks, and Canada is committed to more than double the amount of land and water we want to protect. So we have a huge need for new people, new brains that need to enter the workforce. 

“But in the long term it’s about not only creating those events and moments of individual training and capacity building, but also about institutional building. And that’s what this network is about to do. This week I’ve seen the growing recognition for the diversity of knowledge, and the diversity of knowledge systems, that need to inform protected areas management and, in future, establishment of more places and their management in a broader sense.”

Dawn Carr, Executive Director, Canadian Parks Council, echoed these sentiments, saying,

“Several years ago, there was a recognition that there needs to be better and stronger relationships between Park agencies and different knowledge holders, there was a very specific effort that was put in place to create CPCIL.

One of our priorities is to support the growth and development of an inclusive and connected network of professionals in the parks community, who engage, learn, and share expertise across boundaries. These past four days have been a testament to that priority. But it is also an absolute, and very clear expression of the fact that we’re really coming together to grow this community, which is extraordinary and amazing”

Feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive, and there is a lot of excitement and interest to keep the momentum going. Recordings of summit sessions are now available online under ‘CPCIL Virtual Research Summit Archive’ and can be publicly viewed and the Summit forums and other content are available on the 2021 Research Summit Legacy Page.

We thank all presenters, applicants, attendees, and team members who each played a part in the overall success of the event.

Unearthing Restorative Justice in a Parks Setting

By Capstone Team E – Travis Halliday, Maria O’Hearn, Kelly Stein, Jennifer Szakacs

This project was completed as part of the CPCIL Park Leaders Development Program, an applied leadership program exploring transformative leadership approaches to complex park issues and concepts.

Restorative justice is a criminal justice approach with the goal of healing both victim and offender.  It aims for participation with all involved while holding offenders responsible for their actions and encouraging introspection of the cause of their behaviour.

This approach is increasingly being applied across Canada leading to better outcomes for both victims and offenders. However, its application in a parks and protected areas context in Canada is unknown.

Our objective as a capstone team in the CPCIL Park Leaders Development Program was to pull the curtain back to find out if and how the process is used within our parks collective. This would result in a snapshot of the current state of restorative justice that others looking to venture down this road could access.

Photo by Ben den Engelsen / Unsplash

Our preliminary research of journals, news articles and other online resources turned up very little on the use of restorative justice within a parks context. So were we boldly going where no one has gone before? A bit more time plus a thorough jurisdictional review and numerous interviews would tell.

We set out to delve deeper into restorative justice application in a conservation context to get a baseline of usage from jurisdictions across Canada. Our online survey posed questions to the Canadian Parks Council network like:

  • Who is using restorative justice?
  • What cases are referred?
  • What training is used?
  • What challenges are faced?

So, did we boldly go into uncharted territory? Most certainly. We received six responses from across the country, five of which do not use restorative justice and one respondent applies restorative justice in a marine conservation context.  The responses received, along with the fairly low response rate, indicates that restorative justice is not widely used in parks and protected areas.

However, our interviews with subject matter experts show that restorative justice is applied in other contexts, such as offences involving wildlife and natural resource-related enforcement. This presents an opportunity to build a restorative justice program for parks and protected areas by basing it on these related programs.  There is more work that can be done to dig deeper.

Bull elk bugling in a grass field with elk herd.
Photo by Briana Touzour / Unsplash

Recommendations for further work to promote the use of restorative justice in parks and protected areas across Canada include:

  1. Follow up with survey respondent from the jurisdiction currently applying restorative justice to build a case study.
  2. Develop case studies in related fields such as wildlife offences which could provide the groundwork for developing restorative justice programs in parks and protected areas.
  3. Promote the use of restorative justice in parks and protected areas across Canada through the Canadian Parks Council network.
  4. Start a forum devoted to restorative justice on the CPCIL website to facilitate information exchange among interested practitioners.
  5. Consider revisiting this topic to explore how restorative justice is applied in 5-10 years.


The benefits of restorative justice are far-reaching yet underutilized in parks and protected areas. So we have a mission for a future capstone team: to go boldly into this new world of restorative justice in a parks and protected areas context. We are keen to see what the future holds.

What restorative justice programs or examples have you heard of? Let us know in the comments below.