(New information as of October 31, 2015):
The ONA-Okanagan Nation Alliance wants an exclusive 50-50 management contract for the proposed national park. The OIB-Osoyoos Indian Band is a member of the ONA.
What are the “real” goals of the ONA-Okanagan Nation Alliance regarding the proposed national park? Will the ONA take responsibility to steward the land, or is it simply a veiled land grab?
Did you know that the OIB-Osoyoos Indian Band is removing 227 acres from the desert to build a hi-brow members-only racetrack?
Considering that the Province of BC is of the opinion that the valleys – not the uplands – hold the bulk of biodiversity, it seems odd, then, to take 227 acres of desert and turn it into a racetrack for people with deep pockets, especially if the party who stands to benefit the most is saying they are stewards of the land.
The South Okanagan and South Similkameen valleys are one of the few ecosystems for the wild Antelope Brush. The Behr’s Hairstreak butterfly relies solely on this bush for food. Much of the natural land of the Osoyoos Indian Band has wild Antelope Brush. With development happening more and more in the South Okanagan, the future of Antelope Brush and the Behr’s Hairstreak butterfly are in jeopardy. Here’s a bit about the Antelope Brush:
Most recently, the OIB-Osoyoos Indian Band received approval to build a members-only racetrack on 227 acres of desert near the proposed national park. It’s going to be called “Area 27”.
Membership in the racetrack will cost you between $3000 and $4000 a year. That’s IN ADDITION TO the one-time fee of between $35,000 and $40,000 that members will need to pay. “Ka-ching!”
Yes, the racetrack was designed by Canada’s one-and-only Jacques Villeneuve. And yes, there is no shortage of guys and gals who love to drive fast. And yes, members will need to take a brief training course before they hit the track so that they don’t end up dead. And yes, there will be no place like it anywhere in Canada. “Good on ya!”
The Osoyoos Indian Band owns the bulk of remaining natural valley desert in the South Okanagan. Their land has already been used for their impressive winery, resort, golf course and interpretive centre. And BC’s newest prison is being built on OIB land. What will the OIB do when it doesn’t have any more land in the valley to use up? If the ONA-Okanagan Nation Alliance is granted an exclusive contract to co-manage the proposed national park, will they simply move their developments to the national park? Here’s the latest on the racetrack:
(New information as of October 1, 2015):
Since 2010, committees within the Okanagan Nation Alliance have been quietly meeting with their community and with Parks Canada executives to further what they hope will be a National Park. The ONA is not at all interested in allowing transfer of any current Provincial land licenses, current Provincial land tenures or current Provincial land permits. The proposed National Park was given top billing at the recent Native Aboriginal Business Opportunities Conference held on September 17, 2015 in Osoyoos BC.
Since 2010 multiple studies and multiple documents have been commissioned by the ONA-Okanagan Nation Alliance regarding the proposed National Park. The ONA’s general committee for pursuing the National Park is the “Syilx Working Group”. In 2012 a “technical working group with relevant expertise in environment, community process, tourism and culture” produced a paper titled, “Building a Syilx Vision for Protection Final Report Assessing Feasibility of a Syilx/Parks Canada Protected Area: Findings and Guiding Concepts”. That paper continues to be the ONA’s platform for current and future National Park negotiations.
Although the 2012 report mentions that community consultation is an important part of their negotiations, the 2012 report is clear that “community” only refers to the Syilx community. The 2012 report also states that the efforts to engage the Syilx community were disappointing: “It has become clear from community feedback that community outreach lacked in consistency and quantity during the feasibility process…”.
One could infer that lack of community outreach means the greater Syilx community is essentially indifferent to the formation of a National Park. Undeterred, the Syilx Working Group is still adamant that they want a 50:50 management relationship with Parks Canada to manage the proposed National Park. Farmers, ranchers, recreational users, hunters (aside from First Nations hunters) and anyone else who currently uses the land or air in the proposed National Park will be out of the picture.
The 2012 report “Building a Syilx Vision for Protection” is clear: the ONA only wants the Province of BC to step up to the plate long enough to hand over the land and rights. Looking forward, the ONA is not at all concerned about anyone who is neither First Nations nor a Parks Canada executive. The position of the ONA is: “The Syilx will never cede their inherent Title to the land, or allow the diminishment of Okanagan Rights in the park concept area”. Check it out for yourself at: http://www.soscp.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Assessing-Feasibility-Syilx-Final-Report.pdf
(New information as of October 1, 2015):
The sheer ignorance of people who purport themselves as either professionals or intellectuals is appalling. The May, 2015 paper titled “The South Okanagan-Similkameen Park Proposal Through a SES Lens” profiles this level of ignorance. It is by far not the only example. In that document, the report suggests because the number of farmers and ranchers who would be affected is small, they aren’t relevant. That is like saying that due to the fact that mountains like Mount Robson are few in number, they are irrelevant (an absurd concept, to be sure):
“Due to the small number of ranchers affected, their ongoing engagement with Parks Canada, the high level of support from farmers and ranchers polled, and the expressed support of one prominent rancher within the proposed park, we conclude that this stakeholder group does not fall neatly into a “nature conservation vs. local people” narrative.”
Here’s the link for the document: http://conciseresearch.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2015/06/SOS-report-MM.pdf
The farmers and ranchers who oppose the national park are adamant that Parks Canada has never met with them. Clearly, someone is lying when they state that Parks Canada has had “ongoing engagement” with the farmers and ranchers. Is it possible that Parks Canada has only met with farmers and ranchers who are willing to sell their land into the national park fold?
Why is it acceptable that no study has been commissioned on behalf of the stakeholders who are against the proposed National Park? Is it because their pockets aren’t deep enough? Is it because government is ga-ga about First Nations? Or is it because everyone other than First Nations is considered irrelevant?
(Existing information as of August 22, 2015):
Aside from the ONA-Okanagan Nation Alliance, the biggest proponents of the potential National Park are:
CPAWS-Canadian Parks And Wilderness Society http://cpaws.org/
OSPS-Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society http://okanagansimilkameenparkssociety.ca/
WCWC-Western Canada Wilderness Committee https://www.wildernesscommittee.org/
South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network https://sosnationalpark.wordpress.com/
It is extremely disturbing that Park Proponents fail to adequately value established farming, ranching and recreational pursuits in the overall economy. The Park Proponents fail to embrace the principle of “Going Concern”. Much like a human baby in an advanced society has the right to breath and care once it is born, a business such as a farm or ranch has the right to keep going, it has the right to pursue activities that allow it to perpetuate. Short of being entrenched in the Canadian Constitution, corporations (limited companies) in fact have many of the same rights as a HUMAN PERSON in the eyes of the law.
Park Proponents fail to understand that the potential victims ie) those individual persons who might lose part or all of their livelihoods and property (including leases, permits and tenures) have Constitutional Rights, including the right to protection of their “psychological integrity”. The online resource Wikipedia explains the Canadian Constitutional Right to Security of Person in this way:
Essentially, government has a responsibility to act in a manner that does not adversely impact the mental state of its citizens. That may well be one of the biggest reasons that the Provincial and Federal governments aren’t simply imposing the National Park on those who oppose it.
The people with the most to lose are not bad guys, they are not criminals, they are the possible victims. Any one of us would be appalled and would take every measure afforded us in Canadian Law if our homes, jobs or families were in jeopardy from the actions of outside parties.
An example of the sheer ignorance displayed by Park Proponents is evident in the BC Nature (Federation of BC Naturalists) 2006 Annual Report http://www.bcnature.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/2006-Annual-Report-BC-Nature-Final.pdf
In that document, BC Nature refers to “ENGOs (environmental non-government organizations)”. Those formal and informal not-for-profit “ENGOs” are afforded the luxury of stating an opinion on the value of for-profit activities. The fact that “not-for-profit” and “for-profit” activities have conflicting motives is seemingly not relevant. And the fact that not-for-profit organizations have no vested interest other than an emotional one is apparently also not relevant. In any event, the not-for-profit ENGO’s take the position:
“-that longer tenures are unnecessary for business security and long-term success,
“-that long tenures effectively privatize our parks and provide little if any incentive for good stewardship from the companies”
The BC Nature 2006 Annual Report essentially states that business does not need tenures for long-term success. The ENGO’s state that long tenures privatize our parks and provide little incentive for stewardship. Ignoring the fact that the crown land used by ranchers is, for the most part, not yet a “park” (hence the “National Park” proposal), to suggest that security is not required to sustain a for-profit venture; and to suggest that companies don’t exercise stewardship of the very assets they need to be a “Going Concern” is absolutely and unequivocally ludicrous!
CPAWS has done a very good job of appealing to your sense of guilt about humanity’s ecological footprint. After bullying and intimidation, guilt is a powerful social tool, especially in advanced societies that don’t live hand-to-mouth.
How efficient and accountable is Parks Canada, anyway?! To their credit, Parks Canada conducts internal audits on a regular basis. In 2014 they published an internal audit and evaluation http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2015/pc/R62-442-2014-eng.pdf
In the report Parks Canada states, “A national strategic guide to all establishment and expansion activities has not yet been developed.” What’s that? Parks Canada doesn’t have a policy for establishing a national park?
Parks Canada admits in their 2014 internal audit it does not have a handle on expenses related to establishing national parks:
Actual Expenditures: Expenditures specific to the five step national park establishment process were not readily available. Management was able to provide data covering four years between 2008-09 and 2011-12 but it required several months to produce the information.
Parks Canada’s 2014 internal audit also suggests difficulty figuring out how to integrate their field staff if and when they create a park:
Program Design: The evaluation found that there were some challenges pertaining to the clarity of roles and responsibilities, in part in regard to the transition from establishment to operation of the park. Furthermore, there is inconsistency in the way field unit staff are integrated in the national park proposal and the Agency could benefit from clearer guidance in this area.
How is it that Parks Canada has been around for more than a hundred years yet they have difficulty quantifying how much they spend to establish their parks; they don’t have a “how-to” policy for establishing a national park; and they don’t have a workable policy to figure out what to do with their field staff? All things being equal, their internal audit doesn’t paint a terrible picture, but it suggests they may be studying proposals they cannot manage.
Being that there is currently no allowances for domestic animals in a Canadian National Park, money and resources will need to go to establishing federal legislation similar to the laws and regulations such as:
BC Forest And Range Practices Act http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/02069_01
BC Livestock Act http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96270_01
Here’s one for you: since 2012, Parks Canada has been trying to get “for-profit” enterprises to run Radium Hot Springs, Banff Upper Hot Springs and Miette Hot Springs. The town hall meetings in those communities have been vocal enough that Parks Canada backed down – for now.
CPAWS essentially says, “Build A Park And They Will Come”. There is even a fancy word for it: “Amenity Migration”. CPAWS says that people would rather live close to a national park than anywhere else if they had the chance. If that were true, Canada’s largest urban centres would have evolved “because of” proximity to a national park. If that were true, both Edmonton, Alberta and Calgary, Alberta would have evolved just outside the boundaries of Jasper and Banff National Parks. It just isn’t so. With rare exceptions, people migrate to where they can get a job and raise their families. In 1851, 87% of Canada’s population was rural: 2,118,218 of Canada’s 2,436,297 people DID NOT live in a town or city. In 2011, a mere 19% of Canada’s population was rural: 6,329,414 of Canada’s 33,476,688 people DID NOT live in a town or city http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/demo62a-eng.htm
If you care to do any research on Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan, and if you care to Google the communities near to that park, there are few amenities close to Grasslands National Park. The park itself has gravel roads. And a campground. There are no amenities inside the park, no hotels, no restaurants, no towns. Within a few miles of the park boundary are a couple of towns with a couple of paved streets, possibly an older motel, maybe an older cafe. That’s it. There is no “Amenity Migration” near Grasslands National Park, nor to practically all of Canada’s 44 National Parks http://www.pc.gc.ca/listing/np-pn/recherche-search_e.asp?p=1
The park proponents also try to tell us that domestic animals such as cattle are allowed in at least one of Canada’s National Parks.
The truth needs to be considered.
Regulation 16. (1) (u) of the Canada National Parks Act states: “(u) the control of domestic animals, including the impounding or destruction of such animals found at large;”. Domestic animals – including dogs – are not permitted to roam in a Canadian National Park. According to the National Parks Act, parks staff can simply destroy them
The only park in Canada that has permitted cattle to graze is Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan. The cattle are part of a temporary experiment to study the environmental impact that reintroducing bison to the park might have. Both cattle and bison are hooved creatures, and cattle are a lot easier to transport and herd than bison. The average weight of a beef cow and a bison cow are similar, around 1100 lbs. What sets the bison apart is their bigger-than-life attitude: in Yellowstone Park, Bison are considered to be the most aggressive animal.
In 2012, 2013 and 2014, Parks Canada suffered unexpected budget hits. Apparently things haven’t improved much, because as of late, the Canadian Government isn’t budging much on its parks budget.
Dare I ask whether Parks Canada has or will have the money to buy all the desired private properties for the proposed national park? Canadians want national parks but they may not want to pay millions of tax dollars to create them. The park proponents and Parks Canada have not been forthcoming with projections of the actual “cost” of creating the proposed national park. Oh ya, I almost forgot: Parks Canada doesn’t have a policy paper on how to establish a national park.
Apparently Parks Canada has had huge infrastructure deficits for many years. The debt load of its Hot Springs Enterprise Unit simply rolls over from one budget to the next. Parks Canada’s $15-billion in assets are in a poor state of repair.
As a result of the April 29, 2015 federal budget, Parks Canada forecasts expenses of about $737.3 million in 2015-16. In 2014-15 Parks Canada expenses were $736 million. A decade ago in the 2005-06 season, Parks Canada spent $525 million.
Parks Canada continues to establish more parks each year. Rouge National Urban Park near Toronto is slated to cost $14 million a year until 2022.
Parks Canada publishes its financial statements. What it can’t pay for, our Federal Government picks up the tab: In 2014-15 expenses are expected to exceed revenues by $614 million. In 2013-14 expenses exceeded revenues by $547 million. In 2012-13 expenses exceeded revenues by $540 million. In 2011-12 expenses exceeded revenues by $611 million. You get the idea.
I’ll bet that neither Parks Canada, CPAWS, CPWC nor OSPS did the math for you. There will be broken promises.