Open letter: Restoring science in Canada's national parks and national historic sites

Dear Hon. May, Mulcair, and Trudeau,

As former Parks Canada staff, we are deeply troubled by the seemingly unjustified and arbitrary firing in mid-June of Dr. John Wilmshurst, who was the Resource Conservation Manager in Jasper National Park.

Dr. Wilmshurst is a highly respected scientist and well-regarded manager. His career with Parks Canada spanned just 15 years, yet in this relatively short time, he made very significant contributions to the advancement of ecological integrity within the national park system. As a Grasslands Ecologist based out of Winnipeg, he developed and led an integrated engagement and research project designed to better understand and communicate native prairie ecosystems. In 2008, he transferred to Jasper National Park where he assumed responsibilities as Ecosystem Science Leader, then as Caribou Program Project Manager, and finally as Resource Conservation Manager. All the while, he also served as an adjunct professor at Laval University and University of Saskatchewan.

In recognition of his outstanding work, the Agency bestowed on him its most prestigious honour, the CEO Award of Excellence, in 2009 for his contribution to the development of principles and guidelines for ecological protection in Canada's national parks. More recently, in 2012, he was given the Public Service Award for conceiving and leading a restoration and monitoring program for Grasslands National Park.

The reason for Dr. Wilmshurst's firing is unknown but it appears consistent with the purging of science-based management taking place in the national parks of Canada.
Like a spectre, the threat of these seemingly arbitrary firings has haunted not just the corridors of Parks Canada but also those of other federal departments. As those who dare to speak up on issues related to the ecological integrity of the national parks or the commemorative integrity of the national historic sites are removed from their positions, a deep fear is instilled to ensure that those remaining toe the party line.

Canadians are proud of their national parks and national historic sites. They have entrusted them to successive governments to care for as irreplaceable legacies and to ensure that these special places are passed along to future generations in as good, if not better, condition than when received. They understand that maintaining ecological or commemorative integrity can only be achieved with science and that this science must be integrated into park and site management decision-making. They also rightfully expect that science to be communicated back to them. A government that blocks, twists, or diverts this communication commits an undemocratic act by denying their citizens the knowledge to make informed decisions.

Therefore, we are asking you to state publicly commitments you are prepared to make to protect and restore the ecological and commemorative integrity of our national parks and historic sites if you and your party form the next government. In particular, what are you prepared to do to restore science capacity to Parks Canada and other federal departments so they can carry out and communicate social, ecological and traditional ecological knowledge? Would you undertake an investigation into what appear to be politically motivated dismissals of scientists and managers within the Agency under the Harper government and, where appropriate, offer amnesty or an apology to the affected individuals?

Additionally, we urge all Canadians to ask these questions of the candidates in their riding and then to seriously consider these matters when they vote on Oct. 19.

Signatories with last position held before leaving Parks Canada:

Bruce Amos, Director-General, National Parks Directorate
Gord Anderson, Warden, Jasper National Park;
Rundi Anderson, Resource Conservation Supervisor, Gulf Islands National Park;
Travis Anderson, Fly-in Trail Crew, Jasper National Park;
Gord Antoniuk, Protection/Operations Manager, Jasper National Park;
Jim Barlow, Field Unit Superintendent, Coastal BC;
Harry Beach, Manager, resource Conservation, Ontario Service Centre;
Danielle Bellefleur, Biologist, Pacific Rim National Park;
Chip Bird, Field Unit Superintendent, Cape Breton
Chuck Blyth, Superintendent, Nahanni National Park Reserve;
Joe Buker, Regional Law Enforcement Specialist, Prairie and Northern Region;
Ross Chapman, Conservation Biologist, Elk Island National Park;
Jim Christakos, Regional Director, Ontario;
Ian Church, Superintendent, Yoho National Park;
Jenny Clark, Environmental Educator, Waterton Lakes National Park;
Chris Cooper, Park Warden, Riding Mountain National Park;
Steve Cooper, Park Warden, Nahanni National Park Reserve;
Bob Coutts, Manager, External Relations & Visitor Experiences, Western Region Service Centre;
Mary Dalman, Communications Officer, Banff Field Unit;
Celes Davar, Chief Park Naturalist, Riding Mountain National Park;
Dave Day, Superintendent, Banff National Park;
Heather Dempsey, Communications Specialist, Banff National Park;
Anne Dickinson, Park Planner, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier Field Unit
Ross Dobson, Heritage Presentation Specialist, Ontario Region;
Ken East, Field Unit Superintendent, Central Ontario;
Doug Eastcott, Resource Conservation Operations Supervisor, Banff National Park;
Roger Eddy, Warden, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks;
Tom Elliot, Wilderness & Visitor Use Specialist, Yukon Field Unit;
Sean Elliott, Horse Packer, Jasper National Park;
Mike Fay, Chief Administrative Officer, Ottawa;
Jenny Feick, Chief of Interpretation, Extension & Cooperative Activities, Western Region;
Dan Frandsen, Resource Conservation Manager, Western Arctic Field Unit;
Peter Frood, Field Unit Superintendent, Central Ontario;
Carolyn Fysh, Interpretive Specialist, Jasper National Park;
Judy Gibbens-Gilchrist, A/Chief, Visitor Services, Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site;
Al Gibbs, Chief Park Warden, Cape Breton Highlands National Park;
Steve Gin, Chief Interpretation Officer, Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site;
Todd Golumbia, Ecologist Gulf Islands National Park Reserve;
Ron Hamilton, Superintendent, Gulf Islands National Park;
Doug Harvey, Chief, New Park Proposals (South), Park Establishment Branch
David Henry, Conservation Ecologist, Yukon Field Unit;
Bill Henwood, Project Manager, Park Establishment Branch;
Doug Hodgins, Senior Policy Advisor, Legislation and Policy Branch, Ottawa;
Barbara Holiday, Chief Curatorial Services, Prairie & Northern Region;
Richard Holmes, Warden, Pacific Rim National Park;
Rick Howie, Chief Park Naturalist, Yoho National Park;
George Ingram, Director, Policy, National Historic Sites;
Gaileen Irwin, Senior Park Interpreter, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve;
Jim Johnston, Head, New National Park Establishment North;
Marilyn Leslie Kan, Budget Officer, Jasper National Park;
Rob Kaye, Resource Conservation Specialist, Elk Island National Park;
Michael Kerr, Communications Manager, Banff National Park;
Tom Kovacs, Director, Natural Resources Conservation;
Cecile Lafleur, Information Attendant, Banff National Park;
Anne Landry, Management Planner, Yukon Field Unit;
Steve Langdon, Field Unit Superintendent, Coastal BC;
Pierre Lessard, Superintendent La Maurice National Park;
Bob Lewis, Superintendent, Vuntut National Park, SS Klondike and Chilkoot Trail National Historic Sites;
Nik Lopoukhine, Director General of National Parks;
Graham MacDonald, Historian, Western Region;
Ian MacNeil, Project Manager, Park Establishment Branch;
Anne Marceau, Visitor Experience Product Development Specialist, Gros Morne National Park;
John Marczyk, First Nations Programs Manager, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve;
Duane Martin, Senior Law Enforcement Specialist, Western Region;
Sid Marty, Park Warden, Banff National Park;
Pat McCloskey, Audio-Visual Producer, Western Region;
Murray McComb, Manager, Special Projects, National Parks, Ottawa;
Angus McLeod, Park Planner, Ontario Region;
Desiree McLeod, Communications Assistant, Ontario Region;
George Mercer, Wildlife Specialist, Jasper National Park;
Don Mickle, Cultural Resource Manager, Banff-Yoho-Kootenay Field Unit;
Peter Minnelli, Northern Area Manager, Rideau Canal and Laurier House National Historic Sites
Hal Morrison, Wildlife Conflict Officer, Kootenay-Lake Louise-Yoho Field Unit;
Kate Moylan, A/Manager, Visitor Experience, Kluane National Park
Neil Munro, Science Advisor, Atlantic Region;
Seth Oldham, Resource Conservation Supervisor, Western Arctic Field Unit;
Heather Oxman, Senior National Public Education Specialist;
Dorothy Payne, Senior Advisor, Leadership & Learning, Ottawa;
Murray Peterson, Manger, Resource Conservation, Prince Albert National Park;
Michael Porter, Director General, National Parks Directorate;
Meredith Reeve, Visitor Activities Manager, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve;
Gordon Rutherford, Park Warden, Yoho National Park;
Norm Ruttan, Superintendent, St. Lawrence Islands National Park;
Monika Schaefer, Park Warden, Jasper National Park;
Rick Searle, Park Naturalist, Riding Mountain National Park;
Brian Sheehan, Resource Conservation Specialist, Kootenay National Park;
Angus Simpson, Resource Conservation Supervisor, Torngat Mountains National Park;
Ivan Smith, ex-Superintendent, Bruce Peninsula and Fathom Five National Parks;
Sheryl Smith, Aboriginal Affairs Advisor; Ontario Service Centre;
Winston Smith, Chief, Visitor Activities, Ontario Region;
Tim Sookocheff, Director, Park Establishment Branch;
Jennie Sparkes, Social Science Project Manager, Western & Northern Service Centre;
Rick Staley, Park Warden, Kluane National Park;
Frank Staples, warden, Jasper National Park;
Marian Stranak, Superintendent, Point Pelee National Park;
Leila Sumi, Resource Conservation & Public Safety Specialist, Vuntut National Park;
Jervis Swannack, Chief Archeologist; Ottawa;
Wendy Szaniszlo, Visitor Services Team Leader, Pacific Rim National Park;
John Taylor, Park Warden, Jasper National Park;
Greg Thomas, Manager, Cultural Resource Services, Western & Northern Service Centre;
Pat Thomson, Director-General, National Parks Directorate;
John Towndrow, Park Planner, Ontario Service Centre;
Barry Troke, Resource Conservation Supervisor, Vuntut National Park of Canada and Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site of Canada;
Erik Val, Superintendent, Nahanni National Park Reserve;
Wybo Vanderschult, Biologist, Riding Mountain National Park;
Ken Walker, Partnering & Engagement Officer, Jasper National Park;
Rob Walker, Resource Conservation Manager, Gulf Islands National Park;
Rod Wallace, Cultural Resource Management Specialist, Jasper National Park;
Rob Ward, Senior Exhibit Designer, Western & Northern Service Centre;
Scott Ward, Warden, Banff National Park;
Jim Webb, National Parks Highway Engineer, Banff National Park;
Duane West, Superintendent, Kluane National Park Reserve;
Alan Westhaver, Vegetation/Fire Management Specialist, Jasper National Park;
Cliff White, Manager, Ecosystem Science, Banff-Kooteny-Yoho Field Unit;
Carol Whitfield, Field Unit Superintended, Cape Breton Highlands National Park;
Peter Whyte, Manager, Resource Conservation, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve;
Stephen Woodley, Chief Scientist, Ottawa;
Cornell Wynnobel, Chief, Cultural Resource Conservation, Parks Canada Western Region; and
Doug Yurick, Chief, Marine Program Coordination, Ottawa