The Significance of Meaningful Partnerships and Their Role in On-the-Ground Reconciliation

by Brodie Schmidt & Robert Howey

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

There is growing recognition within the environmental field regarding the importance of genuine collaborations between Indigenous partners with both public and private organizations. Agencies are becoming more aware of how harmful shallow consultation processes can be for partners, as Gray (2016) highlights when discussing advancing reconciliation through meaningful consultation in a report to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. Gray notes “Many viewed Canada’s approach as largely a one-size-fits-all box-ticking exercise that fails to meaningfully address their concerns and relies too heavily on industry proponents and regulatory processes. Aboriginal groups also raised concerns with the content and implementation of existing guidance for federal officials and their own capacity to participate in consultation given their limited resources. Notably, their criticisms were not limited to the federal government. Many had equally negative or worse comments about the approaches taken by many provinces and territories in this area.”

Although this is an issue that transcends beyond the boundaries of this field, parks and protected areas are in opportune positions to lead this shift towards genuine partnership building. I sat down with one of these leaders, Rob Howey, Senior Advisor in the Office of the Executive Director of Atlantic, with Parks Canada. Rob is currently working to build novel approaches to rights implementation with Parks Canada and the Peace and Friendship Treaty nations in Atlantic Canada. Through his current lens and his experience in various parks projects like Bring Back the Boreal, we will be discussing this larger topic regarding the significance of meaningful partnerships and their role in on-the-ground reconciliation efforts.

Rob suggests that often as park leaders, “we have an idea, and then we go to the partner with the idea, rather than sitting down with the partner and collaborating on recognizing that there’s a shared value or shared issue, and partnering to solve… I think one of the reasons that the moose project was so successful in Cape Breton was because there was a shared value, and there was a shared interest. There was a shared recognition that something needs to be done about the hyper abundance of moose and the moose population’s health, which was very important to the Mi’kmaq. And so right from there, there is a lot of momentum to get a project going.”

Mi’kmaq Moose Petroglyph, sourced from Author’s [Rob] personal collection

This point that Rob highlights, regarding relationship building before a project is implemented, relates well to a term introduced by Indigenous leaders like Willie Ermine, Danika Littlechild, Reg Crowshoe, and Eli Enns: the Ethical Space. By firstly establishing a respect for the different worldviews and various ways of knowing that will be coming together in a partnership, we see a space open between these distinct partners; “the sacred space of the ethical helps us balance these moral considerations as we discuss issues that are transcultural, or trans-boundary in nature” (Ermine, 2007; pp. 195 – 196). Through firstly respecting the distinctness between worldviews, we can then begin to find shared values.

How can park leaders imbue ethical space while still working within their agencies’ mandates?

In Rob’s experience, it often boils down to your ability to build human-to-human relationships. Although relationship building seems like second nature to many, it’s a craft with no scientific means – often making it difficult to operationalize through park agencies. 

As Rob explains, “Regarding the relationship piece… I think it’s just about being open to the possibility that I’ve got to learn about this person and community, I’ve got to get to know this person and community and understand what is important to them, and in recognizing, again, you’re just a human being. At the same time, as a government representative, you must also recognize and acknowledge the history of this country and the role the government played in that history with Indigenous peoples.  When you are having these discussions, words and actions are important; commitments and following through on those commitments is important – that’s how you build trust. And that is true of any relationship. Recognizing that people are different and that this is another human relationship, I think is very helpful.” 

As noted, relationship building is difficult to operationalize. To help make this discussion applicable to park leaders, we can look to Rob’s experiences with the Bring Back the Boreal project for some tangible examples.

A Conversation About Lessons Learned from the CBHNP Bring Back the Boreal Program

Brodie: You’ve said that building relationships can be kind of daunting for park leaders sometimes, or maybe there’s nervousness of not knowing how to go into it, could you highlight some means of building relationships?

Rob: I have a story from a couple of years ago that could apply here:

We worked very closely with the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) and Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn (KMK) to co-develop moose management plans and the Bring Back the Boreal Project in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Following the project’s conclusion, we knew that we wanted to continue working together, just as we had done prior to the project as well. I set up a meeting at a coffee shop to talk about funding and what we might like to do next. So, we sat down, and I asked, “what do you guys want to work on next year, what’s important for your organization right now?” Being very open, I knew how much funding we might have to work with, but I also didn’t want to say, “well we’ve got this, so let’s do X-Y-Z”. I want to hear what they want to work on, what’s important to them and if there is an opportunity to work together on it. […] And maybe there’s not an obvious project right away, but maybe two years down the road you’re like, “oh yeah, there’s this thing we both have an interest in, and we can work together on this”, and that’s when those coffees you were going for every few months and chatting really made it worth it. Rather than, “oh no, we’ve got an issue and now we have to figure out how to solve it”.

In this scenario, even though there was a well-established working relationship, it was important to approach things under the premise that we are still learning about our shared values and priorities, especially because they can change. So, whether it is a well-established relationship, or a relatively new one, the approach remains the same: be open, learn, grow, don’t assume too much, and find common values. 

And I think another key piece getting a little bit beyond the coffee chat, is about the self-determination piece. Recognizing that our funding structures often are very prescriptive on how the money shall be spent, and what exactly needs to be done, and you must write a 10-page report on all the activities after it’s been done to show that the money was spent this way… That can be patronizing; for the government to support Indigenous initiatives, but only in this way, or by meeting these prescribed targets. […] If you want to spend it in a different way, or the way you see fit to achieve the results, that’s self-determination. In another way, sometimes there is a budget already decided or, “here’s how much is available” – but was the Indigenous community or organization consulted on how much funding would be needed?

The Self-Determination Piece 

Brodie: The self-determination piece is significant, and from my understanding is still a fairly novel approach in this line of work. I mean it’s not a crazy concept, I guess what I struggle with there is just that rights are assumed, but on paper they’re often contested. Could you speak a bit more to your experiences with self-determination?

Rob: Yeah, that’s one key that my predecessor Derek Quann said to me and that he always put in presentations related to the Bring Back the Boreal Project. When you go into these discussions there’s no questions about whether their rights exist or not. The rights exist and it is assumed so.

So, I think being less prescriptive on how things are done, that’s another key piece; In general, regarding relationship building, being open to the process… You both recognize you want to get to a certain end point, so being open to how you get there. I would also add that truly incorporating, interweaving, Indigenous knowledge and worldviews, and how you do that, is very important as well. Because ultimately, what are we really talking about? We’re talking about doing things in a way that makes sense for the national park, if possible, but at the end of the day if the Mi’kmaq want to do X, Y, and Z, they can.

For Example 

One of the key components of the Bring Back the Boreal Project was that it was co-developed and co-managed between the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia and Parks Canada. I was a co-manager of the project operations with a colleague from UINR. So, we jointly made decisions all the time, including when to initiate or end operations. We needed to decide together if the weather was not ideal to support harvesting operations that day, when harvest crews would be active, site logistics and safety. Everything was discussed. In selecting Mi’kmaw harvesters, it was up to the Mi’kmaq to decide – their rights are assumed, and they determined who should carry that aspect of the project out. It was really important to let folks on the ground – from the project managers, to harvesters, and parks operations folks, to work together closely and have decision making power in real time, rather than to be told how things should go or waiting for approvals. It empowered people to make decisions and develop trust in each other and from senior leadership as well.

On the Ground Perspective of Bring Back the Boreal Project, sourced from author’s [Rob] personal collection.

Shifting a Societal Thought

Brodie: How do you manage the contentions from other stakeholders or local interest groups with these kinds of projects? 

Rob: It’s tough, but I don’t think that contention could have been avoided for this case, because the only way to avoid that would have been not to do the project. I think this is about shifting a societal thought, an idea about how we view our protected areas. I have this conversation all the time about how not all protected areas are the same and nor should they be!  […] How humans interact with our landscapes, our traditional view of how parks are, are that they are exclusionary. They exclude humans, and they are preserving something in situ for all time. Well, that’s fine to keep out intentionally harmful interests, but with climate change, you know, that’s not a reality anymore. 

As we know, the conservation conundrum is about weaving a mosaic of different protections across the landscape and understanding that there are areas that require different kinds of protections. It’s not just about protecting a few parks and then we’re done. It’s about more than that. It’s about understanding how we interact with our landscape, and how we as humans interact with nature in a sustainable way. That’s to say we’re part of it, rather than separate from it […]. The reason I bring that up is that I think as a society we need to understand how we interact with our landscape and how we create sustainable practices. So, part of that is a challenge to communicate because I think people still have that old worldview about “this is what a park is, and this is what a park should be”. I think that’s a challenge. 

I think a large aspect of this shift in conservation culture is about encouraging vulnerable conversations, creating a safe and brave space, acknowledging folks’ concerns, and showing people that our concepts of nature, the environment, and protection (including how and why parks have been established under exclusionary premises over time) have shifted. We, as park leaders, continue to shift and learn as well; and on the note of park leaders’ experience here, I think its also important to highlight the importance of patience. As much as we would like to push these things forward quickly, meaningful change often takes time, and we need to be patient while moving through this process.

Can we Operationalize a Paradigm Shift?

Brodie: This discussion of shifting a societal thought is a very large topic to tackle. Are there any lessons learned from your experience on how park leaders can work towards this? 

Rob:  I think the biggest thing that was learned from my perspective, […] [is the importance of] communication with our staff. As we know, our staff are the ambassadors in the community, and so we need to make sure that we educate and support our staff to understand, even if it doesn’t affect their work directly, we really need to focus on supporting our staff to understand what this means, what it doesn’t mean, how they can answer questions, how do we equip people to be able to answer the questions that they need to answer? that they have for themselves too.

For Example  

For example, there were times where I was at the grocery store and somebody bumps into me and says, “hey, what’s going on with that project?”; I’d be golfing, and there would be strangers asking me to tell them about “that moose thing”. But that happens all over, whether you’re driving a plow truck, at the front gate, an interpreter, or cleaning privies, people know you work at the park and they come up to you. Whether they are in the community, like I said, while you’re buying groceries, or whether you’re in uniform in the park. 

Through this example, Rob highlights the importance of supporting all staff in understanding what these projects mean, and what they don’t mean.

 I think ’that’s my biggest lesson learned, it goes back to the stakeholder questions. ’You’re not going to convince everybody instantly, and you ’can’t worry about convincing everybody. But it is about making your best efforts to try and meet people where they are at and bring folks along.[…] It is really about the privilege of who does and does not have access to space that is supposed to be accessible to all.

To Wrap Up…

My hope of sharing this conversation between Rob and I is to elevate this brightspot case study of parks and protected leaders addressing the underlying values at play within their systems, in novel ways. What began as a conversation about building meaningful partnerships, quickly elevated to a much larger conversation around the way our systems and society think about what belongs in a park and how it ought to be managed.

Trying to approach complex topics, like [re]Conciliation in Parks and Protected Areas, can seem daunting for an individual leader at a local level. By allowing yourself to frame event-level issues within the greater context of these overarching values, however, leaders are given a unique opportunity to implement and operationalize projects that both a) address locally-based issues and b) speak to the overarching systemic issues becoming more and more apparent in the protected and conserved arena. As said by Rob, “the on-the-ground work leads to success at a large scale”.

Parting Words from Rob

I feel like sometimes people are hesitant to do this stuff because they’re nervous that they don’t know how to do it, but I feel like it all comes from that mindset of thinking you have to know what you are doing, to be in control, or to have all the answers; go in with an open heart and open mind and open hands, and listen – truly walk a path together. People sometimes think – we can’t do this, or what if we do this, and we don’t often consider: what if we don’t? What could be lost?

Moose at Cape Breton Highlands National Park Reserve, Sourced from Author’s [Rob] personal collection.

Further Resources

Ermine, W. (2007). The Ethical Space of Engagement. Indigenous Law Journal 6(1): pp. 193 – 203. Link Here.

Gray, B. (2016). Building Relationships and Advancing Reconciliation through Meaningful Consultation. Report to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. Link Here.

Kelloway, B. (2018). What you need to know about the Cape Breton moose harvest. The Signal. Link Here.

Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources Moose Management Resource Page.

CMN Knowledge Sharing Summit 2022: Attending as Emerging Park Leaders

by Briana Hamilton & Mahnoor Hussain

Briana Hamilton is CPCIL’s Communications Coordinator; 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.

Mahnoor Hussain supports the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy Program (YESS) at Parks Canada: researching and designing a variety of pathways for youth employment opportunities within Parks Canada and with other government departments (OGDs) that deliver the YESS program. She also supports the Canadian Parks Council (CPC) Not-for-Profit policy suite update which involves reviewing and updating of CPC policy documents to align with the governance model MOU and ByLaws. 

In June 2022, the Canadian Mountain Network (CMN) hosted their second annual Knowledge Sharing Summit. For those who may not know, CMN is Canada’s first formal research organization that is based on the holistic practice of braiding Indigenous and Western ways of knowing. CMN focuses their research on mountainous regions and systems in Canada as these regions impact freshwater ecosystems, natural habitats and natural resources (and more!) from coast to coast to coast. 

We were invited to virtually attend this summit. Aside from being honoured – and very excited – to listen and learn, I (Briana) was born and raised very close to the Rockies – so was extra eager to gain new insights and perspectives sourcing from the place I call home. I (Mahnoor), on the other hand, live in Eastern Canada but was eager to learn about different indigenous knowledge systems on topics such as the Yukon salmon revitalization, land rights, and stewardship in the rockies and how it affects life thousands of miles away.

What We Learned

Oh boy. We could write a novel about all of the things we learned from attending this summit. We come from a combined educational background in Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership and Applied Sciences in Public Health and Safety. We have both worked in tourism, education and conservation sectors within Parks, but we still have more to learn (and always will!). We were spoiled to attend 2 full days loaded with various presentations surrounding western science, indigenous knowledge and values, policies and research projects. We can’t dive into each topic, but here are a couple of published projects you may be interested in learning about:

Mountain Legacy Project 

The Shútagot’ine Cultural Landscape Project

Overall, it was empowering and uplifting to see all the incredible work that’s happening across the country. 

Our New Perspective: Be a Thread in the Braid

One thing is certain: The problems that exist within Parks and Protected Areas, such as the climate crisis, are very complex. We often find ourselves overwhelmed with the swarms of information about these issues. We’re sure, however, that the sense of feeling overwhelmed is felt amongst all. 

To top-off this information overload, Parks and Protected Areas face the complex history and conflicting values and practices between indigenous and colonial ways of life. We recognize the negatives and wrongdoings of colonialism, but we also recognize the merit of western science… yet we also recognize the legitimacy and authenticity of traditional knowledge. So where to start? What’s the proper way to approach things? How can these 2 knowledge bases work together?

Joe Dragon, Chair of CMN, mentioned something in the Summit that stuck with us: Indigenous and Western Knowledge is not to be blended – it is to be braided. In other words, as we understand it, these knowledge bases aren’t intended to overtake or get lost in each other, but are to work together to support each other and create a stronger knowledge base system. This is a powerful statement that we will certainly carry with us throughout our lives and careers. 

Braids are made by interlacing multiple strands together, with each strand being composed of several smaller strands of material. As individuals, we may not be able to offer a full or complete strand (in this case a knowledge base) to the braid, but we can certainly contribute a smaller strand of material – our knowledge – to collectively build  strong strands with our communities. With these strands, one heck of a braid – and one heck of a better knowledge base system – can be built and supported together. 

This will truly come handy as we are individuals who feel a little in over our heads working in the Parks and Conservation sector at times – the problems are immensely huge and we inevitably let too much of that weight sit on our shoulders. But this statement has shed some refreshing light on this. We don’t need to carry all that weight and try to solve the problems on our own – we just need to contribute our thread(s) of knowledge. 

The Power of Youth: a Notable Point of Discussion

A recurring point of discussion throughout the summit was that youth are the future – and that there is a need to connect with and amplify youth to better tackle the complex problems we face. This notion is not the first time we have heard this – CPCIL, for one, is certainly an active supporter of this. Youth naturally have a special connection with nature – they provide new and unbiased perspectives that are less influenced by policy and social structure. They also share something in common with Parks and Protected Areas experts: passion. The challenge is, they don’t have the means or power to formalize social or corporate change. In the Parks and Protected Areas world, youth are involved, such as through ambassador programs and entry level positions, but how can Parks be better at welcoming and amplifying youth to improve Parks and Protected Areas? 


In all honesty, this isn’t a simple answer. But we must say, being young professionals ourselves, having the opportunity to listen and participate in higher-level activities and discussions, such as attending this CMN Summit, provided us with new knowledge, and fresh motivation to make a difference going forward in our careers.

Thank you again to the Canadian Mountain Network, as well Don, Senior Fellow of CPCIL, for inviting and welcoming us to join CMN’s 2022 Knowledge Sharing Summit. You have provided more confidence and curiosity in emerging Parks and Protected Areas leaders.

Storytelling in Your Organization

by Nathaniel Rose

This blog was created in collaboration with Darren McGregor, an Alberta Parks participant in the 2021 Leadership Development Program.

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.

Storytelling is a skill that we all have. As human beings, story is the primary way we communicate meaning to each other. But some people seem to have a knack for storytelling, and others might shy away from presenting a story. As a theatre professional, I hope to share some ideas and skills needed to be able to bring a good story to life. With a bit of time and a few exercises, you can feel more confident telling your story to others in your organization too.

In addition, in my role as Knowledge Gatherer, I spoke with Darren McGregor, who works for Alberta Parks as Web and Creative Services Coordinator. Part of his job is connecting to different employees across his agency, and helping them tell their story. For example, he has helped Park Interpreters communicate the value of what they do to managers in park agencies. What he noticed is that the interpreters were really good at telling their story to the public and stakeholders — telling stories is parks is what they do —  but when it came to telling their story internally to communicate the value of their programs to managers, they were more challenged.

I asked Darren what he thinks makes a good story within an organization, and this is what we came up with:

Part One: Creating A Story

An Arch – good stories have a strong arc. They begin, build up to a climax, and resolve at the end. In theatre, one of the main things we look at when preparing a dramatic scene is the arc: What conflict or tension/challenge is introduced at the beginning, how does the plot/tension build, and then how and when does it resolve? The same thing could go for telling your story within your park agency – how does your story draw people in? Is it with a strong build and a satisfying resolution or pay off? The pay off or resolution could be the main point you are making or the argument your story is trying to serve. 

A beginning, middle, and end – To quote Aristotle, one of the first western scholars to write extensively on story: 

“A beginning is that which does not itself follow anything by causal necessity, but after which something naturally is or comes to be. An end, on the contrary, is that which itself naturally follows some other thing, either by necessity, or as a rule, but has nothing following it. A middle is that which follows something as some other thing follows it. A well constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin nor end at haphazard, but conform to these principles.” (Aristotle, Part VII).

In addition to the arc, having a clear beginning, middle, and end is essential to creating clarity. This comes down to the way you structure your story – if you’re telling your story as an interpreter, for example, it could begin with what inspired you to become an interpreter, and end with where you are today or the opportunity you want to pitch. The middle would include all the juicy challenges and successes along the way.

Growing Awareness – As a theatre director, I am always asking the question “How would the audience react to this?”. This in itself, is an exercise of awareness. It requires the ability to picture yourself watching or listening to the story and trying to imagine how it would come across to someone observing. 

However, this type of perspective  also requires a level of emotional and personal awareness, and an awareness of how people think. The following are a couple of exercises that are designed to grow your self-awareness in thought and emotion. Personally, I like journalling: 

Journaling – keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings after you tell a story. Ask the questions “What worked well?” “What challenges came up -were there moments I stumbled or felt apprehensive?”, “What flowed really well?”, and “What could be improved for next time?”.

Wait a few days, then come back to your journal and see what you wrote. Would you think differently now that some time has passed? What have you learned, and what can you bring with you – either to the next time you meet with the person who heard your story, or for the next time you tell a story.

This process of writing down your reflections helps grow an intellectual and emotional capacity to be aware of how you are doing, and how effective your storytelling is.

Darren notes that it is important to be aware of your body when you’re telling a story, even if you are in the office and not on a stage. While you think about the topic you want to tell about, us this exercise to increase your body awareness:

Body Awareness exercise: Taught by Laurel Paetz, Voice Teacher at the University of Toronto, 2012-2013

    • starting at your feet place your hands on your body, palms down
    • wake up your feet, your shins and calves,
    • pat your body going all the way up to your neck and then arms
The next time you are talking to someone think about what body language you are offering: Is your chest open or are your arms crossed? What are your hands doing? Is your posture up straight or are your shoulders rounded?  Your body can effect the feeling and energy of how you’re coming across, and it can be different depending on your culture or the cultural background of the people in your audience.

Storytelling in Your Organization

How did you feel after completing one of these exercises? Do you have any activities to help you become more aware or your audience or your body?

What stories or challenges do you have when it comes to storytelling in your agency or organization?

Part Two - Delivering Your Story

Relationship –  Darren and I agree that as a storyteller one of the main things you need to look at is how your story is coming across. In order to have your story come across well, relationships need to be built so that your story is well received. Building relationships requires patience, communication, building trust and making that first connection. Darren notes, that many times, it is important to have an open avenue of communication between you and the person you want to tell your story to.

Darren notes that one way to build trust is by building reliability – by being responsible in your role and being accurate in the information you provide. That way people in your organization will see you as a reliable source of information.

Starting Relationships – beginning a relationship, can often be one of the most important tasks when you want to have your message received well. Darren notes that many times, that can begin with a simple “Hi” and a smile as you pass in the hall or on the way to the bathroom. Making a personal connection, outside of the work environment can be really important. For example, Darren once noticed that one of his executive directors rode a bike, and because he rides a bike too, he thought, that’s a great way to begin a conversation. To begin a relationship talking about things you have in common is a great way to start, before you then drop some elements about the value of parks or interpreters.

Darren, in fact, rides a bike 360 days a year, rain or snow, and he found that this made him stand out to his fellow colleagues. He discovered his year-round biking was often a conversation starter with people regardless of their position in the organization, who were curious about his frosty beard, staying warm or dry in the winter, and riding on ice. Sharing stories or experiences from commuting on his bike helped him connect with his colleagues through a shared experience or through inspiring his colleagues to try out winter biking. Darren says that everyone has a unique “thing” that can be a conversation starter.

He also noticed that when the executive directors and his office shared space, he would always pass them when going to the bathroom. This was another opportunity, where he could connect with decision makers, while passing by on the way to the bathroom. It gave him an opportunity to just say hi, and foster the beginnings of personal relationships.

Timing – Darren and I spoke about the idea that it is important to suss out the right timing of when to tell your story. For example, if you’re speaking to a manager, and they really don’t feel open to you because they are currently swamped with a busy schedule, it might not be the best time to try to get your ideas across. It may be an opportunity to understand their pressures and the challenges they are facing, and see if there is a way for you to help them. It also may be a good time to say “Hi” and tell them you’re interested in talking with them in the future.  Talking to them doesn’t always have to be specific to your ultimate goals, you can get to know them better in the hopes of creating a better relationship for later.  In order to suss out the right timing this requires awareness of yourself, your environment and the people you are speaking to.

Speaking your Manager’s or Director’s language – Darren has come across interpreters and other staff who had a hard time effectively conveying the value of their role within the park agency to decision makers (managers and directors). This was because they weren’t able to speak the language of the decision maker. In other words, they weren’t able to make them see, in their terms, why their program was effective. Their words didn’t resonate, and there was a loss of translation between the staff and the decision makers.

For example, Darren spoke about how he has a friend who is a water colour painter. Darren who is more of a science “data” guy speaks with his friend who has a more artistic background, and he found there was a loss of communication if they weren’t able to use common terms to help each other see where they were coming from. The same goes for interpreters talking with decision makers. The language interpreters use to speak with kids in their programming holds value, but they need to use different language and terms when they speak with decision makers or else their story won’t resonate.

One thing that could help you with this is understanding what position your manager or director has. If you understand what tasks and goals they have and what the expectations are of their supervisors, you may be able to help them meet their goals or even figure out a way to make them shine.  In that way your story will be seen as positive to them, as you are helping them in the world they live in.

Growing Awareness – As I mentioned in the previous article, awareness is a key component to telling a story. Self awareness and awareness of other people can help you read when your story is coming across well to your audience. The following exercises  can help with timing and relationship building skills (the Improv and questions game).

Improv skills: Believe it or not, sussing out timing and making connections to build relationships requires improvisational skills like you would see in unscripted theatre.  An easy way to pick up some of these skills is by taking a theatre or comedic improvisation class to build skills of being “fast on your feet”, working through uncomfortable situations, and holding and gaining people’s attention.  If this seems a little daunting to you, you can do individual improvisations exercises at home with a friend. Even starting by watching some YouTube videos can give you ideas to think and respond quickly.

Questions Only: One simple exercise is to have a conversation with someone by only asking questions. This causes you to adapt and find creative ways to respond to people. These skills are invaluable when you’re looking to tell a story and foster a relationship.

Vocal Exercises: A big part of telling a story is working with your own voice – both the physical voice you have and the voice behind what you want to get across, such as in the written word. The following is a vocal exercise I took in theatre school that helped me get in touch with my impulses and connect my inner emotional life, to my outward voice. I recommend lying down on a yoga or pilates mat, getting comfortable and doing the exercise where you won’t bother anyone by making noises with your voice.

Voice and Body Awareness Exercise: Taught by Laurel Paetz, Voice Teacher at the University of Toronto, 2012-2013

    • Close your eyes, put a hand where you feel your breath going to  
    • Imagine a swamp in your belly (or area from bottom of pelvis to bottom of neck)
      • Connect with impulses, thoughts, feelings coming out of the belly 
      • Connect with one at a time, one per breath 
      • Then start saying “ha” on each breath and each impulse/thought/feeling/image 
      • Talk about any discoveries/experiences after 
    • Lay on the ground on your back  
      • Imagine walking on a mountain path-to a lake – to swimming – to lying on your back on the shore-to getting into a hot pool of water – to putting your clothes back on-to walking back to your cabin where a friend of yours is  
    • With every breath connect to impulse/thought/emotion/image that you felt on the mountain voyage (and it comes from your belly swamp) 
      • With each breath let out a “Ha” then “Ha ha” then “Haaaaa” (long tone) then “Haaa” on different pitches going up and down then “Haaaa” sliding down your vocal pitch range 
    • Roll over to your side, feel where each breath is going to/coming in (ie belly, chest) 
      • Repeat “Ha”, “Ha ha” and “Haaa” 
    • Move into child’s pose (sitting on heels, head down, palms on ground) 
      • Repeat “Ha” “Haha” “Haaaa” 
    • Stand up slowly, walk around room 
    • Try not to put yourself back together-as this just puts your mind and body back into its old habits.


Next Steps:

After speaking a second time, Darren I thought about what voices aren’t typically heard when you learn about storytelling, and we came up with a list of resources to point you in new directions.

1)    An article by Leanne Simpson, Anishinaabe Storyteller, Artist and Scholar, where she speaks about storytelling in her culture:

2)    An article from Columbia Climate School about the unique traits of Indigenous storytelling:

3)    The CBC animated series “Molly of Denali” – an Indigenous show about Indigenous children from Alaska, focusing on them as they rediscover aspects of their cultural heritage. It is targeted towards children but I argue that it has wide appeal. Sometimes it features teachings from Molly’s Grandfather, and other important figures in the community. It is a great example of cultural resurgence -at one point Molly and her friends inspire her Grandfather to begin singing cultural songs again – an example of the younger generation inspiring the older generation to connect again with their traditions.

     You can stream it online here:

4) A collection of free online voice exercises you can do at home:


1) Aristotle. “Poetics”. Trans. S. H. Butcher.The Internet Classics Archive, Accessed 21 December 2021.

2) McGregor, Darren. Personal Interview. 7 December 2021.

Course Review – Manager and Leader: a formula for success!

by Briana Hamilton

Briana Hamilton is CPCIL’s Communications Coordinator; 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 of 2021, I had the opportunity to participate in the online Professional Development Course: “Manager and Leader: a formula for success!” . This course is offered online through Moncton University and was developed in partnership with CPCIL. As mentioned on the course website, the goals of this course include: 

  • Learning more about yourself and your emotional intelligence;
  • Distinguishing a managerial role from a leadership role;
  • Becoming familiar with leadership in all its aspects;
  • Factoring in other essential leadership skills, like communication, teamwork and conflict management.

Whether you are new to the practice of management and leadership–or if you have years of experience under your belt–this course is a great introduction or refresher on how to be an effective leader in the workplace.

What I Enjoyed About the Course

Applying Theory to Real Life Scenarios 

Throughout this course, participants are challenged to identify their natural leadership style, and to analyze the pros and cons – or strengths and weaknesses – of their leadership style. This process involved more than simply reading about leadership and management theories: Participants apply and reflect upon their leadership style through activities and discussions surrounding real life scenarios and challenges that happen in the workplace.

To me, this may have been the most enjoyable part of the course, and I think it was equally the most effective part of the course as it showed how each leadership style can effectively support a team.

Applying a New Lens to Workplace Communication & Conflict

This course provided a new lens on workplace conflict and communication. How so? First of all, participants were invited to recognize and understand challenges associated with our leadership style to make us aware of certain managerial and leadership behaviours that could be perceived negatively. This helps a manager to: 

  1. Identify the most effective way they can communicate and lead their team and informing potential changes to our practices and approaches
  2. Create a reflective and open-communication workspace

Aside from diving into our own leadership style, participants gained a better understanding to the other styles they may find in their superiors and colleagues. By being able to identify leadership and communication styles of their team members, a manager can: 

  1. Best prepare and communicate challenges, tasks and appreciation of work
  2. Better understand the behaviours of their team members
  3. Take a step in someone else’s shoes when conflict arises and have a better understanding of how this individual may respond or feel 

Offering a Self-Paced Approach

I really enjoyed the pace of the course. Aside from the handful of pre-determined course session dates, I was able to complete tasks and assignments at my own pace. This allowed me to maintain a positive workload balance; I felt involved and active in the program, but never felt overwhelmed.

What I Think Park Leaders Could Benefit From the Course:

This is a professional development course that increases confidence in your inner leader. With park leaders facing so many complex issues, increased self-awareness helps a manager better support their team (and themselves!) through these challenges. 

Having more knowledge and awareness of leadership could also greatly help managers influence their team to be motivated and active followers – and leaders – in the workplace. Imagine the effectiveness of having a whole team of leaders versus one sole individual. 

This course may be designed for current (and aspiring) managers, but I think it holds value for any individual working within a team – especially within Parks, Protected and Conserved Areas. The reality is, every role, even those not designated as managerial roles, benefits when the individual is an effective leader. Being a leader means being a strong and supportive team member – which helps a team manage and conquer their work – and goals – together. In my eyes, this holds the true formula for success. 

Next Course Session:

Manager and Leader: a formula for success!

Oct 6 - Dec 1, 2022

Find out more about this course, including how to register here

CPC member agencies can receive a discount by entering the promo code CPCIL2022

Grasslands, the First Frontier; The Contributions of Strategic Zoning to Sustainable Land-use Planning

by Sky Jarvis & Tricia Bacon

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.

Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park (SLPP) is a 5,535 hectare protected area located in Southwestern Saskatchewan near Swift Current (est. pop 18,000). This Park is located in the Mixed-Grass Prairie (Brown Soil Zone) ecoregion which has a characteristically warm, dry climate and a climate moisture index between -325mm to – 225mm (Thorpe 2007). This ecoregion has few intact patches remaining and is considered to be highly disturbed. In fact, it is generally accepted that only 20% of Saskatchewan’s native grassland remains (Hammermeister et al. 2001) and more recent estimates indicate there could be less than 14% (Sawatzky 2018). 

SSLP was established in 1973 and is one of the largest protected areas for native prairies in the province of Saskatchewan. It is an area rich in history as it is located in lands within Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 and the traditional territories of the Blackfoot/Niitsítapi, Cree, and Ĩyãħé Nakoda (Stoney) First Nations and of the Métis Nation, was used as a historical crossing site on the South Saskatchewan River, and in modern days, supports high levels of land and water-based recreation (Park Management Services 2018). This Park has a long history of cattle grazing practices within park boundaries through an annual permitting process. Located in the South Saskatchewan River Valley, the park and surrounding area serves as an important terrestrial and aquatic wildlife corridor (Guo et al. 2020). It also hosts some of the only known occurrences and critical habitat for the endangered sand-verbena (Tripterocalyx micranthus; Figure 1; COSEWIC 2002)

Figure 1– A photo of the endangered sand-verbena (Tripterocalyx micranthus), a flowering annual plant native to North America and found only in two Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan as well as several states in the US. It’s found in dry habitats and associated with sand dunes and sandhill areas (COSEWIC 2002)

Cattle grazing has occurred in the areas of SLPP since before that park was created and forage production is a valued benefit generated by the park for local ranchers. However, overgrazing has been associated with increased soil erosion, reduced above ground biomass, riparian degradation, and disturbance to native plant and animal habitats. In the Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park Grassland Management Plan 2020-2030 (Guo et al. 2020), it was recommended to test the ability to use rotational-grazing approaches to provide rest periods for grasslands to recover. There seems to be a need to Investigate rest-rotation grazing, native range deferrals, riparian exclosures, and other measures to ensure long term sustainability of a limited resource.

Invasive species, namely herbaceous plants and non-native grasses like Kentucky bluegrass and Crested wheatgrass have affected large portions of SLPP and have led to wide expanses of semi-native plant communities. Smaller patches of noxious weeds, leafy spurge, and Russian knapweed, if left unchecked, could spread rapidly as seen in similar landscapes. There seems to be a desire to test the efficacy of targeted grazing by sheep or goats in spring and early summer AND/OR prescribed burning with limited application of selective herbicide to meet the management goal of increasing native diversity and supporting invasive species objectives.

Recreation can also have wide-ranging impacts on landscapes and the goods and services they provide. Parks and protected areas have the complex mandate of providing visitor experiences to connect people with nature and to generate revenue to offset operating costs while simultaneously protecting a representative combination of habitats and species in the name of conservation. Human activities, when concentrated, can be associated with increased erosion (Farrell and Marion 2001), trampling (Pickering and Hill 2007; Pickering and Growcock 2009), and accidental introduction/ spread of invasive species (Potito, 2000). There seems to be increased demand for access to recreational spaces following the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic (Geng et al. 2021). As such there may be an increased need for public outreach and education regarding the impacts of human activities (invasives, wildfire), promotion of opportunities for local stewardship, and recognition of the need to share spaces with plants and animals.

Figure 2– A map of South Saskatchewan Landing Park as well as its current zones. Zonation at the moment is quite limited and broadly distributed between four main categories including Development (recreational facilities), Natural (relatively undeveloped and supporting low-impact activities such as trails and horseback riding), Protected (disturbed areas in need of restoration), and Resource Management (associated with cattle grazing). Image from: (Park Management Services, 2018).

Regular monitoring of park landscape features, especially plants, soil, water bodies and wildlife, assist park management to make decisions to prevent damage and keep park ecosystems healthy. These features act as indicators, or signs, to those able to read them.

Planning, consulting, and more planning

Land use planning and zonation are complex approaches to resource management. Different people have different values and interests in the land whether it be conservation, recreation, or supporting their livelihood; all values should be considered when making these complex decisions regarding use and access. Three levels of hierarchical land-use planning may be required to better understand the problem, site characteristics, and identify solutions, resources, and stakeholders that can help with decision-making and implementing actions that help achieve management goals. These three types of planning should be considered essential when attempting to design and implement a zoning scheme for a terrestrial or marine protected area (Figure 3).

Figure 3. An image showing the hierarchy of the different levels of planning. It is recommended that SLCC management and stakeholders work on discussing future park scenarios and setting targets associated with tactical planning in order to identify feasible approaches to zoning and threat management.  Image created by Tricia.

The first level of planning is strategic planning. This would include the identification of management objectives, threats, and potential opportunities through informed consultation with stakeholders, first nations, and members of the public (social aspect of planning). Consultation can be used to identify values (social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental). This step also includes the collection of a broad range of data from a variety of sources to inform stakeholder discussions around threats, priorities, and trade-offs.

Current stakeholders at South Saskatchewan Landing Park

  • Park Staff
  • Park Commercial Lessees
    • Marina
    • Store
    • Cactus Blume Private Campground
    • Glamping Resorts
  • Omache Bay Cottage Subdivision Cottagers Association
  • Prairie Sky Running
  • Tourism Swift Current
  • Town of Kyle
  • Park Grazing Permit Holders
  • SW Naturalists
  • The Prairie Dog Metis Local 123
  • University of Saskatchewan
  • Parks Culture and Sport Park Planning Unit
  • Landing View resort
  • Golf & Country Club
  • Parks Culture and Sport Landscape Protection Unit
  • Parks Culture and Sport Visitor Experience Branch
  • PCS Heritage Branch
  • Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment
  • Area Residents
    • Matador Hutterite Colony
    • Matador Community Pasture
  • Lake Diefenbaker Task Force against Zebra Mussels
  • Sask Water Security Agency


The second level of planning is tactical planning. This level of planning helps translate broad government objectives into clear, tangible management targets that can be implemented at the operational level. These semi-broad plans apply to sub-landscape levels and can focus on scales associated with hydrological processes and wildlife habitats, while still being broad enough to account for cumulative impacts. So far SLPP has listed management goals and objectives (Table 1) within Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park Grassland Management Plan 2020-2030 (Guo et al. 2020) but has yet to set quantitative management targets that would help with the evaluation of these management approaches.

Table 1 Management goals and objectives stated within the Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park Grassland Management Plan 2020-2030 (Guo et al. 2020). This plan acknowledges that this ecoregion supports a high level of native diversity and continues to be impacted by a number of threats. These goals and objectives aim to prioritize management actions to address urgent threats and sustain the natural landscapes and the species they support within SLPP through an ecosystem-based management approach.

Modeling and scenario planning can be useful tactical tools that can incorporate public values into management plans in order to help identify a range of feasible approaches to meeting broader objectives and goals (technical aspect of planning). Models can help study the potential effects of management and policy outcomes over space and time as well as highlight synergies that can help with optimization of approaches (more winning and less losing). The Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park Grassland Management Plan 2020-2030 (Guo et al. 2020) and Saskatchewan Landing Sub-zoning Report (Saskatchewan Parks 2012) have identified key areas for restoration and generated several maps displaying the various land uses and threats occurring within the park (Figure 4)- these datasets and analysis would be beneficial in the creation of zones to support management goals and objectives within the park.

Figure 4: Two images showing the current grazing leasees and the occurrences of species at risk in South Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. Grazing permit holders represent of one the SSLP stakeholder groups, the input and relationship with this group should be an important consideration while developing zoning plans as ranchers have widespread knowledge and use of the park. They can be beneficial partners in developing sustainable grazing practices. Due to their widespread use, cattle grazing is one of the primary land uses that can affect native biodiversity and species at risk within the park boundaries. Both are interrelated and important aspects relating to the aforementioned management objectives. Retrieved from: Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park Grassland Management Plan 2020-2030

The final level of planning occurs at the operational level. This level takes into account site-specific characteristics such as soil characteristics, plant community composition, critical wildlife habitat structures, cultural features, and ecosystem structure/ function. This level can also consider the availability of topographical or other natural/ artificial barriers that can help with zone delineation as well as considering areas that have been highly impacted and/ or degraded. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Protected Area (GBRMPA; Australia Government 2004) and the Gwaii Haanas Gina ‘Waadluxan KilGuhlGa Land-Sea-People Management Plan (GHMPA; Council of the Haida Nation 2018) are useful and relevant examples of effective zonation of protected areas to accommodate multiple user groups and land uses. Lessons learned by other park agencies both internationally and within Canada can provide valuable insights into the development of a zonation plan for SSLP (Table 2).

Table 2– These are some of the zone categories used in the GBRMP and a short description of the intended uses of the zone and how this could be modified to SLPP (GBRMP zoning plan 2003).

Operational plans should also highlight the methods and responsibilities for ecological monitoring. Essentially what indicators should be used, who will collect field data, and how this data will be analyzed and incorporated into successional management planning at the tactical level. Monitoring and evaluation are critical to determining if management objectives and targets can be met as well as helping to identify perverse and unintended outcomes that arise. This process enables managers to learn more about the responses of the systems they manage and can ensure the sustenance of ecological function and social values within landscapes. 

This process might sound familiar to adaptive management in its ability to shape learning and provide flexibility within resource management.  Indigenous guardian programs are emerging tools for parks and protected areas to engage and learn from local First Nations in ecological monitoring. These programs can be complemented by including members of the public such as seniors, families, and youth through opportunities to contribute to education and stewardship. Citizen science is another effective tool in engaging the public in monitoring and data collection. SLPP could investigate forming partnerships with local first nations and/or create its own project on iNaturalist and encourage visitors to log the species they find while recreating at this park.

Figure 5: An image showing the adaptive cycle to conservation which could be adapted and applied to the creation of a zoning plan. It’s important to include stakeholders, park staff, and user groups whose values can be incorporated into governance, planning, management, and evaluation. In doing so this will likely help with the success of implementing, enforcing, and monitoring the ability of the zoning plan to support broader management objectives. Retrieved from: Conservation Standards (2022).

The creation of zones takes specific effort and requires productive and open consultation with stakeholders, including local communities and First Nations. Proposed zones should incorporate local values and consider existing land uses, and natural topographical barriers to increase support for and effectiveness of guidelines on acceptable and unacceptable land-uses within certain areas of the park. Further, there will need to be a public education component where visitors are informed of the new zonation process and why it was necessary to move to this approach. 

As an example of proactive education, the GBRMPA created a park-specific app that can be downloaded onto a smartphone and contains a detailed map with zones and acceptable land-uses to help visitors with planning and navigation while in the park. GPS tracking can allow users to know what zone they are in and when they are approaching new zones, furthermore, there could be an “off-trail alert” which could notify the person when they are off walking/ hiking/ horse trail or when they enter a zone with more restricted uses (eg. started in a general use zone and traveled into a habitat protection zone). An app like this could help strengthen both the public education and enforcement aspects of a zonation approach to park management.

Building on Connections to Place

“If you were raised in southern Saskatchewan, the word “prairie” comes naturally, and you use it often to describe where you come from. For me growing up the word evoked images of yellow fields, canola dancing in the wind; the kind of landscape where your gaze is drawn upward, not towards mountains, but to the open sky. Saskatchewan is a Prairie province. I am from the prairies. I live on the prairies. Over the course of the past year, I have learned this ritual of description, so often repeated with pride, is a deception and delusion—crops, however beautiful, are not “prairie.” The time has come for prairie people to acknowledge that the landscape by which they describe themselves is almost gone and that the value of what remains is threatened.” 

 –Katie Doke Sawatzky 2018

Out of the historical 60 million acres of native grasslands, only 8.2 million acres (or 13.7%) remain as of 2015 (Sawatzky and Piwowar 2019). These trends in the loss of native temperate grass lights not only highlight the need for conservation efforts such as the creation of Provincial and/or National Parks, private land conservancies, and restoration, but can also point towards the need for zoning plans to be developed and implemented within existing and proposed parks in order to balance competing objectives such as recreation, conservation, and development in order to prioritize the maintenance of healthy functioning ecosystems. Zoning plans have been successfully implemented in protected areas both within Canada (Gwaii Haanas) as well as internationally (Great Barrier Reef). Ongoing consultation and consideration of current/future threats, pre-existing uses, and carrying capacity will be essential in delineating potential zones and the types of activities that they can support. The work done in the Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park Grassland Management Plan 2020-2030 (Guo et al. 2020), Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park Management & Development Plan (Park Management Services, 2018), and Saskatchewan Landing Sub-Zoning Report (Saskatchewan Parks 2012) have started the necessary strategic and tactical planning required for the development of a zonation plan. Further work beyond these reports to (1) identify quantitative management targets and (2) develop monitoring and operational plans would aid with the implementation and evaluation of proposed zones to meet broader management objectives and targets.

South Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park has a shared responsibility to (1) ensure opportunities for sustainable livelihood from grazing, (2) create opportunities for visitors to connect to nature and (3) protection of unique species and habitats found within park boundaries. These responsibilities can generate land-use conflicts which will lead to the need for trade-offs between land uses to ensure ecological viability. SSLP could consider creating a Zoning Plan that considers the existing user groups within a multifunctional landscape while also acknowledging the biological constraints of the ecosystem in which these relationships exist. This type of plan would be enhanced by opportunities to engage in consultation with stakeholders and First Nations and could be informed by the implementation of Zoning plans seen in several Marine Protected Areas to accomplish broader management objectives centered around sustainable development and conservation.


Please reach out to us to share other examples on how zoning plans have been implemented in parks and protected areas in a way that supports multiple user groups in a new age approach to conserving biodiversity and promoting human use and enjoyment of natural areas in a sustainable and adaptive way.


Australia Government. 2004. Great Barrier Reef Marine Protected Area zoning plan 2003. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

BC Forest Practices Board. 2019. Tactical forest planning: The missing link between strategic planning and operational planning in BC. Special Report 58. Retrieved from

Conservation Standards. 2022. Open standards for the practice of conservation.

COSEWIC. 2002. COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the small-flowered sand-verbena Tripterocalyx micranthus in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Council of the Haida Nation. 2018. Gwaii Haanas Gina ‘Waadluxan KilGuhlGa Land-Sea-People Management Plan 2018. Archipelago Management Board Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site. Queen Charlotte, BC, Canada.

Doke Sawatzky, K. 2018. The state of native prairie in Saskatchewan. Prairie Commons, Regina, SK. Retrieved from

Doke Sawatzky, K., and J.M. Piwowar. 2019. Changes in prairie grassland extent in Saskatchewan from 1990-2015. Prairie Perspectives: Geographical Essays, 21: 1-8

Farrell, T.A. and J.L. Marion. 2001. Trail impacts and trail impact management related to visitation at Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Leisure/Loisir, 26(1-2): 31-59.

Geng, D.C., J. Innes, W. Wu, and G. Wang. 2021. Impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on urban park visitation: a global analysis. Journal of forestry research, 32(2): 553-567.

Guo, X., T. Doan, D. Gross, and T. Chu. 2020. Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park Grassland Management Plan 2020-2030. Saskatchewan Ministry of Parks, Culture, and Sport.

Hammermeister, A., D. Gauthier, and K. McGovern. 2001. Saskatchewan’s native prairie: statistics of a vanishing ecosystem and dwindling resource. Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK. Retrieved from:

Park Management Services. 2018. Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park Management & Development Plan.

Pickering, C.M. and A.J. Growcock. 2009. Impacts of experimental trampling on tall alpine herbfields and subalpine grasslands in the Australian Alps. Journal of Environmental Management, 91(2): 532-540.

Pickering, C. M., and W. Hill. 2007. Impacts of recreation and tourism on plant biodiversity and vegetation in protected areas in Australia. Journal of environmental management 85: 791-800.

Potito, A. 2000. Impacts of recreation trails on exotic and invasive species distribution in grassland areas along the Colorado front range (Master’s thesis, University of Colorado).

Saskatchewan Parks. 2012. Saskatchewan Landing Sub-zoning Report. Phase I: Literature review, gap analysis, and field investigations.

Thorpe, J. 2007. Saskatchewan rangeland ecosystems: Ecoregions and ecosites. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Government of Saskatchewan.

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? 


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  

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. Retrieved July 19, 2022, from 

Parks Canada Agency, G. of C. (2022, May 17). National urban parks. Parks Canada. Retrieved July 19, 2022, from  

Parks for all. Canadian Parks and Recreation Association. (2021, June 16). Retrieved July 19, 2022, from 

Unsplash images:  


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.”



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.  

Botchwey, B. S., & Cunningham, C. (2021). The politicization of Protected Areas Establishment in Canada. FACETS, 6, 1146–1167.  

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

Municipal World. (2018). Political acuity: A guide to managing conflict in the workplace. Youtube. Retrieved from  

Siegel, D. (2020). Public servants and politics: Developing political acuity in local government. Canadian Public Administration, 63(4), 620–639. 


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.


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.


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.


1) Chow-Fraser, Pat. “Water Quality: A Middle Great Lakes Dilemma.” Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation, 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. 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. Accessed 28 March 2022.

4) Hatherly, Gerry. “Boating History: Gidley Boats”. Canadian Yachting: Canada’s Boating Source, Digital Magazine, April 11, 2019. 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. 


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. 

Chartered Institute of Professional Development. 2021. Talent Management Factsheet. 

Dryden, H., and A.M. Rice. 2008. Using guidelines to support secondment: A personal experience. Journal of Nursing Management 16 (1): 65-71. 

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. 

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. 

Loads, D., and F. Campbell. 2015. Fresh thinking about academic development: Authentic, transformative, disruptive? International Journal for Academic Development 20 (4): 355-369.  

O’Donoughue Jenkins, L., and K. Anstey. 2017. The use of secondments as a tool to increase knowledge translation. 


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. 


BC Parks. (n.d.). Volunteer in BC Parks. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from 

Park People. (2021). The Role of Philanthropy in Parks. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from 

PaRx. (2022). A Prescription for Nature. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from

Ontario Parks. (2022). Friends of Ontario Parks. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from 

Ontario Parks. (2022). Ontario Parks Donations. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from  

Ontario Parks. (2022). Legacy Giving. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from 

Parks Canada. (n.d.). Volunteer Opportunities. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from 



Benna, M. (2018). Stanley Park. [image]. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from  

DuPreez, P. (2019). Friends. [image] Retrieved March 25, 2022 from