The Failure of Parks Canada

Donjek Route, Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon Territory, Canada

Donjek Route, Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon Territory, Canada

As per a letter to the Parks Canada Agency national office dated June 19, 2015, NORSKK decided to no longer seek licenses and permits to operate in Canada's national parks, over "systemic incompetence, prejudice, abuse and contempt towards clients, lack of transparency and due process, rampant conflicts of interest, institutionalized discriminatory policies, widespread harassment, and ultimately, gross mis-management of our natural and cultural heritage" by the Parks Canada Agency.

In essence, Parks Canada has deviated from its official Guiding Principles and Operational Policies, the Kluane National Parks and Reserve Management Plan, as well as the Migratory Birds Convention Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act, and the Species At Risk Actto such an extent, that the agency is no longer fulfilling its commitment to the people of Canada. 

In order for clients and the public to better understand the decision, here's a brief overview of the various issues that have been plaguing the Parks Canada Agency for several years, following drastic budget cuts, as well as widespread staff dismissals or resignations.




With the exception of Pacific Rim National Park, national parks in Canada do not require specific certifications for guides, and Parks Canada does not verify guides' certifications or qualifications. In addition, Parks Canada executives in charge of commercial permits, such as Ed Jager, Visitor Experience Manager, have no formal education or qualifications whatsoever in risk assessment or wilderness management. Ed Jager only holds degrees in economy and international relations, which would appear to be completely irrelevant from a public safety perspective. Further, his outdoor experience appears to be limited to mountain biking (a particularly high impact activity), raising questions about his judgement in matters involving actual wilderness areas.

Incidentally, Canadian national parks experience one of the highest accident rates of any developed country in the world. This is best demonstrated by the accident reports published on the Parks Canada very own web site.


Parks Canada lack of a national public safety policy has resulted in the entirely preventable death of many visitors. This includes the tragic passing of Harry Spook in flash floods in Nahanni National Park. The Nahanni River Adventures guide, licensed by Parks Canada without any regards to his qualifications, did not foresee one of the most basic and fundamental wilderness hazards known to any qualified guide: Namely, that the occurrence of rain could lead to flash floods in a dry river bed. As a matter of fact, Nahanni River Adventure was unsurprisingly deemed negligent in the death of Harry Spook by the Yukon Supreme Court in a subsequent lawsuit (Simpson v. Nahanni River Adventures Ltd., Neil Hartling and Henry Madison).

Besides Parks Canada failing to maintain public safety by ensuring that a guide the agency had licensed met the most basic qualifications, the agency subsequently failed to take any action following the death of Harry Spook. The license of Nahanni River Adventures was never suspended by Parks Canada and is still active to this day.


Parks Canada incompetence does not end at the agency's failure to ensure public safety. Canada's national park agency actually even managed to authorize a zinc mine (Prairie Creek Mine) within the boundaries of a national park! And if the environmental impact of mining zinc wasn't significant enough, the federal agency further authorized the construction of an 80km mining road throughout Nahanni National Park, without an environmental assessment (see the article from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). 

Parks Canada actions in the case of the Prairie Creek Mine were in absolute disregard to the Migratory Birds Convention Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act, and the Species At Risk Act. 


In the Summer of 2014, Laura Gorecki, Visitor Experience Manager at the time, was advised by a licensed operator conducting a wilderness expedition in the Donjek area of Kluane National Park and Reserve, that he had come across an unlicensed operator illegally conducting commercial activities in the park.

Laura Gorecki, however, elected to not act on the report, thereby violating Parks Canada own policies and regulations, including the official Parks Canada Agency Law Enforcement Administration and Operational Manual, as well as the Parks Canada Management Directive, Law Enforcement. She also further completely disregarded the Parks Canada defined duties of Park Wardens.


Parks Canada has also been unable to maintain public interest in Canada's national parks, with visitor numbers in parks such as Kluane National Parks and Reserve collapsing by as much as 25% over the course of only 4 years (See Parks Canada Official Attendance Report).

The introduction of wifi to Canadian national parks, and more recently, the planned construction of electric outlets in Pacfic Rim National Park, are some examples of an agency that is completely out of touch with the expectations of visitors to national parks. 


Red Fox, Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon Territory, Canada

Red Fox, Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon Territory, Canada


In 2013, a Europe-based operator submitted an Outfitter License application to Torngat Mountains National Park, at their request, to conduct backpacking expeditions in the park. After staff at Torngat National Park failed to acknowledge or respond to any communication over the course of a full year, the operator eventually contacted Parks Canada national office. Upon ending the call, Parks Canada staff was recorded as referring to the caller as a "rapist" due to his Norse (and thus Viking) heritage, and joking about the fact that there was no formal outfitter license application process for Torngat Moutains National Park, and that the operator had been asked to submit an application for the only purpose of wasting his time. Following the refusal to investigate the incident by Judy Rowell, Torngat Mountains National Park Superintendent, the operator referred the matter to the European Human Rights Commission for discrimination based on ancestry.

Parks Canada and the Canadian federal government have also previously demonstrated prejudice against Norse people. Dr. Sutherland, former curator, Department of Archeology, Canadian Museum of Civilization, was abruptly dismissed from her position following findings deemed inconvenient by the Canadian federal government and Parks Canada: Namely that Baffin Island had first been settled by Norsemen*, 200 years before the Inuits, and well before other Europeans. To this day, Dr. Sutherland has not been allowed access to her research.

Parks Canada and the Canadian federal government further have a long history of persecuting minorities that have not assimilated to the traditional Canadian Christian Anglophone culture, or whom are deemed inconvenient. This was best demonstrated in the very recent past with the abuse and genocide of First Nation people and Inuits in residential schools (see Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Call to Action). Today, a similar approach is exposed with Canada rewriting history, specifically excluding the Norse people, and falsely claiming in its latest government propaganda video on Youtube (not so surprisingly, closed to public comments), that Canada's Arctic was first settled by... the Brits... less than 200 years ago!*

* Baffin Island, referred to as "Helluland", was first settled by Viking over 1,000 years ago, and 200 years before the Inuits. This was established through archeological findings (see Evidence of Early Metalworking in Arctic Canada), as well as Old Norse texts such as Íslendingasögur and Eddur.


In the Summer of 2014, a licensed guide was verbally abused and harassed by a seasonal female staff member at the Haines Junction Visitor Center in Yukon. The female worker did not deny the fact that she was prejudiced against males when confronted to the question, and subsequently engaged in further insulting communications. Laura Gorecki, her manager, simply failed to address the issue, or even acknowledge a complaint sent to her attention, despite being generously allowed a full 10 months to respond. As a result, the matter was referred to the Canadian Human Rights Commission for discrimination based on gender.


In the winter of 2015, Parks Canada started cracking down on operators with non-Christian religious views (primarily of Norse faith), by arbitrarily delaying, stalling, and ultimately denying their license applications. Parks Canada also abruptly stopped recognizing the standards and certifications of the Professional Association of Wilderness Guides and Instructors, solely because of the agency's association with individuals of Norse faith and with strong views about the various abuses in the name of Christianity, including but not limited to the persecution of First Nation people in Canada in residential schools (see association's official letter to Parks Canada). Parks Canada actions in this matter are currently the subject of several actions with the Canadian Human Rights Commission for discrimination based on religion.


Parks Canada is required, under federal law, to provide services in both official languages of Canada: English and French. The Parks Canada Agency, however, has actively pursued a policy of not hiring French speaking staff, and therefore, has been embracing a policy that specifically excludes Francophone users. 

Superintendents such as Judy Rowell do not speak French, despite their position in an area of Canada, Labrador, still disputed by Quebec. Laura Gorecki, now interim Superintendent for Kluane National Park after her predecessor resigned his post, is not functional in French. 

Senior level managers, such as Ed Jager, Manager for Visitor Experience, have even refused to respond to queries in French, and continued to defiantly speak English, in contempt of various Supreme Court of Canada rulings, and despite a formal written request that reads "while I don't expect to hear from you, if you elect to do so, do it in French". 

The Parks Canada Agency's prejudice against Francophones through policies that favor English speaking people is now being investigated by Gary Watson at the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.


Donjek Glacier, Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon Territory, Canada

Donjek Glacier, Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon Territory, Canada


In over 17 years, no complaint made to Parks Canada, or any of its staff, including but not limited to Judy Rowell (Superintendent Torngat Mountains National Park), Anne Morin (Superintendent, Yukon Unit), Laura Gorecki (Interim Superintendent, Kluane National Parks and Reserve), Diane Maloley (Manager, Access to Information), Ted Dolan (Visitor Experience Manager, Kejimkujik National Park), or Ed Jager (Visitor Experience Manager), was ever addressed.

Parks Canada response was instant and absolute denial without any type of investigation whatsoever, systematically followed by a statement that the agency considered the "matter closed" and that there would be "no further communications".


Parks Canada may also be the only federal government agency where public servants actually refuse to fulfill the very duties they are paid for with public monies. When asked for the required forms to file an Access to Information request under federal law on June 18, 2015, Diane Maloley, Manager, Access to Information and Privacy Office, refused to provide the forms or an actual link to the forms online, and responded instead in an email: "Here is our website address where you can find our address and download the request forms"... When Diane Maloley was advised her response was unacceptable, she simply replied "I suggest that you contact the Information Commissioner of Canada Office to make a complaint". 

As a result, yet another complaint (REF-011402) was filed with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, as well as the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada.


Donjek Route, Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon Territory, Canada

Donjek Route, Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon Territory, Canada


A highly qualified and experienced Nova Scotia operator was recently denied a permit by Ed Jager, Visitor Experience Manager, to operate backpacking trips in Kluane National Park and Reserve, despite having received approval by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

Ed Jager simply acted in complete contempt of his own Parks Canada official Business License Requirements and Guidelines. In an attempt to justify his refusal to grant a permit, he even falsely claimed that a certifying agency and industry association, the Professional Association of Wilderness Guides and Instructors, announced that it would cease to be regulatory compliant, would no longer operate in Canada's national park, and had failed to respond to requests for information from Parks Canada. Ed Jager's claims, however, were vehemently and officially denied by the Professional Association of Wilderness Guides and Instructors (see official association letter sent to Parks Canada). 

Ed Jager also advised the Nova Scotia operator that he needed certifications from a "pre-approved list of agencies", when in fact, no such list was in existence at Parks Canada, and no other operator in the history of Kluane National Parks and Reserve had ever been asked for any certification, let alone from a "pre-approved list of agencies". As a matter of fact, the Parks Canada official document that addresses business licenses, "General Information for Outfitting, Guiding, and Parks Activities - Business Licences", makes no reference whatsoever to such a "pre-approved list".

And for those wondering whether Parks Canada policies may have suddenly come under review, they have not, as confirmed by Ted Dolan, Visitor Experience Manager for Kejimkujik National Park, in an email dated June 3, 2015, which states: "...I was mistaken in saying that the policy for issuing guiding licenses was under review at a national level.  That was a misunderstanding on my part of a conversation I had.  That policy is not under review..."

Ed Jager has refused, to this date, to provide the "list" he was referring to.


Following his permit refusal, the Nova Scotia operator was left with no recourse whatsoever through the Parks Canada Agency. As a matter of fact, Parks Canada has simply ceased to communicate with the operator, forcing him to file various legal actions against the agency.

Other operators have experienced similar situation with other parks, including Torngat Mountains National Park.


Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada


The Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, an association local to BC and Alberta, and whose backpacking guide certifications are not recognized outside of Canada, has managed to hold a disproportionate number of permits in Canada's national parks in the Rocky Mountains, at the exclusion of many other operators and associations, for many years.

Incidentally, the association has been providing Parks Canada staff with free or low cost training for at least two decades... 


In 2012, a Canadian operator was refused a permit in Nahanni National Park over the "environmental impact" of backpacking trips in the park. Considering Nahanni National Park had authorized a zinc mine, as well as an 80km mining road within the park, the environmental impact concerns over a very low impact ecotourism activity appeared somewhat misplaced. It is believed that Parks Canada was in fact attempting to shield a local operator from competition. The very same operator whose permit was never revoked or even suspended, even following the death of a visitor under their care...

In 2013, a Europe-based operator was pressured by staff at Torngat Mountains National Park to hire local operators at a cost so high and unreasonable that it could only possibly be seen as a bribe, and as an implied condition for the obtention of a permit. 

In early 2015, another Canadian operator approached Kejimkujik National Park to discuss applying for a commercial outfitter permit. Parks Canada demonstrated yet another example of the agency's undue affection for certain operators, when Ted Dolan, Visitor Experience Manager, wrote in an email: "we already have a licensed guiding operation in the park. We'd be hard pressed to justify issuing another to a competingcompany." 

Two complaints with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (REF-011401 and REF-011489), even allege that Ted Dolan and Parks Canada conspired with Keji Outfitters (the sole commercial operator) in order to unduly challenge the credibility of other Canadian operators, for the only purposes of personal gossip as well as justifying denying them permits. 




A guide currently with NØRSKK, and formerly from Parks Canada, was dismissed by the agency over discriminatory grounds in 2010. His lawsuit against Parks Canada was settled out of court, and subjected to a gag order. He nonetheless asserted that Parks Canada Agency embraces "systematic discrimination of people who are not born in Canada, and who do not share Canadian traditional inclination towards Christian beliefs". 


There are currently several actions against Parks Canada by several operators, in Canada and in Europe, over discriminatory practices relating to religion, gender, ethnicity, and ancestry.


Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada


Harassment from Parks Canada for daring to dissent can take various forms. The most common form of harassment is verbal abuse by seasonal staff, whose temporary status gives them even less accountability than full-time employees. Arbitrary denials of permits, without appeal, is also to be expected.

More unusual are calls from Parks Canada in the middle of the night, believed to be for the sole purpose of causing operators undue stress.

This includes a call by Diane Maloley, Manager, Access to Information and Privacy Office, to a NØRSKK principal's personal cellular, at 4:14 in the morning, from her cell phone (613-297-1719). Requests to Parks Canada to address the matter were ignored, leading to yet another claim filed with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (REF-011430).


Virginia Falls, Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories, Canada

Virginia Falls, Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories, Canada


Clearly, Parks Canada incompetence, prejudice, abuse and contempt towards stakeholders, lack of transparency and due process, rampant conflicts of interest, institutionalized discriminatory policies, as well widespread harassment, is preventing the agency from fulfilling its mandate of preserving Canada's natural and historical heritage. 


Seal pup, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, British Columbia, Canada

Seal pup, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, British Columbia, Canada

If you are Canadian, we urge you to contact Canada's Environment Minister, or your local MP, to address the Parks Canada Agency's failure to preserve Canada's natural and historical heritage for many generations to come.

This is your land. A land that belongs to the people of Canada.