Last Thursday, while St. John’s was in a tizzy over Harper’s visit, residents of Charlottetown staged a protest outside the Warden’s office at Terra Nova. CBC radio reported that in the midst of the protest, which was mostly of a placard-waving-and-chanting nature, someone noticed a video camera placed in a tree.
Shorty after the protesters found (but did not touch) the camera, the report said a number of law enforcement officials arrived.
Steve Anderson, a park warden and Parks Canada spokesperson, would not confirm or deny the report.
“At this time it would be inappropriate… to discuss the issue of recreational snowmobile access in Terra Nova National Park,” — Parks spokesperson, Steve Anderson.
“Everything that we do related to these protests,” he said, “is focused around safety, so those are our priorities when they take place.”
So, was there a video camera placed in a tree?
“The focus around it for us is the safety of everybody and that they [the protests] occur in peaceful ways and as far as [the] event goes, we met our responsibility there,” he said.
One thing that Anderson was able to explain is the protests won’t have their desired effect, for now at least. Members of the Charlottetown Heritage Rights Committee are asking for sit-down meetings to grant a snowmobile corridor through the national park. Anderson said that Parks officials won’t sit down to any kind of negotiating table until the court hearings on May 31st, and an ongoing investigation into illegal trail cutting, are completed.
“At this time it would be inappropriate for Parks Canada to meet with the Charlottetown Heritage Rights Committee to discuss the issue of recreational snowmobile access in Terra Nova National Park,” said Anderson.
“There’s investigations that have been ongoing, so while those are ongoing and there’s also a court process that is also ongoing — so while these are ongoing it would be inappropriate to Parks Canada at this time.”
In a letter dated February 9th, Terra Nova Superintendent Bill Brake said that the route taken by the snowmobilers during the February 6 protest, was cut illegally in December.
During an interview with TheIndependent.ca last week, Larry Spracklin, Chair of the Charlottetown Heritage Rights Committee, said differently.
“They went up over the tractor road,” he said, “And the Horse Island Road, that my father logged.”
Brakes’ letter goes on to state that “Parks Canada has consistently communicated that snowmobiling is not an approved activity in Terra Nova National Park because of its damaging impact on the natural environment.”
Charlottetown residents respond that snowmobiling is legal in the province’s other national park, Gros Morne.
Brakes concluded his letter with the statement that he is, “confident that local communities and Parks Canada can continue to work together to build on our past successes, strengthen our relationships and create a positive future for our region.”
Spracklin is confident too. “I think it will [be resolved],” he said. “Its going to take a while, but right now there’s nobody talking to us… If we can’t get somebody to sit down and talk to us, then Parks Canada, or Terra Nova is not going to be very happy in the way things are going to go down in the summer.”