Canadian Parks for Tomorrow

Event Date: May 8 2008 – May 12 2008
City: Calgary, AB
Country: Canada

The international conference in May 2008 brought scholars, policy makers and the interested public together to describe, analyze and assess the history, current status and future directions of protected areas, landscapes and heritage resources and their role in our society.

Parks and protected areas play a crucial role in society. In 1968 the newly established University of Calgary hosted an international conference that helped define the role of parks in Canada in light of international experience. Since then Canada has emerged as a world leader in parks and protected areas.

Four decades later, in 2008, we again gathered together Canadian and global partners to consider the role of parks and protected areas in our country and internationally in light of 21st century realities. Over 200 people met at the University of Calgary to share ideas about the past, present and future of protected areas.

Now, the University of Calgary is building Canadian Parks for Tomorrow with a variety of legacy initiatives in an ambitious, long-term engagement to advance knowledge, decision making and practice in a field of endeavour important to the wellbeing of Canadian and world ecosystems and human communities. Watch this website for university initiatives that will build on a half-century of research, teaching, acquisitions and information dissemination on Parks and Protected Spaces.

Archived Presentations

NiCHE has archived 5 presentations from this event.


Citation:: Bradley, Ben. “‘The Greatest Gobbler of Park Acreage That Exists’: Automobiles and Highways in British Columbia’s Provincial Parks, 1940-1960.” Canadian Parks for Tomorrow. Calgary, AB. 9 May 2008.
Bio: Ben Bradley is a Doctoral Candidate in history at Queen’s University
Abstract:: British Columbia established several large, scenic mountain parks between 1911 and 1945. Most were isolated and inaccessible, created with little thought for whether more than a handful of people would visit them. As late as 1940, only a few could be reached by automobile. This changed dramatically between 1940 and the early 1960s, when the highway network was greatly expanded and improved. This paper explores the changing relationship between automobile travel and BC’s provincial parks during this period. New roads were built through previously isolated parks, while hundreds of new parks — often small day-use areas and overnight campsites — were established along the province’s main highways. Other large parks were deleted for reasons related to the intricacies of road transportation. This paper explores how the emergence of a ‘park system’ was tied to the construction of a modern highway network; how the expectations of a motorizing public and demands of engineers affected park planning; and how concern about what passing motorists would see from the road came to be a major preoccupation amongst park managers. This paper closes with a consideration of the automobile’s future as the primary mediator between parks and park visitors. It will argue that cars and highways deserve to be regarded as one of the most important topics of study for environmental, social, and cultural historians of parks, and also to be placed at the forefront of parks interpretation programs.


Citation:: Kheraj, Sean. “Creature Comforts: Remaking the Animal Landscape of Vancouver’s Stanley Park, 1887-1911.” Canadian Parks for Tomorrow. Calgary, AB. 9 May 2008.
Bio: Sean Kheraj is a Postdoctoral fellow in the history department at the University of British Columbia. He is also the creator of the Nature’s Past podcast and was the 2008-09 NiCHE New Scholars representative.
Abstract:: The creation of Stanley Park as Vancouver’s landmark urban park at the end of the nineteenth century was an active process that required a massive human effort to reshape the landscape to conform to popular expectations of idealized wilderness. Park advocates did not simply aim to preserve nature unimpaired by human disturbance, but instead sought increasingly elaborate means to improve nature through active management and intervention. In order to produce an authentic nature experience within the city that would satisfy Vancouverites’ expectations of wilderness, Stanley Park required improvement. Park improvements to Stanley Park in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries included a refashioning of the animal landscape with subsequent ecological changes and feedback effects. The Vancouver Park Board set out to eliminate certain animal species and enhance the presence of others for the pleasure of park-goers. They hunted and killed pest and predator species, and simultaneously propagated and protected recreational animals. The construction of this city park as a natural retreat nestled within the urban environment involved significant manipulation of animal-life to achieve an “authentic” nature experience. But there were clear limits to this kind of human control. These modifications opened new niches for opportunist species to exert their autonomy and occupy the park. Animals found new ways to elude park policy and operate beyond the purview of human control.


Citation:: MacEachern, Alan. “Conservation History as the Basis for Knowledge Transfer: Policy and Planning, and Visioning; Lessons from the Canadian Experience
Bio: I am a Canadian historian whose research gravitates to topics on humans’ past relations with nature: environmental history. To me, this is a field too pertinent to present-day concerns, and too interesting, to stay within the academic domain. Much of my time these days is spent as director of NiCHE, which works to assist Canadian environmental history researchers in developing their projects, to facilitate collaboration, and to make the field better known to governments, public history organizations, environmental groups, and the public.
Abstract:: In this talk, I argue that there are many large gaps in Canadian national parks history. (Keyword “national parks history Canada” on amazon.ca to see what I mean.) I suggest that there is much to be learned from the history of parks and history through parks. I offer suggestions on topics and types of park history which deserve more attention, and end optimistically, by suggesting that a renaissance of writing about parks history may be imminent.


Citation:: MacLaren, Ian. “The Creation of Wilderness and Early Parks Policy Respecting Squatters: The Case of the Jasper House Indians or Moberly Breeds.” Canadian Parks for Tomorrow. Calgary, AB. 9 May 2008.
Bio: Ian MacLaren is a professor in the department of History and Classics at the University of Alberta.
Abstract:: The removal of homesteaders from the upper Athabasca River valley in 1910 prior to the re-designation of Jasper Forest Reserve as Jasper National Park is a well-known but insufficiently analyzed event in the annals of Rocky Mountains national parks history. This presentation will use newly uncovered archival sources to trace the course of the removal from Jasper and the subsequent harassment of families who moved to Grande Cache and thus, unwittingly, into the as yet unsurveyed federal Athabasca Forest Reserve. Surviving federal records help to paint the picture of the relations between the Department of the Interior’s forestry and parks branches as they developed on the eastern slopes of the Rockies in the first two decades of the twentieth century. In turn, these help to explain why difficult tasks, like the removal of homesteaders, which tend to be associated with policing, fell to the only representatives of government in the region: forest and park superintendents and their staff. Second, the paper will further our understanding of the social upheaval that this removal caused Metis, the legacy of which seems to be that, at the expense of Aboriginal families, two dimensions of national identity were advanced: the creation of what were frequently and positively called playgrounds for well-heeled tourists in the early part of the twentieth century; and, more persistently, the creation of the impression that wilderness lands could be enjoyed all the more by future generations of Canadians because they had not been anything else than wilderness; that is, they had never been inhabited in any permanent sense. Third, the case of Jasper suggests a modification of the idea of wilderness in order to accommodate permanent habitation within the evolving understanding of the essential humanity of a wilderness ethic. If, as I have argued elsewhere, wilderness is us, then the possibility arises by which a working homestead (if not one supplemented by hunting and gathering) could feature as prominently in a protected area as horses, golf courses, gondolas, alpine huts, and downhill skiing facilities. First Nations people are not being asked to vacate proposed parks in the North, so is the time not now ripe for Parks Canada to initiate a policy of negotiating a reintroduction from or otherwise discouraged from remaining in areas that came under national park designation in the early twentieth century? At least one of the mountain national parks could, by including this dimension, exemplify how people lived, not just recreated, in wilderness settings.


Citation:: Sandlos, John. “Wildlife Conservation in the North: Historic Approaches and Their Consequences.” Canadian Parks for Tomorrow. Calgary, AB. 9 May 2008.
Bio: John Sandlos is an assistant professor of history at Memorial University.
Abstract:: Recent studies in the field of Canadian environmental history have suggested that early state wildlife conservation initiatives in northern Canada were closely tied to much broader efforts to colonize the social and economic lives of the region’s Aboriginal people. From the late nineteenth century until the 1970s, governments at the provincial and federal level attempted to control, regulate and curtail the subsistence hunting activities of Aboriginal people in the North. Not only did the new conservation programs introduce hitherto unheard of regulations such as seasonal hunting restrictions, bag limits, and buck laws, but government field agents also attempted to assert direct control over Aboriginal material through such initiatives as the aggressive promotion of fishing, the introduction of domestic animals, and the exclusion of Native hunters from national parks and other wildlife preserves. Although in many cases these conservation programs were introduced because of grave concerns of the status of wildlife populations such as caribou, bison, muskoxen and beaver, there is considerable evidence that the federal government hoped to conserve and ultimately control access to northern wildlife as a prelude to exploiting big game for commercial purposes. As with other colonized spaces in South Asia and Africa, the earliest attempts to conserve big game in the Canadian North were not the product of a benign and disinterested wildlife bureaucracy, but of a colonial authority determined to wrest control over a resource from supposedly ignorant local people so it could then be exploited according to the rational managerial ethos of the modern state.

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