Property rights not threatened by national park reserve, say feds and province

Property rights not threatened by national park reserve, say feds and province

Some residents of Willowbrook north of Oliver are afraid their community will be swallowed up by a national park reserve and that residents will lose property rights. Parks Canada insists that neither Willowbrook, nor any other communities, will be included in the park and they say private property is excluded. (Richard McGuire photo)

By Richard McGuire

Special to the Chronicle

The boundaries for a revived national park reserve proposed in the South Okanagan have not yet been considered, but they won’t include private property of owners who don’t wish to sell.

That’s the response of Parks Canada to a series of questions posed by the Osoyoos Times reflecting concerns raised in the local community.

Recent posts on social media by park opponents raise fears about denial of property rights, loss of fire protection and other restrictions – all of which Parks Canada refutes.

“Those of us within the park region can’t keep domestic animals including cats, dogs, horses, chickens, etc.,” says on post on the Facebook page Locals Say No National Park Reserve, which only allows comments by local park opponents.

“We will have to have a permit to drive in and out, as will all our guests,” the post continues. “No firearms (will be) allowed to be transported through a park. We lose Willowbrook fire department as we would fall under forestry then, so home insurance will triple. We can’t change our property, i.e. add a building etc. Domestic animals, if they don’t grant a permit, which is rare, can be shot on site (sic). When we sell, we have to sell to the government only. At their price.”

The B.C. Ministry of Environment insists, however, that private property won’t be included in the park.

“Any future consideration of private lands as part of a park designation would only be on a willing-seller/willing buyer basis,” said a spokesperson for the ministry. “There will be no expropriation of privately held lands.”

Despite concerns from some residents in the Willowbrook area, Parks Canada says neither that community – nor any others – would be included in a park.

“The community of Willowbrook would not be within the national park reserve boundary, and as such local fire departments will continue to maintain their existing responsibilities,” Parks Canada says in its emailed response. “The local fire department will not be affected, so home insurance premiums should not be affected.”

Similarly, Parks Canada dismisses the suggestion that area residents and guests will have to have a park permit and pay a fee to access their homes.

“Area residents will not have to pay a fee to access their homes or to receive guests,” Parks Canada says. “Parks Canada does not include communities within new national park reserves.”

They also dispute the claims of park opponents that property owners would lose the right to keep pets, build additions or sell their property to people other than the government.

“The Government of Canada cannot expropriate private property in order to enlarge or establish a national park or national park reserve,” said Parks Canada, citing the Canada National Parks Act Section 15(6).

“Private lands would only ever be purchased on a willing-seller/willing-buyer basis, based on independent property appraisals,” Parks Canada said. “The federal government has no jurisdiction over property rights on privately owned land adjacent to the boundaries of a national park.”

As for the claim of opponents that firearms can’t be transported through a park, Parks Canada also says this isn’t the case.

The law governing transportation of firearms is a federal law that applies throughout Canada, including in national parks. It is contained in regulations under the Firearms Act.

“If you are carrying a firearm through a national park to another destination, it must be unloaded and securely encased as per current federal law,” Parks Canada says.

In a recent letter to the editor, Willowbrook resident Sasha Hopp expressed the belief that her community is “within the proposed national park reserve boundaries.”

She based this on a map in the provincial government’s 2015 Intentions Paper, which suggests the White Lake Grasslands Protected Area would be considered for a national park reserve.

Although Willowbrook is partially encircled by lands that were considered by the province, the subdivision itself was excluded.

Both governments, however, say the “concept areas” shown in the Intentions Paper aren’t part of the recent announcement. The federal government was not part of the process that produced that paper.

“The previous provincial government’s Intentions Paper… is not the subject of the recent joint federal and provincial announcement,” said the provincial ministry spokesperson. “Aspects of the findings and recommendations that arose from the Intentions Paper may be used to help inform the renewed discussions between the governments of B.C. and Canada along with the Okanagan Nation on a national park reserve in the South Okanagan.”

The spokesperson said the conceptual boundaries in the Intentions Paper “were considered soft boundaries,” and he again emphasized that private lands were not included.

Neither government has outlined the process by which boundaries will be established except to say they will follow public consultations.

“It should be noted that no boundaries or park concepts have been considered at this time,” said Parks Canada. “As we restart discussions, our area of interest will primarily focus on the areas that were the subject of previous consideration.”

The concept area of the proposed national park reserve has changed several times since the idea was first proposed in 2002.

Original plans called for a much larger park that would include the Snowy Protected Area to the south of Keremeos.

The proposed area was considerably reduced when new concept areas were mapped in 2010, eliminating the Snowy Protected Area. That proposal included Mount Kobau and small areas around Vaseux Lake in the existing Vaseux Protected Area.

The provincial Intentions Paper removed Mount Kobau and the Vaseux Protected Area, putting the former into a provincial conservancy instead.

However, it added the White Lake Grasslands Protected Area to consideration for inclusion in a national park reserve. That area had not been included in previous proposals and has never been part of a federal government proposal.


  1. It doesn’t matter what the Ministry promises. All anyone has to do is look at previous NPR agreements and how Parks Canada changed the agreements when they felt like it. The National Parks Act clearly states that they have the right to change anything at any time. Look at grazing in Saskatchewan. Ranchers were grandfathered in to allow grazing as they’ve always done, then Parks decided the cattle did too much damage and revoked those rights. Look at when Banff was expanded and home and business owners had their property deeds revoked and were handed 42 year leases instead.
    Does anyone truly believe that even if private property isn’t included that it won’t hurt property values? Time to wake up folks! These lands are already provincially protected and the lands that house the species most at risk are on the valley floor where development is happening, not in the lands being proposed for the NPR. Mr. Cannings even admitted that an NPR will offer no measurable increase in protection to the lands. Why risk everything you have to change from the way things are to an unknown? Simple logic tells you that’s ludicrous.
    As for fire protection, local departments have extinguished countless fires on crown land before they got out of hand. If there is an NPR, local departments will not be allowed to fight fires on NPR lands without explicit permission which takes time and is determined on a case by case basis. NPR fire protection is out of Banff and Jasper. How long do you think it will take them to get here and fight those fires?

  2. It remains that no one knows where the proposed park boundaries will be. As this reporter stated, the “area of interest will primarily focus on the areas that were the subject of previous consideration”…perhaps like the soft boundaries outlined in the 2015 Intentions Paper? Which shows Willowbrook clearly surrounded in red ink and may be used to “inform the renewed discussions”? This reporter has no idea where boundaries will or won’t be, so making statements that imply local landowners have nothing to fear is premature, at best. I’ve never claimed that my property will be part of the NPR itself. However it has been clearly shown within (or surrounded by, if you will) previously-considered boundaries, which may yet be considered again, according to Parks Canada.
    In the meantime, hearsay from Parks Canada or government “spokespeople” does not protect my legal rights as a landowner. Just because private lands will not be expropriated does not mean we will be unaffected by potential changes. It would be short-sighted to believe that is the case. Is there a single person out there who trusts the government to do what it says it will do 100% of the time?
    Until I feel confident that I am protected by law, and that law is written in such a manner that I and my descendants will continue to be protected, my position remains the same – NO national park.

  3. Isn’t it just so easy to “tell them what they want to hear”? Considering a large portion of the local proposed park opponents actually reside within the Willowbrook area, it’s a given that we’re the folks that have to be “muffled”.
    Thing is, there’s the stentch of a pile of dirty politicians in the air up here…

  4. Hear hear, to the people that posted here. All good points 🙂 To the government, Personally I don’t trust anything you politicians want to do!!! From my prospective , the current availability to go for a hike or fishing is something I cherish. Leave it the way it is and put the money being wasted on this into helping the citizens of this great country. People are having to use food banks to survive !!!!!!!

  5. The geographical area called British Columbia west of the Rockies except for a small portion of southern Vancouver Island are unceded and therefore lawfully not part of Canada. Canada nor British Columbia have no legal or lawful right to create a National Park.