Parks for All: The Power of Partnerships

by Stanley Omotor

Stanley Omotor 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.

Pascale Salah is a social scientist and currently a national urban parks project manager at Parks Canada, where her work involves planning and research. Pascale is involved with initiatives, such as IUCN #NatureForALL, aimed at making parks more accessible and welcoming to all. 

More than ever before, the benefits of parks and Nature to all Canadians, and the need to access good quality green space close to or in our neighborhood are becoming more generally appreciated and agreed upon as the Covid-19 pandemic drags on. Park leaders and members of the public are developing a greater appreciation for parks and green spaces across Canada leading to increased park use during the pandemic. With this growing realization comes the need to create and enable parks that inspire and invite all people – Parks for All. 

“Parks for All means to bring together parks professionals, their many partners, and engaged citizens under the shared goal of Healthy Nature and healthy people, so that we can align our efforts and achieve more together”

But how do we define “Parks for All” or when can we say that parks are for all? Despite comprising only three words, the term “Parks for All” encompasses much more than can be imagined – from increasing accessibility to Nature and all its benefits, to building collaborations with Nature, partners, and host communities, to unleashing the potential of all types of parks for people and the planet. In 2017, the Canadian Parks Council and the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association released Parks for All: An Action Plan for Canada’s Parks Community, noting the importance of collaboration and partnership for achieving this vision: Parks for All means to bring together parks professionals, their many partners, and engaged citizens under the shared goal of healthy Nature and healthy people, so that we can align our efforts and achieve more together.  

 

Implementing the Parks for All Action Plan: Partnership

Image by: DuPreez (2019)

The implementation of Parks for All necessitates partnerships – partnerships that ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to benefit from park services and the diverse benefits that come from time spent connecting with Nature. In Canada, partnerships that hear Indigenous voices, support Indigenous stewardship of the land, and strengthen relationships with Indigenous peoples are especially important in achieving Parks for All. The CPC/CPRA Action Plan identifies four strategic directions towards Parks for All: 

 

  • Collaboration – This involves giving priority to nurturing partnerships between Indigenous organizations and the broader parks community, collaborating with new and diverse sectors, and strategizing beyond park boundaries with a goal of creating more opportunities to work together. 

 

  • Connection – This involves giving priority to raising public awareness of our parks, facilitating experiences which connect visitors with Nature, and sharing stories and successes to inspire more engagement. 

 

  • Conservation – This involves working together to expand Canada’s park system, enhancing parks planning and management, and enhancing ecosystem service benefits from parks; and 

 

  • Leadership – This involves setting ambitious examples that can pave the way for others, in Canada and internationally, building the capability of current and future leaders, and developing and maintaining systems, tools, and resources to support leaders. 

Working Together to Create a Network of National Urban Parks for All

Parks Canada launched an ambitious new program in 2021 to create a network of national urban parks, which encompasses many of the Parks for All priorities outlined above. National urban parks are devised to achieve the best in park practices including protecting biodiversity, supporting climate resilience, connecting people to nature, improving mental health and wellness, promoting cultural heritage, and increasing social inclusion. They will also provide opportunities to support reconciliation with Indigenous populations in urban centres. From the outset, the new program has placed a strong emphasis on the importance of partnership and collaboration, presenting an exciting opportunity for collaboration across all levels of government, including Indigenous governments, as well as with a diverse range of stakeholders. Working collectively, the national urban parks program offers a national platform to expand Canada’s network of urban parks, with the aim of enabling “Parks for All”.  

Parks can do better when all members of the park community (including park leaders) work amongst themselves and together. Achieving Parks for All involves all members of the parks community, and this includes recreationists, young leaders, health and medical practitioners, media, activists, planners, park staff, educators, entrepreneurs, government authorities, Indigenous Peoples, non-governmental organizations, all professionals and all engaged Canadians. Despite perceived challenges, by working in collaboration, creating stronger connections, and displaying good leadership, we can achieve the goal – Parks for All. 

 

 What do you think of the two chairs in the first image above? Are they comfortable to sit on? Could a better item, other than the sharp wooden stake, have helped in better connecting the chairs to allow for more comfortable communication, collaboration and enjoyment? In engaging in partnerships in Parks for All, are you using proper partnership tools or a sharp wooden stake? 

References: 

Park people: Covid-19 and parks: Highlights from our national surveys. Park People COVID19 and Parks Highlights from our national surveys Comments. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2022, from https://parkpeople.ca/2020/07/16/covid-19-and-parks-highlights-from-our-national-surveys/  

Parks Canada Agency, G. of C (2021, August 4). Government of Canada invests $130 million to work with partners to create a network of National Urban parks. Canada.ca. Retrieved July 19, 2022, from https://www.canada.ca/en/parks-canada/news/2021/08/government-of-canada-invests-130-million-to-work-with-partners-to-create-a-network-of-national-urban-parks.html 

Parks Canada Agency, G. of C. (2022, May 17). National urban parks. Parks Canada. Retrieved July 19, 2022, from https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pun-nup  

Parks for all. Canadian Parks and Recreation Association. (2021, June 16). Retrieved July 19, 2022, from https://cpra.ca/policy/parks-for-all/ 

Unsplash images: 

https://unsplash.com/photos/PA0WDrBnD_M  

https://unsplash.com/photos/KvgpZ1f-XHE  

 

Political Acuity in Parks

by Brodie Schmidt & Kristie Derkson

Brodie Schmidt 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.

It is becoming increasingly accepted that the establishment of protected areas in Canada is entangled in political processes (Botchwey & Cunningham, 2021; Bella, 2007). Botchwey & Cunningham (2021) offer further supporting context in this article to, “suggest that the political characteristics of protected areas do not lend themselves easily to politicization, but […] at the federal level, and provincially in Alberta, the rate of protected area establishment is becoming increasingly tied to electoral politics, suggesting some politicization”. Taking this a step further, this blog highlights that these politicized elements do not dissipate once park establishment takes place. The power structures, motivations, and underlying influences associated with established protected areas are guided by the very politics that brought them into being.  Even if not overtly so, public servants live in an inherently political world – parks people being no exception (Siegel, 2020).  

How can and do public servants navigate this political parks world? 

I sat down with Kristie Derkson, an interim issues advisor and full time senior policy planner from Alberta Parks, to discuss this question and her approach to political acuity. The conversation we had can be encapsulated through answering three questions: What is political acuity? Why do park leaders need it? And how does one practice political acuity? 

What is Political Acuity? 

In this video we hear Dr. Peter Constantinou discussing the topic of political acuity, through an interview with Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner. Constantinou explains that, “political acuity […] is the idea of knowing and understanding how – in the wider context – all the various unknowns of daily life impact the decisions people make. It is also […] knowing when to do something and when not to do something, or understanding when something will be acceptable and when it will not”. The Ontario Municipal Social Services Association (OMSSA) offers their own definition of political acuity through their workshop website, framing it as being, “… about judgement; understanding an issue, its origins, and the players, developing an approach, and knowing when to act”.  

Why Should Political Acuity Matter to Park Leaders? 

Kristie echoed this view in our interview, and took it a step further by emphasizing that we need to be able to understand the political landscapes of our organizations. She says that political acuity can help to understand the power structures, motivations, and influences at play in the government decision making process, and moreover, the implications that these decisions have at policy making and public levels. Through strengthening one’s ability to practice political acuity, park leaders are better equipped to navigate politically sensitive situations, and in knowing what to advise to leadership officials, and when.  

As said by Kristie, “… a lot of parks folks are quite focused on the operations, and the day to day in the field, but there’s another aspect of it, right? We work under democratically elected governments who may or may not have differing ideas of how we operate, and sometimes that causes joy, and sometimes that causes conflict with our work and within ourselves. […] sometimes there’s also gaps in understanding about what is needed, or what is desired and why, on both sides, and I think that […] Political Acuity can help translate it. It’s almost like they’re two separate columns, and political acuity […] can be the bridge that helps them connect and see each other’s viewpoints and get things done with a little bit more understanding of each other”.  

Now that we have framed the topic of political acuity generally, we can narrow in on the main themes that have come from this conversation which are of relevance to park leaders. I asked Kristie if she could speak to how, exactly, political acuity helps her to maneuver through barriers in her work. Her response, although uniquely situated within her own position, provides some profound lessons learned that could translate well to other park leaders’ situations.  

“Some of the main challenges I’ve been facing with Political Acuity is that a lot of times, as  I previously mentioned, there is a disparity between what is desired on the government end, compared to in both operations and the field, and so trying to get a solution where both parties are satisfied is often impossible. […] The steps to take here can be tricky but the ultimate solution is that we practice truth to power and inform the decision makers; however, when it comes to voicing up concerns and recommendations, sometimes flexibility on timing and knowing who and what to include is the key to success. This can be an issue for a lot of us and it takes a deeper understanding of the public zeitgeist, the political climate, and appropriate timing of issues. Often success stems from having the foresight to do the work beforehand and putting it on a shelf to wait and have it ready and on hand when the timing is right.”

This theme, which I thank Kristie for nodding towards, regarding the gap between overhead mandates and local realities, has emerged through a few discussions I have had with various park leaders this year. From Kristie’s experience, honing in her political acuity is supporting her efforts to be the bridge and translator between the two. Perhaps practicing political acuity could improve connectivity within your network as well.

How does one practice political acuity?

“I think initially some people just have a more inherent ability, or they have more inherent political acuity, their emotional IQ is a bit higher, their personal friendships, they are much more approachable… But I think it can be learned, and I think it can be learned through […] experience, mentoring, and developing those key personal relationships that can provide insight and support that other means cannot.  It is important to support and help other co-workers out across the ministerial spectrum when you can. Those types of initiatives and support, beyond helping the public service in general and making it better for everyone, are remembered and can offer you the same if needed.   […]”

The experience that Kristie alludes to when discussing political acuity development is multifaceted. Operational experience, “knowing the hierarchy, and the processes without them being written down”, is one tool that Kristie identifies as being useful in building political astuteness. Moving beyond recognizing the ebbs and flows of the system you work within, to including interpersonal effectiveness and emotional intelligence in your toolkit, is key. In doing so, Kristie believes leaders are likely to improve their, “awareness of other people […], and their desires and wants and sort of unspoken messages that are coming through”. Beyond primers on emotional intelligence, are there tools that park leaders can use to strengthen these experientially-based skills?

Kristie says, yes: “The tools that I use are working groups. I try to never do anything on my own, I always have people that I consult with. I always do a lot of communicating and engagement internally. I think that a big key to political acuity is communicating and talking to the people involved, including those on the ground and in the executive chairs, and trying to figure out what exactly is the issue, what exactly are the solutions desired, and how can we make them work for everyone. It is imperative to get the field and operations staff on board with executive decisions because they are the ones that will be carrying them out and the success and longevity of the decisions depend on staff buy-in. Likewise, it is imperative to get what is working and what is not on the ground up to the executive so they can make the decisions as informed as possible.”

Through exposing herself to numerous perspectives whilst conducting work, Kristie’s personal experiences and understandings are expanding. Adding to this idea of personal experience, Kristie also notes the significance of others’ experiences and learning from those, both internally and within your broader network.

“I actually went and got myself a mentor from a different ministry who gave me some tips. I have a mentor who used to be a minister, who is retired right now, so I get tips from her. I guess it’s a collaboration, and it’s a team, right?”

On the note of mentoring, Kristie also reminded me that, “you have to bring something to the table as well. You can’t just say, ‘hey, can you be my mentor?’, you have to have something to offer too”. In reflecting on her own experiences with mentoring, Kristie mentions that “I reached out to people and I made those relationships. Purchased breakfasts with ADMs in charity auctions, went to book signings, joined side-of-desk initiatives within government, volunteered outside of government[…] I did all of that, and I put in the time and effort to build those relationships myself”. Although formalized mentor programs offer great opportunities for learning (ex., Project Learning Tree (PLT) Canada’s Green Mentor Program), Kristie’s journey through political acuity has centered strongly around personal relationships and the experiences that extend from them.

“I think personal relationships are a huge part of political acuity”, says Kristie. Although she also acknowledges the barriers to fostering those relationships within some workplaces: “I think the government misses out on these team building exercises very often, and that’s unfortunate because I think if we did [have those opportunities], we’d be more effective. […] When I worked in private industry, for example, we would have barbecues at lunchtime, or one day we showed up at work and the boss had rented a bus and we all got on the bus and we went go karting. It was just a surprise”.

Building a strong work team culture through personal relationships allows for folks to get on the same page, or strengthen trust and communication abilities to get onto the same page. It is important that staff are aware of other projects and programs going on in the organization, and that can come from natural conversations. In other conversations with park leaders, they have recognized the need to prepare staff to be able to answer questions that the public has about projects being implemented, even if they are not directly involved; if anything, supporting the ability to know who to direct questions to. How can public servants build personal relationships with peers in lieu of team building opportunities characteristically tied to private business?

“Go for lunch or have coffee with people! Sure, you’re going to sit and talk about your dog for 20 minutes, but then you might also be like, “hey, what do you think about this topic?” and they’re going to give you their feedback, and you’re going to learn things”. 

Like any relationship-based skill, Kristie also reiterates that political acuity is not a box-checking exercise.

“ I think it’s a lifelong, ongoing process. I don’t think anyone “achieves” political acuity, you know? You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to go the wrong direction sometimes, you’re going to suggest something at the wrong time, and what you do with that work is you just take it, put it back on the shelf, and then you wait until you can sense where it will be welcome again. You just have to have patience with political acuity and you have to make mistakes. […]. Also, looking at the relationships you make with people, make them solid. If someone does something nice for you, have their back. That’ll get you way farther than any report that you write.”

In Closing

After reading this blog, we hope that leaders in the parks and protected areas field are better equipped to identify the political undertones within their day-to-day work. Moreover, through sharing lessons learned from Kristie’s own unique experiences, readers can hone in their own skills related to political acuity. Through seeking out multifarious experiences, mentorship opportunities, and strengthened personal relationships, individuals are well positioned to practice truth to power in politically acute ways. 

For further resources regarding the topic of political acuity, please see below. 

Further Resources on the Topic  

Canadian Association for Municipal Administrators Political Acumen Toolkit  

“Recognizing the importance of political understanding to the role of senior administrators in local government, the Board of the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) formed a Committee to find ways of strengthening political acumen as a core competency for CAOs, their direct reports, and the next generation of municipal leaders. The Political Acumen Toolkit is the result of the efforts of this Committee.” 

Hartley, J. & Fletcher, C. (2008). Leading with Political Awareness: Leadership Across Diverse Interests Inside and Outside the Organisation. Leadership Perpectives: pp. 163 

Abstract: “This chapter examines some current limitations of leadership theory which focuses on leadership in rather than of the organisation and which underplays the skills of leading across diverse and sometimes competing interests both inside and outside the organisation. We propose an alternative view of leadership which we call leading with political awareness but political astuteness, or political savvy are also expressions of this capability. The chapter is based on a large UK research project with middle and senior private, public and voluntary sector managers, which involved a literature review, focus groups with 41 managers; a survey of 1,475 managers and 12 interviews (details in Hartley et al., 2007). The chapter does not report on the empirical findings, but rather sets out some themes concerned with why leadership increasingly needs to take into account political awareness skills; the contexts where such skills are needed; how politics and therefore political awareness is conceptualised; and crucially, a framework of political skills. The chapter argues that political awareness skills raise new questions for leadership theory because the research takes into account the leadership of difference leadership outside as well as, inside the organisation, and the strategic context of leadership.” 

This article shared a 5 part political awareness framework that identifies the skills that public servants need in order to develop political awareness. They are:  

  • Personal skills: self awareness, curiosity about others, openness to change 
  • Interpersonal skills: ability to influence others, negotiating skills, handling conflict to arrive at positive ends 
  • Reading people and situations: understanding the motivations of other individuals and organizations, ability to utilize this information to predict likely outcomes of interactions  
  • Building alignment and alliances: understanding how individuals and organizations with apparently conflicting objectives can work together to achieve goals  
  • Strategic direction and scanning: long term thinking to further the goals of the organization without being distracted by short term problems

Ontario Municipal Social Services Association Political Acuity Workshop 

“This course is specifically designed for public sector leaders and staff who wish to move into leadership roles. Building your political acuity will help you and your team to influence decisions, achieve organizational objectives and deliver results. This one-day course will cultivate your political acuity by developing the skills and knowledge you need to navigate the complex formal and informal systems within your municipality as well as the external political environment.” 

Siegel, D. (2020). Public servants and politics: Developing acuity in local government. Canadian Public Administration 63(4). 

Abstract: “A good relationship between council and senior staff is essential for the successful operation of the municipality. However, the academic treatment of the council-staff relationship has lagged real-world expectations. The purpose of this article is to extend the literature on council-staff relations by identifying the competencies associated with the concept of political acuity needed to maintain this good relationship.

La reussite du fonctionnement d’une municipalite depend essentiellement d’une bonne relation entre le conseil municipal et les hauts fonctionnaires. Cependant, la perception des universitaires concemant la relation entre le conseil et les fonctionnaires est en decalage avec les atientes du monde reel. Cet article vise a elargir la documentation sur les relations entre conseil municipal et fonctionnaires en identifiant les competences associees au concept de perspicacite politique necessaires au maintien de cette bonne relation.”

_________________

Citations

Bella, L. (1986). The politics of preservation: Creating National Parks in Canada, and in the United States, England and Wales. Planning Perspectives, 1(3), 189–206. https://doi.org/10.1080/02665438608725623  

Botchwey, B. S., & Cunningham, C. (2021). The politicization of Protected Areas Establishment in Canada. FACETS, 6, 1146–1167. https://doi.org/10.1139/facets-2020-0069  

Hartley, J., & Fletcher, C. (2008). Leading with political awareness: Leadership across diverse interests inside and outside the organisation. Leadership Perspectives, 163–176. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230584068_12  

Municipal World. (2018). Political acuity: A guide to managing conflict in the workplace. Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qLePOssTT0&ab_channel=MunicipalWorld.  

Siegel, D. (2020). Public servants and politics: Developing political acuity in local government. Canadian Public Administration, 63(4), 620–639. https://doi.org/10.1111/capa.12381 

 

Connecting with Local Water and Inuit Harvesting Rights

by Nathaniel Rose

This blog post was created in collaboration with Sandi Vincent, practitioner with Parks Canada.

Nathaniel Rose 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.

During the winter months around Igloolik, Nunavut, the sun sets in November and doesn’t rise again until the end of January. Slowly, the daylight grows and the world around us warms up. Everyone loves spring in the Arctic after a cold and dark winter. As a teenager in Igloolik I especially loved to go camping for spring break-up, when the sea ice breaks up and the ocean opens for the summer. Towards the end of May – beginning of June, my family and I traveled across the ice in qamutiik pulled by snowmobile to Igloolik point. We spent the month of June on the land, waiting at seal holes, fishing in cracks in the ice and enjoying the sun and spring weather. When the ice had broken up at the beginning of July, we traveled back to town by ATV or boat.

I had spent many hours with my cousins silently waiting at agluit, seal breathing holes, being in and a part of my environment. When a seal came to my hole, my uncle came to where I was and showed me how to respectfully harvest it. This time spent camping is one of my favourite memories, and learning traditional knowledge camping with my extended family has helped shape me as an Inuk. “Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) encompasses the entire realm of Inuit experience in the world and the values, principles, beliefs, and skills which have evolved as a result of that experience. It is the experience and resulting knowledge/wisdom that prepares us for success in the future and establishes the possible survival of Inuit.”(3). I spent that spring break-up learning Inuktitut terms, observing the weather, gaining a deeper understanding of my environment, and strengthening my cultural identity. I’m grateful for spending so much time on the land and treasure the time I spent with my family.

Inuit exercising rights under the Nunavut Agreement have unrestricted access to all Parks Canada protected places in Nunavut. Inuit are not considered “visitors” when in Parks Canada administered places in Nunavut, and can hunt, trap, fish, harvest berries and other materials, collect carving stones and establish outpost camps in Parks Canada protected places. 

After I shared this story with Nathaniel, our conversations shifted to the recent water crisis in Iqaluit NU. In October 2021 Iqaluit’s drinking water was contaminated with fuel and a do not consume order was issued. For nearly two months the city of approx. 8000 people relied on bottled water or trucked river water. This event put a clear focus on access to drinking water and the quality of water on a broader scale.

I (Nathaniel) wanted to look into bodies of water in my local area, and whether or not they were drinkable, so I turned my attention to Georgian Bay. Georgian Bay is home to many provincial Parks and one National Park (Georgian Bay Islands National Park – visited many times by the Group of Seven who painted its pristine landscapes). I have spent my summers here since a child, at a family log cabin right on the south shores of Georgian Bay. I remember we used to have a hose running from the lake, to our lawn, to water the lawn and the garden. But I don’t think I ever drank from the lake directly. I definitely swam in it, and still swim in it during the summer to this day.

I was very interested to learn when Georgian Bay water became undrinkable for residents and when the shift occurred from being able to drink it directly, to having to have it filtered. My guess is this happened this century (in the 1900s). With the pollution from many motorboats (used mostly for leisure boating and fishing) and nutrients like phosphorus from agricultural runoff, the water quality has diminished and is now filtered (where I am) by the local town, Thornbury. The water comes from Georgian Bay but must be treated to be fit to drink.

According to Pat Chow-Fraser, Professor at McMaster University, permanent and seasonal residents on Georgian Bay used to drink water directly from the lake (1). However over time, it got more polluted and required treatment. In isolated bays, where the water exchange is low, the lake became infested with Blue-Green Algae, caused by agricultural runoff from local watersheds.

Today, the water quality (though it still needs to be treated) is deemed relatively good in Georgian Bay. However, in more urbanized areas like Severn Sound, in the southeast corner of the bay, increased nutrient levels (eutrophication) have led to excessive plankton blooms, aquatic plant life and reduced dissolved oxygen levels (1). Eutrophication, caused by agricultural runoff in local watersheds, can prove toxic to fish, birds, humans and other wildlife.

 The cold water parts of Georgian Bay are home to fish such as Lake Trout and White Fish, while the warmer waters are home to Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, Muskellunge, Walleye, Yellow Perch and others (1). It is important that we protect these fish, and the local bird populations that rely on them for sustenance. This will help support a healthy and biodiverse ecosystem.

It is also important to human swimmers, and I argue, everyone who drinks from the lake. Think about it: wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all drink directly from our fresh-water lakes? If fish could swim free of toxins, and we could swim with no worry about toxins as well? Have you ever drunk directly from a lake or river? My guess is this is a rare experience today in urbanized areas of Canada.

The Beaver River flows into Georgian Bay and is a major spawning spot for Salmon. Every year you can watch the salmon swim upstream to where they lay their eggs

Motor Boats

Apart from agricultural runoff,  motorboats are one of the major polluters of Georgian Bay. From fishing to leisure boating, motorboats have existed on the bay since the early twentieth century (4). Though not as busy as the Muskoka region (a major cottage getaway location in Ontario), there are still a significant amount of motor boats on the Bay today. According to an article published by Georgian Bay Forever, a local conservation group, a 20 HP 2-stroke outboard engine that operates for 1 hour makes 11, 000 m3 of water undrinkable (2). That’s a lot of water that is now unfit to drink, from one motor boat engine. A 5 HP 4-stroke outboard engine (which is the latest technology) still produces 38 times the amount of hydrogen and nitrogen oxide emissions than a small gas-powered car does (2). Therefore, even if there aren’t a lot of motorboats on your lake or river, they can still have a large impact.

Solutions

Electric powered boats are a viable solution as they are emission free. They use an electric battery instead of an Internal Combustion Engine. Kerry and AJ Mueller, owners of an electric fishing boat and pontoon, said they can fully charge their battery at their house in as little as 7 hours (2). They also have a solar charging option so you can charge your boat as you go boating (2). However, there are financial barriers involved as electric motors are more expensive. There is also limited availability and less choice to date. However, if there were government incentives, like there are for electric cars, this option could become more affordable.

Using an electric motor costs approximately 1/5 the price of gas, depending upon your region (2). They don’t release emissions that contribute to water or air pollution.  In the Georgian Bay area, 34% of total community air emissions are from waterborne transportation. That’s a large chunk of emissions that could be reduced if people switched to electric boats.

PARKS

How does this relate to Parks? Parks have a unique position as many are situated on, or have water running through, their park or protected area. My hope is that this will inspire you to look into the history of the body of water in your area or park, and it’s history of pollution. Is the water in your park drinkable? What are the major polluters to the water in your park? Are there any solutions out there, (eg. encouraging electric boats or enforcing a ban on pesticides), that you can implement?

Call to Action
We invite you to connect with your local water system, and encourage you to learn about indigenous groups and harvesting rights in your area. Please share what resonates with you.

References

1) Chow-Fraser, Pat. “Water Quality: A Middle Great Lakes Dilemma.” Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation, https://www.georgianbaygreatlakesfoundation.com/water-quality/. Accessed 16 March 2022

2) Sargaent, Heather. “Electric Powered Boats Reduce Pollution Emissions, But They Also Make Boating More Enjoyable”.  GBF Winter 2022 Newsletter, Georgian Bay Forever, 2022. https://georgianbayforever.org/flipbook/winter2022/6/. Accessed 16 March 2022.

3) Tagalik, Shirley.  “Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: The role of Indigenous knowledge in supporting wellness in Inuit Communities in Nunavut”, National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, 2022. https://inuuqatigiit.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Inuit-IQ-EN-web.pdf. Accessed 28 March 2022.

4) Hatherly, Gerry. “Boating History: Gidley Boats”. Canadian Yachting: Canada’s Boating Source, Digital Magazine, April 11, 2019. https://www.canadianyachting.ca/home/digital-archives/96-boat-reviews/boatyards/5007-boating-history-gidley-boats. Accessed 29 March 2022.

Photos of Georgian Bay and the Beaver River ©Nathaniel Rose

All other photos ©Sandi Vincent

Secondments and Acting Assignments: The Benefits and Challenges of Temporary Placements

by Sky Jarvis

Sky Jarvis 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.

As a youth knowledge gatherer with CPCIL, I have had the pleasure of getting to interview several park Leaders from across Canada. One of the common questions I would ask these leaders is what they enjoy most about working in their positions within in a federal, provincial, or territorial park agency and what sort of advice they would give to younger people. All five of them talked about how much they like the diversity in tasks throughout their careers. I heard how it was always important to let your boss know about the areas you would like to develop and what interested you so that when opportunities became available, they would keep you in mind. Secondly, most of the park leaders said that the advice they would most want to share was an encouraging message to youth and young professionals to not be afraid of trying new things. To not be afraid of failure or feeling like you are “falling behind” when you take new and unexpected opportunities; these side experiences can be amazing opportunities for personal and professional growth. 

Secondment (noun): the detachment of a person from their regular organization for a temporary assignment elsewhere. 

Acting Assignment (noun): a situation where an employee is required to temporarily perform the duties of a higher classification level for a specified period of time. 

Value of Collaboration for Individuals, Teams, and Agencies

Temporary positions such as acting assignments and secondments, allow individuals to gain new experiences. By leaving a familiar role to join a new team, participants are exposed to a whole new set of experiences, tasks, and responsibilities, allowing for the development of new skills. These opportunities can stimulate personal growth and facilitate professional development at the individual level. Professional growth can be observed through enhanced confidence, empowerment, and an improved sense of capability, understanding, and effectiveness. These benefits not only stay with the individual(s) who participate in these opportunities but also have the ability to influence the team and agency through the permeation of new skills and perspectives once they return to their substantive role.  

“It’s very much top of mind for me to think about how people can take these opportunities and then bring back what they’ve gained to their actual jobs, to influence things and create spaces to collaborate” – Jared, 2022 

Temporary positions can build capacity by making space for knowledge acquisition and translation amongst team members and departments through two-way learning experiences. Secondments can be applied to a team setting  to develop knowledge and skills through the inclusion of an expert from a separate agency (Gerrish and Piercy 2014). The Chartered Institute of Professional Development (2021) highlights the role of secondments as a tool for talent development in organizations with flatter management structures by expanding the capabilities, skills, and knowledge of team members within an organization. 

“From a management perspective, it’s good for your team because it encourages them to try new things and explore their strengths.” – Jared, 2022 

Temporary positions can also be employed to assist with the creation of bridging relationships between agencies and organizations that may otherwise be disconnected. This approach is common to several sectors, such as healthcare (Hamilton and Wilkie 2001; Bullock et al. 2013) and education (Loads and Campbell 2015). O’Donoughue Jenkins and Anstey (2017) emphasize the importance of building these inter-agency relationships in meaningful ways that enable them to last into the future. They recommend regular communication and collaboration through annual secondments as one such tool for driving changes in the long run. By developing a reciprocal form of collaboration, such as secondments, both organizations will benefit at the individual and team levels (Hamilton and Wilkie 2001; Bullock et al. 2013; Gerrish and Piercy 2014). 

“For example, I have a colleague who works for Parks Canada, they took a year and a half secondment with Health Canada. These organizations are not related by any means, but she left for a year and a half to gain this new experience. During that time, her role in Parks Canada still exists, and eventually, she’ll come back and can share her experiences with a different organization.” – Jared, 2022 

PROS of temp positions 

In a paper written by Dryden and Rice (2008) they highlight a range of advantages that secondees are perceived to receive from participating in temporary positions with a host organization. These advantages ranged from improved sense of motivation and education to increased job security and career development, to experiential therapy associated with getting to “try new things” and “taking a break from the day-to-day tasks”. Furthermore, personal participation in temporary placements can help agencies with succession planning by enabling members to gain the skills and knowledge that will benefit their career position in the long run even when promotional opportunities in the short run may be limited. 

CONS of temp positions 

Interviews are a great way of getting and documenting individual perspectives on a temporary position including challenges that they faced. Debriefing interviews create an opportunity for managers to understand how to better support their staff on this pathway to personal and professional development by better understanding the personal experiences of their team members. Some interviewed secondees have identified the need to balance two workloads, most commonly associated with part-time positions, as a major issue that leads to increased stress and burnout (Gerrish and Piercy 2014; O’Donoughue Jenkins and Anstey 2017). Other potential barriers to the successful implementation of secondments as an effective learning tool can include a lack of planning, limited consensus on defining desirable outcomes amongst stakeholders, and limited metrics for evaluating whether the placement was actually successful in achieving its intended outcomes (O’Donoughue Jenkins and Anstey 2017).  Based on the literature review I’ve done it seems like the barriers that have been identified could be mitigated through increased planning before the process, in order to provide structure and points of contact for people who may be participating in a temporary placement like an acting assignment or secondment.  

“It’s [like] moving water; sometimes it’s moving laterally and sometimes it moves vertically.” – Jared, 2022 

Recommendations to Support Temporary Staff 

1. Managerial involvement and support throughout temporary placements are beneficial. Management can support staff and help negotiate workload adjustments while the new worker(s) adjust to their new role (Gerrish and Piercy 2014). Training should be made available to managers so that they can identify and better support staff who may be showing signs of stress and/or burnout.  

2. Mentorships from experienced project leads and/or persons who previously held this position within the host organization or unit can assist with the acceptance and integration of temporary workers into existing teams (Gerrish and Piercy 2014). Persons in the host organization who are strong leaders or those who have held the position or a similar position should be identified prior to the temporary position starting in order to provide support and advice to the new worker. Diversity and inclusion training could be offered to department staff prior to the arrival of the temporary worker to build empathy around the feelings and stresses of starting a new role in a new job with a new team.  

3. Clear pre-defined metrics informed by participants, involved agencies, and stakeholders can be used to evaluate the success of temporary placements in achieving the intended results. This process of monitoring and evaluation allows for organizational reflection on the values, benefits, and challenges of such opportunities in a way that they can be adapted and improved using collected data and suggestions. This could greatly improve the uptake of secondments and acting assignments in agencies and businesses that may be skeptical of the ability of these approaches to create tangible and verifiable benefits.  

4. A well-planned de-briefing session, including an interview that involves management, team members, and individual participants, may be helpful in gaining insights, assisting with knowledge transfer, and providing closure to the participant(s) after the experience ends. This could help maximize any potential benefits associated with these types of opportunities.  

Evaluating Success

Gerrish and Piercy (2014) held focus groups and interviews with 19 individuals involved in secondment opportunities which consisted of secondees and managers from the participating agencies. This resulted in the identification of five criteria that were proposed for the evaluation of success at the individual, team, and organization levels (Table 1). Originally there were six metrics proposed, based on a secondment consisting of clinical and academic participants. Their impacts have been shortened and coupled under the “enhanced service delivery” instead of “healthcare service delivery” and “education service delivery” so that it could be more easily adapted and applied to a parks and protected areas agency context. Secondments taking place across agencies will likely reflect the aforementioned swap of persons from drastically different government agencies or departments and are intended to generate benefits and improvements for all individuals, teams, and agencies involved. 

Table 1- Six metrics for evaluating the success of a temporary position from Gerrish and Piercy (2014), described and critically assessed to determine potential ways in which these outcomes can be applied to similar positions within the context of a parks or protected areas agency in Canada.  

In most of the literature assessed it has been common to use interviews as a form of individual and organization reflection (Dryden and Rice 2008; Gerrish and Piercy 2014; O’Donoughue Jenkins and Anstey 2017). Such opportunities open up space for discussions and cording of personal experiences, highlighting benefits, skills, and insights gained from the experience and a chance to learn more about the challenges faced from both sides- to better support the individuals who participate in temporary placements. If not already doing so it would be beneficial to have persons who participated in a temporary position undergo a short interview consisting of a mix of open- and close-ended questions in order to learn more about the challenges and benefits of these experiences and what has been gained. 

Furthermore, interviews are beneficial in collecting qualitative data on whether the placement was successful in achieving its intended outcomes, and if it wasn’t how the participant(s) and their team(s) could be supported in achieving these goals and translating their newly-gained knowledge back into their original roles. It would be interesting and potentially beneficial to see agency-to-agency relationships being formed between park agencies, indigenous agencies, and academic institutions in a way that is respectful. This could help with relationship- and capacity-building, but also allow for the dissemination of knowledge between agencies that have seemingly limited avenues for communication and collaboration. 

I encourage anyone who has read this post and wondered about how they could do a secondment or what that may be like- to try this experience and let it be known that you would be open to trying something new and sharing your experiences perspectives with a new team. I think you will find it to be a rewarding experience! 

If you have participated in a secondment or temporary assignment, we invite you to share your advice in the comments below. 

References: 

Bullock, A., Z.S. Morris, and C. Atwell. 2013. Exchanging knowledge through healthcare manager placements in research teams. The Service Industries Journal 33 (13-14): 1363-1380. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02642069.2013.815739?casa_token=qlXyT2dOz2YAAAAA:nVk_pwnKHT_I58mgETZWPEEcp4iNzzHHS3cwC22ylPKCsNH5NisH13cwbS88tDEMmxV6IC9z7BO5ivA 

Chartered Institute of Professional Development. 2021. Talent Management Factsheet. https://www.cipd.co.uk/Export/ToPdf?path=%252fknowledge%252fstrategy%252fresourcing%252ftalent-factsheet 

Dryden, H., and A.M. Rice. 2008. Using guidelines to support secondment: A personal experience. Journal of Nursing Management 16 (1): 65-71. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2934.2007.00794.x?casa_token=95HUh92SQskAAAAA:IEeZVBiBPNU-drYJTpQK5Qgh1r97FYFsnAwWY3Hjz55G8-i4Z0kZcHsEVw8A6r9E3vDrtiM-1juEgzTp 

Gerrish, K., and H. Piercy. 2014. Capacity development for knowledge translation: evaluation of an experiential approach through secondment opportunities. Worldviews on Evidence‐Based Nursing 11 (3): 209-216. https://sigmapubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/wvn.12038?casa_token=fnUWDfBwbMsAAAAA:LH4AczEOKTaMy4FfQF_PTo4Si27AcEhwH2VvRvpQg91iQUdRSaisDxTL3ThZrc2mtfMCPsZy8gfPU6wZ 

Hamilton, J., and C. Wilkie. 2001. An appraisal of the use of secondment within a large teaching hospital. Journal of Nursing Management 9 (6): 315-320. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.0966-0429.2001.00257.x?casa_token=P2vzXBYNS5sAAAAA:dxRNeuElUHzjBJKEuIhM0AFBT9QcRhuqsa5QEQUqqwz7R3i8wviO1_4zIx8nblj9ItvLN_RudIgHNdbG 

Loads, D., and F. Campbell. 2015. Fresh thinking about academic development: Authentic, transformative, disruptive? International Journal for Academic Development 20 (4): 355-369. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1360144X.2015.1083866?casa_token=PwYpGVzPjUEAAAAA%3AJf_2ZeOGu2Ohsh5yWIGSIbbKb8AsUTZ7Jis47P_YUx045i3KeYLg5npW3rs_A4XZ2_vT3jDQdhY_UMQ&journalCode=rija20  

O’Donoughue Jenkins, L., and K. Anstey. 2017. The use of secondments as a tool to increase knowledge translation. https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/bitstream/1885/250482/1/01_O%2527Donoughue%2BJenkins_The_use_of_secondments_as_a_2017.pdf 

 

Healthy Parks and Philanthropy Opportunities

by Stanley Omotor

Stanley Omotor 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.

Rachel DeGreef currently works as a Partnerships and Philanthropy Assistant at Ontario Parks. Her skills and interest in customer service and relationship-based communications led her to the current role of Partnerships and Philanthropy Assistant, where she is responsible for promoting and accepting donations on behalf of Ontario Parks. In addition to this, her interest and passion for ecological integrity has built a foundation for this role where she is able share the importance of leaving a legacy in the name of sustainability and future visitor enjoyment in Ontario Parks.

Evidence shows that parks and green and outdoor spaces are beneficial for our overall health and well-being.  Park prescriptions (PaRx) now also form part of the medical and health prescription tool kit. The emerging concept of palliative parks is based on the impact of time in nature for end-of-life care, even if it’s just finding peace in oneself or finding understanding for grief and loss. While park agencies recognize the value of nature for health, most of these organizations are not directly in the business of offering wellbeing or palliative care services. This case study highlights practical ways of growing capacity for new parks initiatives through philanthropic and volunteer practices in parks. 

Ontario Parks is committed to promoting healthy parks, healthy people programs, and philanthropy and volunteering are crucial for them to provide these benefits to park lovers while still achieving parks’ mandates. Philanthropy and volunteering can even accomplish more than just providing funds and time. 

A collaboration story by Park People on “The Role of Philanthropy in Parks notes that philanthropy in parks also presents an opportunity to promote racial equality and support priority /underrepresented groups like Black and Indigenous communities. According to Park People, there is value “beyond the dollars and cents” which arises from park philanthropy. Another important aspect of philanthropy is its “community capacity and stewardship-building element… Philanthropic projects can also help bring people together. While solely city-funded park projects include community engagement elements, the quality of that engagement can be different when community members are more directly involved in raising funds, conceiving of a project themselves, or both.”  

One set of philanthropic opportunities available in parks is being a donor. There are lots of opportunities to donate toward parks, often indirectly through non-profit agencies. Ontario Parks, in listing some of the notable accomplishments of Friends of Ontario Parks (some independent, not-for-profit charitable organizations that are “dedicated to supplementing and enhancing the unique educational, recreational, research and resource protection mandates” of parks), listed their involvement in the boardwalk and observatory at Presqu’ile Provincial Park, an accessible trail at Mashkinonje Provincial Park, Huron Fringe Birding Festival at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, Art in the Park at Bon Echo Provincial Park and Footprints In Time Trail (FITT trail) at Bonnechere Provincial Park. Some donation opportunities listed by Ontario Parks also include the Turtle protection project (aimed at helping “All 8 of Ontario’s turtle species are now ‘at risk’”), the discovery program (aimed at supporting educational programs offered in Ontario Parks and in-school program), the trails & recreation (aimed at trail maintenance and restoration and developing new recreation spaces), and so on.  

Legacy gifts, or planned donations given as part of your estate or will, also form an important part of philanthropic opportunities in Ontario Parks. In seeking to promote legacy giving, Ontario Parks has made it easy for interested donors to leave a legacy to Ontario Parks by providing all information that is necessary and required to leave an effective legacy gift.  Despite the challenges of not having an online donation platform, Ontario Parks is taking advantage of secondary online charity profiles, such as CanadaHelps, and receiving donations over the phone in order to boost more philanthropy opportunities.  

Another set of opportunities that are available is volunteering with parks. BC Parks, in listing some of the numerous ways in which volunteers may participate and share their knowledge and skills with parks, noted these as including supporting conservation and recreation projects, trail maintenance, learning new skills and sharing valuable skills and knowledge while making a positive impact, building friendships and community; helping conserve biodiversity, taking part in environmental restoration, long term ecological monitoring & ecological inventories, invasive plant control, ecological reserve warden program; park management and planning; as well as facility restoration. 

Image by: DuPreez (2019)

Interested in volunteering?

Here are some volunteer opportunities associated with Parks Canada in Nova Scotia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Additional numerous opportunities also exist in each provincial park agency, a simple online search of the term “Volunteer Opportunities (with the name of a park agency)” reveals some of these opportunities for example “Volunteer opportunities BC Parks”. We encourage you to share links to volunteer programs in the comments below or on the CPCIL opportunities board.

The goal of parks includes to create access for all and to make sure that everyone, regardless of their individual situation or socioeconomic status, has access to whatever park, they desire to visit. Philanthropic opportunities in parks can help in achieving this goal. 

References: 

BC Parks. (n.d.). Volunteer in BC Parks. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://bcparks.ca/volunteers/ 

Park People. (2021). The Role of Philanthropy in Parks. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://ccpr.parkpeople.ca/2021/sections/collaboration/stories/the-role-of-philanthropy-in-parks 

PaRx. (2022). A Prescription for Nature. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://www.parkprescriptions.ca/

Ontario Parks. (2022). Friends of Ontario Parks. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://www.ontarioparks.com/friends 

Ontario Parks. (2022). Ontario Parks Donations. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://www.ontarioparks.com/donate  

Ontario Parks. (2022). Legacy Giving. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://www.ontarioparks.com/donate/legacygiving 

Parks Canada. (n.d.). Volunteer Opportunities. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/agence-agency/benevolat-volunteering/vol-ben07 

 

Photos:

Benna, M. (2018). Stanley Park. [image]. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://unsplash.com/photos/SBiVq9eWEtQ  

DuPreez, P. (2019). Friends. [image] Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://unsplash.com/photos/gYdjZzXNWlg 

The Future of the Campfire

by Nathaniel Rose

Nathaniel Rose 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.

 

“I went camping with my family when I was growing up. And I still love campfire marshmallows. For me, it’s very important. They have to be burnt. Like, I want the flaming ball that I get to blow out. And then I eat it. A lot of people like it just to be lightly toasted and brown on the outside. And soft. Nope, it’s got to be charred. And so that’s how I eat a marshmallow.”

  – Dani Money

 

If you have a conversation about campfires, roasting marshmallows is bound to come up. As was the case with Dani Money, the Planning Section Head at BC Parks, when I sat down with her to discuss the future of the campfire. I’m sure after that introduction, you’re dying to know how I, Nathaniel Rose, Knowledge Gatherer for Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation eat a marshmallow, but I’m not going to tell you.

Okay I will. I actually prefer to roast them slowly, down near the embers, so that they cook evenly through. So you can imagine my disappointment with Dani, when I heard she likes to burn hers to a crisp. Okay, kidding again. But I think this brings to light one of the beautiful things about a campfire – it allows for people to have experiences that they wouldn’t have anywhere else. And a lot of these experiences are social and provide a feeling of happiness or contentment.

That’s why the future of the campfire is such an important issue. So I was thrilled to get to talk about this Dani Money about it. After conducting some research, here’s a bit of what we came up with:

Fires have been used by the human population for millennia. Not only did the discovery of fire allow us to cook our food increasing brain function, but fires gave us a space to socialize and build community. When fires first became popular with our (human) species, they added four hours to our working day (1). Cooking and eating didn’t take up the whole extra four hours so it opened up a time slot that could only be used for conversation and storytelling (1). There wasn’t enough light to forage for food and make tools but there was enough light to interact socially (1). Having fires therefore was essential to community building.

Today, campfires are still prevalent, especially in the park setting. Campfires in parks have been used to keep warm, cook and socialize for generations. I bet a park leader today would not be able to argue with the fact that campfires are a key component of the camping experience.

However, as park leaders, we have a responsibility to ensure the health of visitors. Do the benefits of campfires outweigh the negative aspects? Let’s take a look:

 

Negative Impacts

Campfires have many health impacts and are also a cause of air pollution. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency in the United States), fine particles from woodsmoke can trigger asthma attacks, make asthma symptoms worse, make you more susceptible to lung infections including that from Co-vid 19, and trigger heart attacks, strokes, and irregular heart conditions, especially in those already prone to these conditions (6).

Campfires can also cause noise disturbances as people stay up late into the night socializing around the fire.

It is also possible that campfire wood that visitors bring in could hold invasive species within the wood. This could introduce the species into the park area, that could have a potentially damaging effect on the local tree population or ecosystem. One example of invasive species that was brought into parts of BC, and widespread in Eastern Canada is the Gypsy moth (3). This insect eats the leaves of trees to an alarming effect, making it hard for the trees to survive.

Female Gypsy Moth

Another invasive species that has been recently affecting large parts of Southern Ontario is the Emerald Ash Borer. It is a wood-boring beetle, that “bores” through Ash tree trunks, eating through and inhabiting the wood. It is native to China and the Russian Far East and arrived in Canada in the 1990s, most likely on wood packaging material (4). According to the Government of Canada, millions of trees have been killed due to this Beetle’s infestation. (4)

Author’s Note: 

“The Emerald Ash Borer affected the area around my cottage on Southern Georgian Bay. We had to take more than eleven ash trees down on my property as the insect had chewed its way through their trunks. You can actually see the little pathways in the wood where the Ash Borer drilled its way through, eating the wood. A good tip would be to check your firewood for signs of insect infestation before use”

After a quick summary of these negative impacts, one might want to go running as far away from a campfire as possible. But there are also many positive impacts to campfires.

 

Positive Uses

Campfires have many social and cultural uses that the average person may not have thought of. Shawn Davis, a professor at Slippery Rock University in Pennslvania notes that because campfires are built in a circular fashion, people face one another, which provides more opportunity for connection than say watching the television would, where people sit in a linear fashion (2). Jennifer Willford, associate professor of psychology notes that being around a fire creates “comfortable emotions” of happiness, tranquility, and connection. It can elicit positive emotions that allow us to be more open and also allow us to be more present without the daily distractions of cellphones (2). Campfires also have a therapeutic effect: the sound of fire crackling can have a calming affect on humans and act as a de-stressor (2), just as the trickling of water in streams or the sound of the breeze through leaves of a tree would do the same.

Campfires are also used in Indigenous communities for healing ceremonies and learning opportunities. The Anishnabeg, native to Turtle Island, concentrated around the Great Lakes, use fires for healing ceremonies and as a gathering place for workshops. Fires hold a space to meet as a community and learn traditional knowledge (5). For example, one workshop offered by Anishnabeg Outreach, a not-for-profit organization with locations in different parts of Ontario, is a “spirit building workshop” that focuses on creating resilience for you and your family as well as “growing the ability to deal with change, stresses and uncertainties in life” (5). The workshop begins with circle questions and is intended to “light the fire within you” (5). The traditional knowledge learned around the fire includes learning a “deep sense of self and belonging and ways to integrate Indigenous culture into your daily life” (5).

If one were to ban or take away campfire use, it could be a potential barrier to the Anishanabeg as they wouldn’t be able to have healing and spiritual experiences around the fire. Fires are also used as a gathering place for Anishnaabe families and a ban on fires would take that opportunity away.

 

Author’s Note: 

“One memory I have around the campfire, was from a Grade 9 trip to Camp Walden (a camp in Southern Ontario) that I took with my arts high school. While I was there, I connected with several dance majors, and I remember one night we sang songs by the fire. I remember it as such a beautiful experience of bonding, and I was friends with these people for the rest of my high school career. If it wasn’t for that campfire, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to sing with each other”

Solutions

Given that there are so many benefits to campfires maybe it is worthwhile to look at potential solutions to the negative impacts of fires. 

When I went camping as a child there were regulations in place to deal with campfire use in parks – regulating the time they could be used and placing a ban on campfires after a certain time at night. This dealt with noise pollution and air quality at night. These regulations still exist and offer a partial solution to visitor complaints.

In response to the invasive species problem, one solution could be to only allow firewood to be bought from the local area or park itself, while ensuring that the wood is sourced locally from healthy trees. However, this may create an economic barrier to some, who planned on taking wood from crown land, rather than purchasing it.

Park Operators can also offer an alternative to burning wood. Propane Rings available at a rental price from the park could be a viable alternative. They consist of a metal bowl, lava rocks, and a connection for a propane tank that acts as the fuel for the fire. They provide both a gathering place and a place to cook food. Group campfires could be an option if they are housed in a specific part of the park so that noise pollution and campfire smoke would be isolated to that area. This could help meet the needs of neighbours and campers that worry about noise and pollution. However, it would be important to take into account the level of comfort zone that certain people would have with sharing the fire and cooking with others.

Park Leaders could also provide education on campfires – looking at ensuring people are respectful to other campers, looking at the pros and cons of campfires and keeping them mindful of the air pollution caused by fires that can lead to climate and health impacts.

After a quick look, it looks like campfires have many positive impacts and uses, from building communities, providing a space for connection, de-stressing and relaxing, and providing a space for Indigenous workshops and healing ceremonies. Whether or not these benefits outweigh the negative impacts to human health and the environment seems more like something to be decided by each individual that visits an overnight camping site. Maybe, as park leaders, we can only try to mitigate the negative impacts by providing solutions that ensure that visitors can enjoy campfires in parks with a clearer conscience and a healthier body.

Call to Action

What do you think? Do the positive outcomes of campfires outweigh the negative outcomes? How have campfires been treated in your park? Do you have an experience with campfires in parks? Please leave a comment below.

Sources

1) Dunbar, Robin I. M. “How Conversations around Campfires Came to Be.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 30 Sept. 2014, https://www.pnas.org/content/111/39/14013.full. Accessed 13 Dec. 2021

2) Zackal, Justin. “SRU Professors Spark Conversation about Campfire Day.” Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock University, 2 Aug. 2019, http://www.sru.edu/news/080219b. Accessed 13 Dec. 2021

3) “Buy local, Burn Local: Play your Part.” Invasive Species Council of BC, Invasive Species Council of BC, https://bcinvasives.ca/play-your-part/buy-local-burn-local/#:~:text=Two%20examples%20of%20introduced%20insects,established%20and%20damage%20local%20trees Accessed 3 Feb. 2022

4) “Emerald Ash Borer.” Government of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, 13 July 2021, https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/our-natural-resources/forests/wildland-fires-insects-disturbances/top-forest-insects-and-diseases-canada/emerald-ash-borer/13377. Accessed 3 Feb. 2022

5) “Wellness and Healing.” Anishnabeg Outreach, 2021, https://aocan.org/wellness-and-healing/. Accessed 13 Dec. 2021

6) “Wood Smoke and Your Health.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/burnwise/wood-smoke-and-your-health#health Accessed 2 Mar. 2022

Photos

Gypsy Moth Photo sourced from “Creative Commons

How the History of Segregation Impacts Recreation

Colorized photo of the pool at Cave and Basin in the 1920s. Parks Canada. Photo courtesy of Niche Canada.

Ebany Carratt 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, and connection to nature to support effective and equitable leadership and inclusion in parks and protected areas across Canada. 

Today I want to talk about stereotypes. I am sure we have all heard of them, or maybe have even believed one at some point in our lives. Stereotypes are a constant thing in society, but perhaps there is something more insidious hiding beneath the surface. Growing up, I had very few chances to visit a national park unless it was during my family summer tradition to experience the Rockies once a year. Of course, we would go to the small municipal parks around my neighbourhood, whether for birthday celebrations or to feed ducks, but overall partaking in the typical forms of recreation that I think of when talking about the “great outdoors” were few and far between. So in those rare opportunities to go camping or take a hike, I noticed something I found strange at a young age: my brothers and I were usually the only non-white, or even, the only Black people on the trails. When I would ask why this was to my white family members, I never got any significant answers. Maybe there were more people of colour visiting on the days that I was not there? Maybe hiking in the mountains just was not their thing? After receiving answers like this, I just stopped asking these questions and moved on. However, the stereotypes did not end at hiking or going to national parks. By the time I was in university, I had heard it all. Stereotypes like “Black people can’t swim”, “people of colour do not play hockey”, “people of colour don’t like the wilderness” and so on, are just some to name a few. 

Thinking of these stereotypes at first, they might seem relatively harmless or even played off as a joke at times, but this hides the fact that they might have real implications. The first time I went camping in a remote area with a few of my friends who are also POCs, I noticed that we were treated differently than how I am treated when I go camping with my white family members. One morning, we talked with an older couple while collecting firewood, and they told us that they had never seen people like us camping before in the area. So they were pleasantly surprised to meet us there and thought others in the area would be just as equally shocked as they were. I don’t blame the couple for their reaction in any way. Like myself, many of my POC friends have also joked about how the great outdoors is not really “our thing” and have struggled to convince others in our communities to do more than just shop in national parks. Yet, letting this stereotype go and not thinking about it on a deeper level does not feel right. The fact remains that I still rarely see people who look like me participating in or being represented in nature recreation, let alone working in parks. So, where do these stereotypes come from

The Roots in Oppression

Nature and recreation are wonderful things. It often shapes who we are as human beings and should be for everyone, so why would a stereotype or a narrative like this exist? Well, as I have learnt through time, there is always a historical explanation. Anti-Black racism and other forms of racial discrimination towards ethnic minorities in recreation have been growing in discussion over the last few years in the United States. For example, the common stereotype that “Black people can’t swim” is linked to segregation and the sometimes violent exclusion of Black people from pools and beaches.[1] However, just like the U.S., Canada also supported segregation against Black, Asian, and Indigenous peoples at places like beaches, hockey rinks, swimming pools, and theatres.[2] Yet, the issue of racism and segregation plays a central role in the history of parks too. According to historians, there have been plenty of instances where Canadian parks would bar people of colour from enjoying recreational facilities,[3] refer to Jewish people and other POCs as “restricted clientele”,[4] or even remove a Black church wanting to enjoy a picnic in nature from park premises entirely.[5] Even worse, one of the most important and internationally revered figures for championing civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr., was also turned away from spending a holiday with his wife and their friends at Fundy National Park in 1960.[6] When MLK looked to Canada as a more welcoming country to take a short respite in, our parks turned him away and lost the chance to host one of the greatest icons of the 20th century

Letter to L. Harold DeWolf, Friend Martin Luther King Jr., declining MLK’s entry into Fundy National Park
Letter to L. Harold DeWolf, Friend Martin Luther King Jr., declining MLK’s entry into Fundy National Park. Photo Courtesy of Canadiana Heritage.

Today, despite all these horrific occurrences in our history, some might wonder why Black people and other POCs do not just go out and take advantage of these recreational activities or enjoy parks now that segregation has long been over. Although I understand where questions like this are coming from to an extent, the issue of this lack of representation or participation is far more difficult than it seems. According to research, there is a generational effect from segregation, even when it comes to recreation or enjoying parks.[7] So, think of it this way — if you grew up during segregation and were not allowed to enjoy nature recreation and access to parks was non-existent in your community, you would not participate in those activities and would find other things to do that were available to you. From there on, you would likely pass on the activities you did enjoy to your children and that cycle of exclusion would continue throughout the next couple of generations. Importantly, even after laws were put in place to make segregation illegal, it technically has continued for years after, as many racialized communities still have less access to parks, are often subject to overt and casual racism within outdoor spaces, and have had to adjust to the generational trauma left behind or the general distrust towards recreational activities that have been traditionally barred to them for so long. 

Another systemic barrier of what makes outdoor spaces inaccessible to BIPOC communities is within the very nature of white-washing the history of parks. The National Health Foundation notes that “in history books and even in the naming of outdoor spaces, there has been a deliberate and intentional erasure of Indigenous history and ownership of outdoor lands”.[8] This rhetoric has often led to the conceptualization that park spaces are reserved for and owned by European/Christian communities to preserve what we consider as “wilderness” in western society. At this time, we have yet to acknowledge that this thinking, which is still embedded in many environmental movements, was executed at the expense of Indigenous and other POC communities. All of this, combined with a general lack of BIPOC representation in media or at decision making tables, continues to feed these harmful stereotypes and perpetuates the exclusion of many BIPOC communities to this day. 

What Can Parks Do to Address Racism in Outdoor Spaces?

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Given this idea that BIPOC individuals do not enjoy outdoor recreation, it is especially important to note that many communities of colour do engage in plenty of outdoor activities. For example, activities like barbecues or picnics in city parks are something that many communities of colour participate in and are represented in. However, while outdoor recreation in municipal parks is used where it is accessible, the experience from visiting a national park and being surrounded by nature holds immeasurable value for our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health and should be accessible for anyone, regardless of race or economic background. So, while many may say that “the outdoors do not discriminate” or that “parks are for everyone”, it is apparent that this sentiment does not apply to everyone at this time, no matter how well-intentioned this belief is. Currently, our parks and outdoor recreational systems are built upon the same underlying structures of oppression that have historically governed our society. Knowing this fact means that parks agencies also have a moral responsibility to help dismantle these systems and to encourage true diversity throughout every aspect of parks. Now is the time to push for policies and practices that prioritize racial justice or inclusion and spreads awareness of the many subtle barriers, like stereotypes, that have historical ties to systems of discrimination.

So if you are reading this, I hope next time you hear some strange stereotypes that you will also want to dig a little deeper to figure out where they come from. I know for me as a park leader and as a Biracial Black Woman, I want to make sure that others who look like me or who can relate to my story know that being in nature has always been “our thing”.

Citations

  1. Wiltse, Jeff. “The Black–White Swimming Disparity in America: A Deadly Legacy of Swimming Pool Discrimination.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues 38, no. 4 (August 2014): 366–89. https://doi.org/10.1177/0193723513520553.
  2. Cheryl Thompson. “Viola Desmond’s Canada: A History of Blacks and Racial Segregation in the Promised Land.” Canadian Journal of History 52, no. 1 (April 1, 2017).
  3.  Loo, Meg Stanley and Tina. “Getting into Hot WATER: Racism and Exclusion at Banff National Park,”.https://niche-canada.org/2020/08/26/getting-into-hot-water-racism-and-exclusion-at-banff-national-park/
  4. MacEachern, Alan. “Restricted Clientele! Everyday Racism in Canadian National Parks.” https://niche-canada.org/2020/09/09/race-revisited-in-canadian-national-parks/ 
  5. “Racial Segregation of Black People in Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/racial-segregation-of-black-people-in-canada#:~:text=In%20the%20early%201840s%2C%20when,particularly%20where%20there%20were%20high
  6. MacEachern, Alan https://niche-canada.org/2020/09/09/race-revisited-in-canadian-national-parks/  
  7. Wiltse, Jeff. “The Black–White Swimming Disparity in America: A Deadly Legacy of Swimming Pool Discrimination.”
  8. “Breaking Down the Lack of Diversity in Outdoor Spaces.” National Health Foundation, July 20, 2020. https://nationalhealthfoundation.org/breaking-down-lack-diversity-outdoor-spaces/.

ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT: What Is It?

by Sky Jarvis

Sky Jarvis 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.

Adap·​tive (adjective): arising as the result of adaptation

Ad·​ap·​ta·​tion (noun): the process of changing to fit some purpose or situation; the process of adapting

https://sustainablymotivated.com/2019/02/01/climate-action-now-greta-thunberg/

#FridaysForFuture

There is an inherent need for urgency when dealing with the challenges facing my generation namely the biodiversity crisis, the climate crisis, plastic pollution, and extreme poverty. Right now, British Columbia is an example for the rest of  Canada on the far-reaching impacts which climate change and seemingly more frequent weather events have on parks and societies from never-before-seen wildfire seasons to atmospheric rivers and polar vortexes. The impacts of climate change are staring residents right in the face: from declining pacific salmon numbers to the heatwaves, fires, and landslides. And who else can forget, the global COVID-19 pandemic? The leaders of today don’t only need to come up with new and creative solutions to these complex and wicked problems, but they also need to start implementing actions and approaches to mitigate the potential negative effects of these complex socio-ecological dilemmas.

Salafsky and Margoulis (1998; 2003) have defined adaptive management as an approach where managers can systematically test assumptions and take the knowledge gained from this experimental process to adapt future designs and management actions based on the information gained through monitoring to guide learning. This may be very beneficial when considering field conservation which is situated within a complex socio-ecological system (Figure 1) containing many different interactions, feedback loops, and tipping points; all of which occur across an array of different spatial and temporal scales. Adaptive management frameworks can assist with creating a flexible approach to dealing with the complex environmental problems seen today.

Image from Virapongse et al. 2016: Depiction of an SES (adapted from SNRE, University of Florida, (2015)).

Figure 1: Multidisciplinary approaches that integrate social and ecological sciences could be one such way to address some of the pressing environmental issues faced by today’s generations (Virapongse et al. 2016). Socio-Ecological systems are a product of human economies, culture, and policies as well as larger-scale biogeochemical processes which have shaped not only Earth’s physical environment but also the evolution of species for billions of years.

The World is Changing - So Must We

For much of the past 100-200 years, dominant worldviews have considered natural resources to be limitless, the bounty of the new world. However, 200 years of utilitarian management paradigms, coupled with overexploitation, have finally begun to reveal the scarcity of many of these resources. The need to sustainably manage resources such as biodiversity, old-growth forests, clean air, and fresh water has become more apparent than ever. This desire for sustainable management which not only provides for today’s society but also for future generations and the needs of other species has led to increasing conflict and social pressures for politicians and practitioners. New theoretical perspectives and approaches are now starting to view ecosystems as complex and highly dynamic systems and have begun to acknowledge that we may have to start shifting towards more holistic and flexible management tactics (Virapongse et al. 2016).

There may be inherent risks when implementing management actions without a full comprehension of the system and how it may react. However, this uncertainty shouldn’t be a reason not to implement actions when we know that something must be done. We need to act now, and adaptive management frameworks (Figure 2) may provide one way for resource managers, park leaders, and decision-makers to proceed with taking actions in the face of complexity and uncertainty. Through the experimental implementation of an array of alternative approaches, each with its own consequences and potential effects, we can begin to build knowledge of the system, its components, and its behavior. At first, we may not truly understand how the system may respond, but hopefully over time and with monitoring and re-evaluation resource managers can reassess their assumptions and incorporate local knowledge sources to develop site-specific approaches that are reflective of the uniqueness of that system and the human communities who interact and rely on it.

Figures sourced from Salafsky & Margoulis (2003). (Click figures to enlarge)

Figure 2: The adaptive management framework can be broken down into 5 basic steps where resource managers, stakeholders, and decision-makers can work together to design, develop, and implement experimental approaches to addressing social and environmental issues (Salafsky & Margoulis, 2003). This is a cycle, so iteration is part of the process- if at first you don’t succeed take that information, make some changes and try again.

Holistic and Flexible Approaches may be Better Suited for Adaptation

Although project design, management, and monitoring are high-cost activities it is believed that current investments can save resources in the future through increased effectiveness of projects (Salafsky and Margoulis, 1998). It has recently been thought that inadequate monitoring and evaluation is one of the main challenges associated with adaptive management of complex systems and that it’s a hindrance to the successful implementation of this type of approach (Waylen et al. 2019). According to Virapongse et al. (2016), robust and clearly defined monitoring plans can address other known challenges to adaptive management, such as the need to manage at broader landscape-level scales, accommodating abrupt changes/shocks, and addressing empirical data needs. I personally also feel that another main hindrance is the lack of including the perspectives and values of local and indigenous communities within the design phase. Local communities should be consulted before a main objective and goal are established so that their values are considered and hopefully reflected in the project before different alternatives are selected for implementation. This may help with public acceptance and support of the project as important stakeholders. Furthermore, local peoples have invaluable sources of knowledge about the system with which they and their ancestors have interacted with for generations and can assist with evaluation as different approaches are implemented. One example of how local and indigenous communities have been engaged within park planning and resource management can be seen in the Land-Sea-People Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park, where Indigenous knowledge systems and Haida Laws have been acknowledged and incorporated with scientific principles (Figure 3) to generate a zoning plan that attempts to accommodate recreation, economic, and cultural land-uses.

 

Table sourced from: Parks Canada; Gwaii Haanas (Click photo to enlarge)

Figure 3: Together traditional knowledge and scientific information can intertwine to provide placed-based responses to the drivers of social and environmental change. Gwaii Haanas also known as the Islands of Beauty, is in an oceanic upwelling region in the North Pacific. This provides cold nutrient-rich waters that have supported high levels of biological productivity, endemic species, migratory birds, and the Haida people for thousands of years. This National Park has intrinsic conservation potential for an array of environmental and social values.

It is vital to the success of the project that design, management, and monitoring are not separated, but rather that a holistic approach is taken to integrate these components. Systematic use of the cycle and steps listed above can allow practitioners to learn more about the system they are working in and can lead to increased effectiveness and efficiency over time (Salafsky and Margoulis, 2003).

Image sourced from: Waylen et al 2019

Testing Assumptions: The process of experimentally implementing different actions in attempts to achieve a desirable outcome based on knowledge of the problem, the objectives, the operational environment, management alternatives, and potential consequences. This is not a random process and post-implementation monitoring will be needed to evaluate (1) the ability of the different approaches to meet the desired outcome and (2) how they compare to the assumptions. This will allow managers to see which actions worked as well as develop a better understanding of why some approaches performed better than others (Salafsky and Margoulis, 2003)

Adapting: The ability to incorporate newly gained knowledge, different perspectives, and values into the project. This may also involve critically assessing the validity of the results, the assumptions, and the implementation and monitoring of the project. This may include changing assumptions, tweaking the study design, and/or considering different approaches.

Learning: Documenting the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the project so that others may review the processes taken to achieve the outcomes. Knowledge sharing will allow for others to benefit from these experiences and build upon the successes or failures of the project (Salafsky and Margoulis, 2003).

The realist approach which acknowledges that many of our environmental issues are a result of an off-balance within the socio-ecological systems that we eat, breath, and sleep in, may in fact get us much closer to the actual problem. There is no simple solution. More than ever, we need to find ways to balance our social needs (livelihoods, culture, economics, equity) within the means of nature to provide these goods and services. As with many other organisms, we humans may have to adapt, evolve, or die as we continue further into the Anthropocene.

Adaptive management is only of several frameworks which attempt to provide leaders and managers with the ability to start implementing actions in the face of uncertainty. Together we can be the change we want to see. Together we can build a better planet for future generations by addressing some of the issues seen today and creating more diverse and equitable management approaches to conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services. I would love to hear and share any success stories where (1) adaptive management approaches have been implemented in parks and/or resource management or (2) examples on how local and indigenous ideas, values, and perspectives have been incorporated into strategic plans, policies, and projects.

Share your story with me at: skyejarvis333@live.com

REFERENCES:

Salafsky, N. and R. Margoluis. 1998. Measures of Success: Designing, managing, and monitoring conservation and development projects. Island Press Washington DC.

Salafsky, N. & Margoluis, R. (2003). Adaptive management: An Approach for Evaluating Management Effectiveness. (PDF).

Virapongse, A., Brooks, S., Metcalf, E. C., Zedalis, M., Gosz, J., Kliskey, A., and L. Alessa. 2016. A social-ecological systems approach for environmental management. Journal of Environmental Management 178: 83-91.

Waylen, K. A., Blackstock, K. L., Van Hulst, F. J., Damian, C., Horváth, F., Johnson, R. K., … & J. Van Uytvanck. 2019. Policy-driven monitoring and evaluation: Does it support adaptive management of socio-ecological systems? Science of the Total Environment 662: 373-384.

Case Spotlight: The Right to Dismantle Encampments in Parks and Public Spaces

by Stanley Omotor

Stanley Omotor 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.

In a number of judicial cases, now known as “encampment cases”, courts in British Columbia (BC) have prohibited government authorities and park agencies from dismantling encampments set up in parks by persons experiencing homelessness, in the absence of shelter alternatives. However, in a recent decision in Ontario, the Superior Court of Justice refused an application that would have restrained the City of Hamilton from dismantling similar encampments set up in Hamilton’s parks. Following the Ontario’s court decision, the City of Hamilton was swift in moving to enforce its bylaw prohibiting encampments in the city’s parks.

These decisions and their outcome should matter to park leaders, park agencies, and all members of the public, especially persons who make use of the services of parks and public spaces 

There is little difference between leisure camping and necessity camping (the latter of which this blog post associates with encampments set up by persons experiencing homelessness). Imagine tents in a forest, people socializing, getting through their day, then sleeping in the forest. This is what happens in both leisure and necessity camping, but unlike the former which involve a voluntary choice to sleep in the forest, the latter is made to sleep out because of the necessity of it, as there is nowhere else to call home. However, as park officials are quick to argue in encampment cases, necessity camping restricts other members of the public from accessing park services. In pointing out that government and park agencies need to do more than simply dismantling encampments in parks and public places, this blog post points out some differences in the above two judicial decisions which deal with the power of the park agencies to dismantle encampments. Although the judicial decisions were based on municipal parks, it is not unlikely that similar principles will apply to provincial and national parks.

BC courts have consistently held that persons experiencing homelessness be allowed to remain at encampments set up in parks, public spaces, vacant lands, or city’s properties, in the absence of suitable alternative housing and daytime facilities. In a recent 2021 case (Prince George (City) v. Stewart), the City of Prince George in seeking a court order that would allow the city to remove structures set up in parks by persons experiencing homelessness, the City had argued, amongst others, that the encampments caused harm to residents and businesses in surrounding neighbourhood, led to increase in criminal activities and drug use, and deprived members of the public of walking at or near the encampments due to garbage, smell and safety concerns. In partly refusing the City’s application, the BC Supreme Court considered the evidence presented by the city in support of the above allegations as hearsay and inadmissible evidence. Also, the court found that there was insufficient alternate housing for the persons experiencing homelessness to enable the court grant the city’s application. 

The opposite conclusion was reached by the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario in the case of Poff v. City of Hamilton (2021)which was decided less than two weeks after the decision in the above Stewart’s case. In Poff’s case, the applicants who resided at different encampments in Hamilton parks, sought a court order to restrain the city from enacting and enforcing a bylaw that prohibited camping and the erection of structures in the city’s parks. In this case, the court accepted the evidence presented by city staff based on documented evidence, personal observation and other sources as credible and reliable evidence linking criminal activities, violence, drug use, health concerns, nuisance and indecency associated with some of the encampments in the parks, thereby preventing city residents from using the parks. Despite noting that Hamilton, like other parts of Canada, is experiencing an affordable housing crisis, the court held that the city has taken reasonable steps to provide alternative safe shelter and accommodation to persons experiencing homelessness, but the applicants rejected these alternatives for personal reasons and preference, and that this does not “give rise to aright to live in encampments in (the City’s park)”. Consequently, in refusing to restrain the City from enforcing the bylaw in question, the court noted the right of other members of the public to make use of parks and concluded that the bylaw was a valid exercise of the City’s power.

Although the decision from Ontario is only an interim decision (being an interlocutory injunction application) at the moment, it provides government at all levels (from federal to municipal) with more options to enable sustainable, healthy and inclusive parks and public spaces. Notably, in arriving at its decision, the Superior Court in Ontario referred to, but distinguished, the preceding encampment cases in BC, including the recent Stewart’s case. This may therefore be an emerging judicial trend. To prevent the erection of tents, structures and shelter in public spaces, government and park agencies need to do more than rely on hearsay evidence on the impacts of these encampments in parks and public places. There are usually no concerns when other leisure-seeking members of society camp in parks and public spaces, but concerns are raised when persons experiencing homelessness seek similar opportunities. Persons experiencing homelessness are often deprived of these opportunities. The court in Poff’s case rightly noted the affordable housing crisis being experienced by many Canadian cities. For instance, the Vancouver Homeless Count 2019 shows the increasing number of persons experiencing homelessness in Metro Vancouver, compared to previous years. As of 2019, a total number of 2,223 individuals were counted as experiencing homelessness in Vancouver, the highest number since 2015 when the count began. Increasing cost of affordable housing with less comparative increase in income may mean that many individuals and families are just one life-changing and unforeseen event away from becoming homeless. Encampment cases and the plight of persons experiencing homelessness, therefore, need to be of concern to all park leaders. Persons experiencing homelessness are as human as other members of the society not experiencing homelessness – the former only does camping out of necessity and for a longer-term than the latter. Encampments in parks and public places is one of the unintended consequences of the high cost of affordable housing in many Canadian cities, hence the need to take an approach that considers both crisis – housing and encampment crisis. In one of the encampment cases (Abbotsford v. Shantz (2015)), the court had therefore recommended designating certain public parks for use by persons experiencing homelessness Also, a previous study had linked how restricting access and use of public facilities may result in human rights concern in land use planning.

Finally, as rightly noted by the court in Poff’s case, cities may need to show sufficient alternate housing options if persons experiencing homelessness are to be prevented from camping in parks. If sufficient alternate housing is in place, courts will be more willing to uphold relevant bylaws allowing the city to prevent and dismantle encampments in parks and public spaces.

Parks, Representation and Black History Leadership Primer – A Participant Review

by Nathaniel Rose

Nathaniel Rose 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.

This past week I had the opportunity to participate in the online Leadership Primer, “Parks, Representation and Black History” created by Jaqueline L. Scott. The goal of this unique online course is to explore equity and diversity in Canadian Parks and find ways to make Black Canadians feel more welcome in natural places. You can find the course on the website for the Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership (instructions are at the bottom of this article) and it is free!

As a Knowledge Gatherer for CPCIL, rather than a Parks Leader, I did not have a specific park or protected area that I was connecting to through the Primer, but I still was able to connect with the teachings the Primer had to offer.

            The Primer was mainly focused on Black Representation in Canadian Parks, and through a series of exercises, got me to think about how to make parks a more welcoming experience for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. The Primer also included a series of case studies outlining Black history in areas that you might not have known Black people played a role in. By the end of the primer I felt I was definitely in the process of questioning Black people’s representation in natural spaces, and the images and contexts used to promote them.

Here’s a bit of what I learned:

People of colour make up about 25% of Canada’s population, and in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, make up the majority of residents, but they don’t often travel to and spend time in natural areas (1). This is because there are barriers they come across, in the way parks are promoted and represented. Many of them are actually frustrated, as they feel the outdoor sector doesn’t include them (1).

            People interact with parks in a variety of ways: names of trails, social media, brochures, newsletters, maps and historical and informative plaques. But many times these ways of interacting become “white spaces” as Black people and people of colour are not shown in the images used, the history shown, or the names given to these places.

            For example: when you think about a park brochure, sometimes only white people are shown in the photos used, or if Black people are shown, they may not be doing the same thing that there white counterparts are. One of the exercises in the Primer asks you to question:

1) Whether Black people are the main subject of the photo, or if they remain in the background

2) Whether they are alone, pictured as a couple, or in a group

3) If it’s a couple or a group, are all the people Black?

4) What are the Black People doing in the photo?  

                  -Scott

These questions help you to think and reflect on the way Black people are portrayed. Interestingly enough, people are less likely to try an activity if they don’t see people of their race or culture participating in that activity. So a lot of how you promote a place does a lot to determine who feels eager and welcome to go to it.

Image by Keira Burton

The end of each exercise in the primer, asks you to question what opportunities you can think of for changing the landscape of black representation in your park. For example, one question is: “ What opportunities are there to add new plaques in your park to reflect the multicultural history of the park or areas around it?” (Scott). Another question was: “Who could you reach out to find these stories?” (Scott). I found that this second question was a really helpful step, in getting you to actually start making change in your park.

 

The second section of the Primer focused on different case studies of Black people in history. Notably many of the examples were new to me, and not something I had been taught in school. Scott smartly notes that “Appealing to Black history is a way to get Black people to visit National and Provincial Parks”. It locates Black people in the space in the past, so they feel they can visit in the present. It sends the message that if they were there in the past, why not come now? Including Black history in plaques or park brochures would then be a good step in ensuring the Black population feels welcome in that space.

One interesting fact I learned was that Black people were involved in the Fur Trade. I learned this through a case study of George Bonga, who held a trading post at Leech Lake, which is now in Minnesota, and was an important cultural delegate between the Ojibwe and Europeans (2). He signed two treaties between them, one in 1820 and one in 1867 (2). Another fact that I learned was that Black people had a lot to do with the Ranching Industry and the Calgary Stampede in Western Canada (1).  I found it particularly interesting that a cowboy, named John Ware, was said to be gentle with horses, almost a “horse whisperer” (3). When I learned this, I remember thinking: “Huh, this is the first time I had thought of Black people being sensitive with animals”. Not that I didn’t think that was possible, but I had never learned about a specific person who was Black and who also worked closely and intuitively with animals.  This changed my perspective on the breadth of humans interacting with the animal kingdom.

Image by Peter Starcevic

 The Primer ended with a great question: Why are we not taught about these notable Black people in the school system?. In a video interview about John Ware, author and playwright Cheryl Fogo notes that she is hopeful and optimistic that we (Albertans) are getting there (3). Fogo notes that she has been involved in talks about updating Alberta’s school curriculum (this was back in 2017). I wonder what progress we have made so far…

I definitely recommend taking this Leadership Primer on Black Representation in Parks. I learned a lot about Black history and grew a lot in terms of my own awareness of how to transform parks to make them more welcoming to Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. I also found I could apply this knowledge to other areas of my work – including my work in the theatre sector. 

You can find the Primer at https://cpcil.ca/leadership-primers/ or by going to the CPCIL Home Page and selecting “Leadership Programs” in the top menu banner and then selecting “Leadership Primers”. This Primer is called “Parks, Representation and Black History” and was created by Jaqueline L. Scott. There are a handful of other Leadership Primers to take there as well.

Works Cited

1) Scott, Jaqueline L. “Parks, Representation and Black History.” Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership., www.cpcil.ca/courses/2021-representation/. Accessed 13 Dec. 2021.

2) TPT Originals. “Voyageur. Entrepreneu. Diplomat. Meet MN Black Pioneer George Bonga.” Youtube, 18 February, 2019. www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUTzqxZH2D0. Accessed 14 Dec. 2021.

3) Breakfast Television. “Black History Month: The Story of John Ware.” Youtube, 15 February, 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DaeyxtgkSM. Accessed 14 Dec. 2021.

Photos Sourced from: pexels.com