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Parks Canada wardens armed and ready

After an announcement last November to make one-third of all wardens law enforcement officers and the other two-thirds Resource Management and Public

Safety Officers, Parks Canada held an internal competition for all wardens who had already completed peace officer training.

Of the 300 original wardens in Canada, there are now approximately 85 new law enforcement wardens being trained at the Parks Canada headquarters, six of which will come to Jasper.

Doug Stewart, director general of National Parks for Parks Canada, said the wardens will first undergo an “introduction into the new methods for doing law enforcement in Parks Canada.”

“We’ve developed a new policy, a new operations manual, which really deals with safety considerations related to the use of hand guns. This is sort of classroom work,” he said. “They’ll also be updating some of their basics to be a working peace officer.”

After this first phase of training the wardens will move onto the Saskatchewan RCMP facility where they will be trained by RCMP officers on the “safe use of a fire arm” including handling and storage of hand guns, explained Stewart.

According to Stewart, duties of the new re-vamped position of park warden depends on local circumstances. “Park Wardens are now dedicated to law enforcement,” he said. “The way in which that will manifest in our operation will be quite diverse and variable depending on the situation in any national park [as each] tends to have its own special requirements. The wardens will be deployed into these locations and will work on the priorities that are required at that location.”

Stewart was quick to reinforce that although the wardens are now armed, they will only focus on the mandated legislation, such as the Canada National Parks Act, and leave the criminal code to the RCMP. He hopes that the new titles will result in “a good situation where each of the agencies will be able to focus on their primary mandate and assist each other as we can. I think that will be a better situation.”

Life for the newly renamed resource management and public safety officers will continue in their “home” parks doing much the same work they have always done.

Stewart said the main difference for these officers will be that they will no longer be doing any law-enforcement work. “They will focus all of their efforts in the areas of resource management, dealing with wildlife issues, vegetation management, forest fire management and they’ll also continue working on public safety management, responding to incidents that may arise in parks.”

The new weapons and role are the results of a complaint brought by a Banff park warden back in 2001 who was concerned with his/her safety and believed he/she was not properly equipped from a personal safety standpoint. After a lengthy process, Parks Canada was given a “direction” that “individuals who do law enforcement in National Parks must be equipped with a handgun for their personal safety, their personal protection. So that’s what set the requirement for us,” said Stewart.

From there, Parks had to engage in discussion with the Government of Canada who eventually decided that Parks was allowed to have up to 100 Park Wardens undertake law enforcement.

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