Parks Canada is committing to working towards reconciliation with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation after past injustices during the creation of Wood Buffalo National Park.
A report by Willow Springs Strategic Solutions looked into whether Treaty rights were violated by the creation of the country’s biggest National park.
After conducting interviews and reviewing historical documents, they determined there were a series of evictions and separations of families from land which was later added into the park.
This happened despite the Dené community (which later became ACFN) getting permission to live and harvest off the land after signing Treaty 8.
In a statement sent to Mix News, Parks Canada says they fully recognize the past events and are committed to working with Indigenous groups in the area ‘towards a future that respects rights, self-determination and advances reconciliation.’
“The specific ways that this will be done will be defined and developed in partnership with Indigenous communities, including Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Parks Canada officials have met with ACFN representatives to discuss the way forward on reconciliation, and ACFN has proposed further meetings.”
According to the statement, the federal government has officially apologized through a letter which was sent by Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Ron Hallman, President and CEO of Parks Canada.
The apology and acknowledgement are two of three recommendations the report noted would help move reconciliation forward.
The third was adequate compensation.
Parks Canada didn’t state whether they would offer any form of repayment, only noting they plan to continue the discussion with ACFN.
“Staff work directly with Indigenous groups every day to recognize each group’s unique cultural context and relationship. In this way we hope to move toward meaningful reconciliation that recognizes the different impacts that the establishment of the park has on each group.”
At this time, the National organization co-manages the park with help from different Indigenous groups.