More about that missing map

Michael Johansen
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Parks Canada says that despite evidence to the contrary - despite no movement and a smell of decomposition - Labrador's Mealy Mountain National Park is not dead, at least not as far as the department responsible for giving it life is concerned.
"Parks Canada remains committed to establishing a national park reserve in the Mealy Mountains."
Unfortunately, however, Parks Canada also remains caught between two sides.
On the one is the majority of people in Labrador who want as large a park as possible - who were, in fact, won over to that position through decades of extensive consultations with Parks Canada officials who designed a reserve that will meet their local needs and desires.
On the other side are a few politicians in a couple of governments (provincial and aboriginal) and their associated business people who want the park as small as possible, if there must be a park at all.
It's a growing trend in Canadian politics (witness the current federal government) that doesn't bode well for Canadian democracy: a selfish minority, backed by lots of money, seems to be winning. Labrador's proposed parks are always under threat from the monied classes. If they'd had their way there'd be none in the Torngat Mountains, or they'd at least have removed large portions of it from protection.
Similarly, when they saw the map outlining the 21,000 square kilometres that most Labradorians want inside the park (forever protecting five distinct ecoregions), various business interests objected.
They wanted the river valleys of the Kenemich, Kenemu, Eagle, White Bear and possibly Main removed so that they could continue exploiting them for their forestry or outfitting potentials. They also want the historic Porcupine Strands to be exempted from the park so they can mine and dredge the sands (which were sighted and named the Wonderstrand by Vikings on their way to Vinland more than a thousand years ago) for anything mineral-like they might find of value.
To the disappointment of most but admittedly not all Labradorians, after the government of Danny Williams met with the Innu Nation they together announced that the whole park was a no-go.
Many of the pieces Labradorians wanted in would be taken out. To confuse and gridlock matters more, for the past 18 months those in the know have refused to show anybody else their new map, or to tell anybody what they're doing to it.
According to Parks Canada, a map really does exist, but federal and provincial officials are still negotiating where the boundaries of the Mealy Mountain park reserve will lie.
However, those officials are not actually talking right now and nobody can say when their negotiations will finish.
"Discussions occur as they need to occur."
The park would probably be here now if it was not for those few but powerful people who cannot recognize and take advantage of a unique chance to protect pristine wilderness for its own sake and for ours as the human race. They can see only the profits that might be made from cutting down and selling the very forests that would help shield us from the worst effects of the coming climate change - ones we can hardly yet imagine.
To justify giving up the environment, politicians and financiers promise short-term jobs, but they're only offering deck chairs on the Titanic - spending hundreds of millions investing in harmful yet dying industries like oil and megahydro, when they could use all that money to easily create new and sustainable employment (with many spinoff businesses) through a strategy of preservation rather than exploitation.
Either way (the high road or the low),
as long as politicians from Ottawa and St. John's keep dithering away with their secret maps, no new jobs will be created and only the lawyers will stay employed.
The discussions and the maps should never have gone behind closed doors. Everything should be reopened to the public.

Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador.

Organizations: Parks Canada

Geographic location: Labrador, Mealy Mountain National Park, Mealy Mountains Torngat Mountains White Bear Vinland Ottawa St. John's

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