The Mi’kmaq have lived off the land in Cape Breton 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 the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and is working toward creating a shared management structure with the Mi’kmaq in light of what it describes as ongoing rights negotiations.
“We want to [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 in place for the effect of climate change and the parks ecosystem,” said Julie Cossette, a Parks Canada acting visitor experience manager.
“It’s all about the concept of two-eyed seeing — how to weigh Western knowledge with Indigenous knowledge and working 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 over 200 responses to a public survey.
Targets of the plan 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 the possibility of giving the park a new Mi’kmaw name.
Additional strategies for the park are working with the Mi’kmaq on conservation efforts, drawing in visitors during quieter seasons, becoming more environmentally friendly and more inclusive to all Canadians.
“It just seems to be a natural thing,” said Cossette of the partnership with the Mi’kmaq.
“It just makes sense to work more in collaboration. 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 put forward by Parks Canada will begin soon, while others will take years to implement.