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Minister Wilkinson releases statement on the passing of Mr. Tom Lee, former CEO of the Parks Canada Agency

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GATINEAU, QC, Feb. 12, 2021 /CNW/ - Today, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, issued the following statement on the passing of Mr. Tom Lee, former CEO of the Parks Canada Agency:

Mr. Tom Lee. Photo Credit: Parks Canada (CNW Group/Parks Canada)
Mr. Tom Lee. Photo Credit: Parks Canada (CNW Group/Parks Canada)

"It is with sadness that we mark the passing of Tom Lee, one of the great leaders for Canada's parks and in particular, of Parks Canada. Mr. Lee was influential in shaping the conservation and enjoyment of natural and cultural places in our country. During his early days as the first CEO of Parks Canada, Mr. Lee once started one of his speeches with: "I want to paint you a picture of Canada" and then crossed the country with stories of places, history and people – moving his audience to tears. I want to offer my condolences to the Lee family during this unthinkable time.

At a time when we continue to feel the challenges created by the global COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians are re-discovering and appreciating the outdoors including our national protected places. Thanks to leaders like Tom Lee, whose vision and whose commitment to ensuring that, through partnering with Indigenous peoples, these treasured places will be there for future generations of Canadians to protect and enjoy.

Mr. Lee was appointed Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for the National Parks Branch of Environment Canada in 1993. He continued to lead the branch when it moved to the newly created Canadian Heritage Department in 1994. In 1996, Parks Canada was identified as being among the proposed new special service agencies and, with the passage of the Parks Canada Agency Act in 1998, Mr. Lee became the first Chief Executive Officer of the newly formed Agency.

In addition to the Agency Act, Tom Lee's tenure was marked by many exceptional legislative achievements. He went on to see the passing of the Canada National Parks Act in 2000, and the National Marine Conservation Act in 2002, and the launch of the Parks Canada Charter, which defines the Agency's roles and responsibilities.

Mr. Lee was also responsible for implementing recommendations from two independent panels that transformed the way national parks are managed. The findings of the Banff-Bow Valley Study (1996) and the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks (2000) led Parks Canada to set new benchmarks for ecological management, introduce appropriate limits on development, and ensure ecological integrity was the first priority in decision making.

One of Mr. Lee's major commitments was to create new relationships founded on respect by involving Indigenous peoples in the protection and management of national parks and marine conservation areas. He transformed Parks Canada's work in conservation, cooperative management and the use of protected places with Indigenous peoples. He created the Agency's Indigenous Affairs Branch and significantly advanced Parks Canada's work in the integration of Indigenous knowledge and perspectives in decision-making. All these elements created a foundation on which Parks Canada continues to build positive, ongoing relationships with Indigenous peoples.

Mr. Lee retired in 2002. During his nine-year tenure leading the Agency, 139 national historic sites, 5 national parks, and 2 national marine conservation areas were added to the protected areas administered by Parks Canada.

In December 2019, Mr. Lee was appointed to the Order of Canada in recognition of his contributions as a public servant and for his efforts towards the conservation of Canada's natural resources.

Through his guidance and commitment, Tom Lee laid the foundation for today's Parks Canada. In doing so, he provided an immeasurable benefit to the Agency and to the people of Canada now and for decades to come."

SOURCE Parks Canada


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