Open letter to Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
You have undoubtedly heard of the troubling news coming out of Banff National Park this summer. Multiple wolves of the Bow Valley pack were killed by officials after they displayed potentially assertive behaviour at campgrounds, raising concerns of safety.
You have undoubtedly also heard that these deaths could have been prevented. Available resources – be it direct feeding of animals or indirect through unsafe campground practices – attract the wildlife and teach them that campsites and people are potential sources of a snack or meal. Your Parks Canada staff, in conjunction with provincial authorities, have acted commendably, attempting to educate visitors and enforce these behaviours that can lead to conflict, and ultimately, the killing of individual animals.
Unfortunately, they seem to be fighting a losing battle. Visitors to the park are clearly not appreciating the seriousness of these policies, resulting in the deaths of at least three wolves. The current approach of Parks Canada is clearly not enough, and solutions are desperately needed to prevent more meaningless deaths.
This year you have stated that Parks Canada’s budget was cut by the previous government: a nearly $30,000,000 reduction. Additionally, there has been no increase in Parks Canada jobs, despite a dramatic increase in visitors and use of recreational areas under their jurisdiction.
The pattern of behaviour is clear: visitors are allowing animals to come close, either intentionally or unintentionally, which ultimately results in the killing of precious wildlife. This parallels a decrease in funding, an increase in visitors, and no change in staffing levels to meet that increase.
We are asking you, Minister McKenna, to implement emergency funding to Parks Canada and work with your provincial counterparts to get more enforcement officers on the ground to ensure that visitors who do not follow the rules are properly charged, and have individuals available to clean up after those irresponsible visitors who are not caught. Some of our more than 50,000 national members have offered to volunteer to assist in maintaining campsites and identifying irresponsible visitors. Even if this is only temporary funding prior to a greater budgetary review, something must be done immediately to assist those who are working to save lives.
The Canada National Parks Act states “the parks shall be maintained and made use of so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
Future generations, current visitors, parks staff, and most of all, the animals, need you to step up and enforce the Act. History will be watching.
Above photo of a Banff wolf by Kerri Martin Photography