Parks Canada zips lips

UPDATE: 1:10 p.m.

Parks Canada has declined to comment further after Castanet reached out with questions regarding the details of the scheduled meeting's cancellation, and what the public can expect when it is rescheduled. 

Castanet was looking for information as to whether the rescheduled gathering will be open to the public, but was only told "Parks Canada has no further information to provide at this time" and "Lead representatives of organizations will be contacted in the near future to arrange meetings with Parks Canada executives."

The South Okanagan Similkameen Preservation Society put out a public statement Tuesday denouncing Parks Canada's tactics, saying Parks Canada first wanted to limit their attendance to 150 and then cancelled with little notice. 

"Many, many members from various organizations like the BCWF, Grassland Coalition and the SOSPS had indicated relief that there was finally going to be a open-mic conversation about the Park.  Sadly, this would have been the first “public” meeting for the issue.  Many had committed to drive from all regions, no matter the weather to express their questions and concerns," reads the statement. 

It goes on to say this situation only furthers the distrust the anti-park group has in the federal government's ability to keep its promises. 

"If the promise to have a conversation with local residents can be broken last-minute to the convenience of Parks Canada, is this an indication of the integrity they will practice in the future with promises regarding any aspect of the process?"

Park project manager Sarah Boyle fielded questions from Oliver council at Monday's meeting, with mayor Martin Johansen pressing for details about public engagement.

"Is the local community going to be involved?" Johansen asked. "Will we just be kind of told what the decision is?"

Boyle said she has been hearing from lots of people that public consultation and a possible referendum are popular options, though did nail down specific plans other than the ongoing online feedback survey. 

She said decisions from the steering community, featuring representatives from the province, the Okanagan Nation Alliance and Parks Canada, will be working through suggestions and feedback gathered during the public consultation period after it ends on Feb. 28, and are expected to have a decision as to whether they will move forward with the process sometime in the summer. 


ORIGINAL: 9:33 a.m.

Less than a day before a scheduled question-and-answer meeting with stakeholders in the proposed South Okanagan National Park area — a loose term taken to mean anyone who does or could use that area for recreation or other purposes — Parks Canada has pulled the plug. 

In a statement released to media Tuesday morning, Parks Canada said they have cancelled Tuesday evening's event in Oliver and another planned information centre on Wednesday with local naturalist clubs and First Things First Okanagan.

They say they plan to reschedule for later in February, "to allow the presence of senior officials from Parks Canada responsible for park establishment."

They say lead representatives of the organizations who were invited will be contacted "in the near future" with more details. 

Chatter in the "Locals say no national park" Facebook group is angry at the last minute cancellation, and suspicious of the motives. 

Castanet has reached out to Parks Canada for comment and to find out whether the rescheduled meeting will be a public event. 

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