The Mi’kmaq have lived off Cape Breton land for thousands of years and now Parks Canada wants to have a more formal relationship with them.
The federal agency has created a 10-year plan for Cape Breton Highlands National Park and is working to create a shared management structure with the Mi’kmaq in light of what it describes as ongoing rights negotiations .
“We want [have] a greater emphasis on the relationship with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia and the collaborative management of the park. We also have a greater focus on climate change and the ecosystem effect of parks,” said Julie Cossette, Parks Canada’s Acting Visitor Experience Manager.
“It’s all about the concept of seeing with two eyes: how to balance Western knowledge with indigenous knowledge and work together to help us make the best decision for park management.”
Cossette said the plan was developed in collaboration with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia, along with input from local communities, tourism operators and organizations and other stakeholders. In total, Parks Canada said it engaged with 44 stakeholders and received more than 200 responses to a public survey.
The Skyline Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)
The plan’s goals include finding new ways for the Mi’kmaq to connect with the park, along with expanding cultural programming, events and celebrations.
Parks Canada and Mi’kmaw groups will also explore giving the park a new Mi’kmaw name.
Additional strategies for the park are working with the Mi’kmaq in conservation efforts, attracting visitors during quieter seasons, becoming more environmentally friendly and more inclusive of all Canadians.
“It seems to be a natural thing,” Cossette said of the association with the Mi’kmaq.
“It makes sense to work more collaboratively. It’s to have both perspectives in every decision… for the best of the park, for the future of the park.”
Cossette said work on some projects presented by Parks Canada will begin soon, while others will take years to implement.
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