Environmental activist Jacob Fillmore has been inspiring a lot of people lately. Jacob inspired me when he said, “Change will not happen simply because you believe in something; it happens when you stand for something.” 

So I’d like to thank you all for standing up for Nova Scotia’s Parks and Protected Areas today. 

I’d also like to acknowledge our supporters across the province. Concerned citizens, passionate about saving Owls Head Provincial Park, have contributed over $27,000 so that Bob Bancroft and Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association can stand up for transparency, fairness, and public consultation in court.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Kevin Coady wrote, “The public had every reason” to believe that Owls Head Provincial Park was formally protected.

Unfortunately, our government identified this property as Owls Head Provincial Park, but it did not follow through on the inherent promise of that title.

I’d like to quote from the applicants’ brief. It says: “There is no practical difference – discernible to the public – between the Department’s representation and management of Provincial Parks designated by regulation and Provincial Parks that are parks in name, management, and use only.”

No discernible difference… 

For any of you that don’t know, Nova Scotia has 206 provincial parks. But of those, approximately 100 are still awaiting designation.

If Owls Head Provincial Park isn’t safe, then none of these provincial parks awaiting designation are truly safe.

Even though they’re called provincial parks, even though they’re on maps and government websites, even if the government has been pledging to protect these sites for decades, these undesignated provincial parks are at risk of deals, development, and destruction.

Yet, our government likes to proclaim that it’s “a leader in conservation.” 

If nearly half of our provincial parks aren’t legally protected as provincial parks, perhaps Nova Scotia is only half of the leader that it claims to be?

Well, we’re here to say, “That’s not good enough.” 

Failing to keep your promises?
That’s not good enough.

Lying to your citizens?
That’s not good enough.

Scrubbing information from government websites?
That’s not good enough.

Putting citizens in a position where they have to keep taking their government to court?
That’s not good enough!

Our citizens deserve better. Our wildlife and endangered species deserve better. Our province deserves better. 

Protected areas are many things: they are havens for wildlife, they are biodiversity hotspots, they are carbon sinks, and they are recreation areas for Nova Scotians and tourists alike. 

How our elected officials choose to treat these sites shows what our government truly values.

It should go without saying, but Nova Scotia’s network of protected areas should not be an à la carte menu for developers!

Our Parks and Protected Areas: A Plan for Nova Scotia, says: “The plan’s success has been authored by you: Nova Scotians committed to protecting and conserving our beautiful province for future generations.”

It’s clear that Nova Scotians ARE committed to protecting and conserving our province. But it’s past time that our government followed through on its commitments.

Will our new premier force citizens to keep taking the government to court?

I hope not. Today, I’m calling on Premier Rankin to listen to science, learn to value public consultation, and lead Nova Scotia to a greener, more equitable tomorrow.

After all, “change will not happen simply because you believe in something; it happens when you stand for something.” 

On April 1, supporters gathered outside the Law Courts in solidarity with judicial review applicants Bob Bancroft and Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association.

Lindsay Lee is an administrator of the website saveowlshead.org and a board member of Forest Watch.

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