By Jazminn Hintz
Starting next year you’ll have to become your own tour guide at about 30 of Canada’s historic site.
The federal government is cutting $29 million from the Parks Canada budget, forcing currently guided historical sites to become self-guided.
The cutbacks aren’t sitting well with Rose Gilks, general manager of SaskCulture, a nonprofit organization that brings together 130 organizations to promote a culturally vibrant Saskatchewan.
“There needs to be resources put into that area for the future so that people can remember what Saskatchewan came from and what it has all evolved...the heritage of Saskatchewan is very much a key element to our future, in terms of, it gives us our sense of place,” she said.
She said if money isn’t put into these sites, the province’s heritage and culture will be lost forever.
“If those places aren’t there and aren’t available to the public...those stories and that sense of what people have done before us will be lost. People won’t understand how this place came to be and they won’t understand what makes it unique and what drives people in this province versus any other province. We just won’t know our heritage and our history,” she said.
In Saskatchewan, 22 national parks jobs will be cut and another 20 employees may face work reductions. At the Motherwell Homestead, a 100-year-old functioning farm, guides in period costumes will be replaced with display signs.
Parks Canada could only be reached via email for a statement and Parks Canada representative Lisa Leuty explained what factors decided the cutbacks.
“Factors in determining which sites were moved to self-guided included: visitation and visitation trends, financial sustainability, and uniqueness,” she wrote.
The Friends of the Motherwell Homestead, an organization that raises awareness about the site, have started a petition. So far the group has gathered 5,000 signatures. Liberal member of Parliament Ralph Goodale will take the petition to the House of Commons.
Ellen Spilchen remembers visiting the farm when she was young and now enjoys taking her children there. She said it will be a loss to children when the Motherwell Homestead becomes self-guided.
“I think our history isn’t lost by our kids visiting these places and it stays with them, just like it stayed with me when I was young, and I don’t see how it wouldn’t benefit (the kids). Maybe eventually they would take their children to it,” she said.
Gilks hopes if the federal government isn’t willing to fund historic sites, the provincial government will step up and hopes it isn’t too late to change the government’s mind.
National historic sites in Alberta, Quebec and Maritimes will also be moved to self-guided tours because of the cutbacks.