Parks Canada fires senior scientist in Jasper National Park
A senior scientist with Parks Canada was unexpectedly fired from his job last week for reasons that remain shrouded in mystery.
Multiple sources confirmed Dr. John Wilmshurst, the science and resource conservation manager for Jasper National Park, was fired on June 11.
Wilmshurst was second in command after Greg Fenton, the superintendent for Jasper National Park.
His sudden departure sent shockwaves through Parks’ offices and the community.
“We were shocked to hear that John Wilmshurst has been let go by Parks Canada,” said Alison Woodley, national director for Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), in an emailed statement. “As a scientist John has made an enormous contribution to protecting Canada’s national parks, through his work in Grasslands National Park, as well as in recent years in Jasper.
“CPAWS and others have expressed serious concern since 2012 that the science capacity of Parks Canada is being dismantled,” she said referring to the budget cuts and mass layoffs that took place three years ago. “This news raises even more concern about the future of science and scientists in our national parks.”
Parks Canada refused to confirm or deny Wilmshurst had been fired.
“With regards to your query about John, this is a human resources matter and Parks Canada does not comment on issues of this nature,” said Kavitha Palanisamy, communications officer for Jasper National Park, in an emailed statement.
Wilmshurst also declined to comment.
News of Wilmshurst’s termination has sent the rumour mill into over drive and led numerous community members to reach out to Yellowhead MP Jim Eglinski, looking for answers.
When reached in Ottawa, Eglinski said he looked into it, but received little information.
“I went to the minister’s office and inquired,” he said, referring to the Minister of Environment, “and I have been told it’s an internal matter between Parks Canada and the employee, Mr. Wilmshurst, and they will not be making a public statement in that regard.”
Eglinski declined to speculate why Parks would fire one of its top scientists.
“I don’t know if you can point the finger at Parks Canada, it doesn’t matter what corporation, if they decide to downsize the corporation, or terminate a person, or let a person go, that information is between them and that person.
“I don’t think it’s of public interest, even though the public would want to know why those people are going, but there shouldn’t be a legal obligation for either party to tell the public about it.”