Wardens with Parks Canada’s armed law enforcement branch may soon take on duties for Environment Canada in remote areas of the country as a cost-cutting measure in the face of federal government budget cuts.
Parks Canada officials say none of the agency’s 86 park warden positions – including 13 positions in Banff, Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay – were affected by $29 million budget cuts agency-wide.
But they say “cross-designating” wardens to enforce certain Environment Canada wildlife conservation acts in remote locations adjacent to national parks would lead to “significant savings” in travel for Environment Canada.
The Outlook was not granted an interview request, but was provided the following details in an email – an increasingly common practice under the Harper government.
Natalie Fay, media relations officer for Parks Canada, said one possibility being analysed is designating some wardens to enforce Environment Canada legislation in remote protected areas managed by Environment Canada.
“This would allow for some park wardens to initial response to environmental enforcement issues near national parks in remote areas, instead of having Environment Canada enforcement officers travel from further distances from regional offices,” she said in an email.
“This would typically relate to an Environment Canada protected area such as a migratory bird sanctuary or wildlife area that is located close to a national park.”
The government set up the armed law enforcement branch following a lengthy and bitter debate over sidearms for wardens, which ended up gutting the 400-plus member historic warden service.
The plan was to have up to 100 armed wardens across the country, although there are presently 86 located in 34 parks and sites.
Of the 86, there are presently seven law enforcement wardens in the Banff field unit and six in Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay.
Fay said a limited number of park wardens in specific locations would receive additional training and authorities.
“This approach would improve federal environmental enforcement coverage in remote protected areas. National parks will continue to have the same level of resources for law enforcement,” she said.
“Both Environment Canada and Parks Canada will continue to focus on their respective core mandates. Both organizations already collaborate on a regular basis, and we do not anticipate any change in the scope of duties for the majority of Parks Canada park wardens.”
Fay said generally Environment Canada’s protected areas do not have staff deployed at the site, with staff responding from regional centres as required.
“Parks Canada may have park wardens located at a nearby national park. Having some park wardens designated to enforce Environment Canada legislation in remote areas would allow Parks Canada officers to conduct an initial response to a complaint or incident,” she said.
“Parks Canada could also provide a park warden to assist an Environment Canada officer and reduce the need for deployment of multiple Environment Canada officers.”
The cross-coverage would primarily apply to remote and northern locations.
For instance, Fay said, in the Gaspé region of Quebec, Environment Canada regularly sends officers to the Ile Bonaventure et du Rocher Percé Migratory Bird Sanctuaries from their office in Quebec City.
Yet, she said, Parks Canada has park wardens stationed at Forillon National Park, also located in the Gaspé region, who are close to these sanctuaries.
“Even though Parks Canada park wardens could cover the area, currently, Environment Canada must regularly send, and pay for, enforcement officers to travel to that same area from Quebec City,” Fay said.
“With the proposed amendments, some park wardens from Forillon could be designated to respond to issues within these nearby migratory bird sanctuaries.”