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What’s so wrong about a national park in B.C.’s southern Interior? Many locals still strongly opposed

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Doug Boult looks out over the rolling mountains behind his orchard in Cawston B.C., covered with sage brush.

Where his fields of Gala and Ambrosia apples ends, the foothills begin. It’s also the start of the proposed boundary for the South Okanagan-Similkameen national park reserve. 

“When I was a young lad we hiked these mountains continuously, hiking around and enjoying things,” he said. “It taught us a lot of disciplines that are great for later on in life.”

Doug Boult on his apple orchard near Cawston B.C., at the base of the mountain range that could soon all be national park reserve land. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

Boult is one of a vocal group of people in the area who are worried the way of life he’s enjoyed will drastically change if the national park is established.

“We are going to lose our ability — our freedom to just go and enjoy [the back country],” he said. “It will now cost money to go and enjoy. It’s just a loss of freedoms.”

Park plan 15 years in development

The idea of a national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen has been discussed and debated for the past decade-and-a-half

Provincial and federal governments have run and developed a series of feasibility assessments, engagement processes with First Nations, public consultations and park concept plans.

Progress stopped in 2011 when the B.C. government decidied not to proceed with the park reserve. Parks Canada soon stepped away citing lack of support from the provincial government.

The view from Mt. Kobau looking out over much of the area the proposed national park reserve area in the South Okanagan. (Province of B.C.)

But in October 2017, B.C., Ottawa and the Syilx/Okanagan Nation announced a renewed commitment to establishing the park reserve.

Now, Parks Canada is conducting a public consultation process to develop the concept and park boundary.

The government agency cites protection of the sensitive ecology and more than 60 provincially listed species living in the region, including badger species, birds and reptiles.

Local First Nations have recognized the need to protect the land through the establishment of a national park reserve.

“[It] will create greater protections for our siwɬkʷ [the water], tmxʷu’laxʷ [the land], and tmixʷ [all life on our traditional lands] within our unceded territory,” said Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow in a statement. 

Federal, provincial and First Nations leaders, including Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow, right, during a group photo from October 2017 at the tripartite announcement of establishing a national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen (Parks Canada)

Other park proponents cite the expected influx of tourists to the region.

However, many of their neighbours, like Doug Boult in Cawston, see it differently.

“It is a fragile area. We understand that. That is why we are doing everything we can to protect it,” he said. “The park and the visitors it will bring will end up doing more damage than what the locals have done to protect the land all these years up to now.”

Ranching concerns

A few miles north of Boult’s orchard, Mark Quaedvlieg inspects cattle at his feedlot.  Quaedvlieg’s grandparents settled in Keremeos in 1910 and provided pork, milk and butter to mining communities.

Now his cattle roam the Crown grasslands that could soon be within the national park boundary.

Keremeos rancher Mark Quaedvlieg’s cattle graze on Crown land that will be within the South Okanagan-Similkameen national park reserve boundaries, if the park is established. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

Parks Canada has promised ranchers it will continue to allow grazing within the national park, but Quaedvlieg fears it won’t be easy to renew grazing tenure.

“I don’t want to ranch on a piece of ground where people aren’t happy to see me there. Everything I hear from Parks Canada is that cattle are not a part of a national park,” he said.

More than a decade ago, Quaedvlieg erected a large white sign along the highway between Keremeos and Cawston saying ‘No National Park.’

“It’s stood there every since and never been tampered with,” he said.

Anyone driving through the region will come across similar signs at the end of driveways — a stark reminder that despite the progress governments and proponents have made on the national park reserve idea, there are many who may never be won over.

A ‘No National Park’ sign along a road in Cawston, B.C. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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