Hiring at Gwaii Haanas: Evaluating opportunity

June 11, 2018
Jason Alsop (Gaagwiis)
"Looking back at Gwaii Haanas… allows us to look at current hiring process in Parks Canada and work with colleagues on how we can improve that so it’s more attractive to Haida people so they feel comfortable and not intimidated."

Jason Alsop (Gaagwiis) rests a hand on the gunwale of a canoe at the Haida Heritage Centre at Ḵay Llnagaay, an ancient village site in Skidegate, Haida Gwaii.

Once used for transport between Haida communities and for hunting and trade along the coast of British Columbia, canoes are more than a cultural treasure—they’re a symbol of the nation’s pride and connection to Haida traditional territory.

“The canoe symbolizes that journey of our nation, of all the people, the clans of Haida Gwaii paddling in this one direction to take our power back, to tell our own story and to protect our lands and waters,” says Alsop, recent Royal Roads Master of Arts in Tourism Management grad and former operations manager and CEO at the Haida Heritage Centre.

Placing Haida voices at the centre of his graduate research project was one way to help reclaim that power, Alsop says.

Alsop’s research paper, Reconciliation in Action: Haida perspectives of the AMB’s effectiveness to develop strategies for Haida hiring & training at Gwaii Haanas, evaluates Haida employment and economic opportunities outlined in the Gwaii Haanas Agreement (GHA).

The GHA is a co-management agreement signed between the Government of Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation in 1993. It established joint management over a protected archipelago of islands following more than a decade of failed negotiations over right to title of Haida traditional territory.

With it came the creation of the Archipelago Management Board (AMB), a six-member body made up of equal numbers of Haida and Government of Canada representatives. Since 2010, Alsop has sat on the board, which oversees the planning, operations and management of Gwaii Haanas.

While he says co-management deescalated tensions, it was a compromise for many Haida.

“There were a lot of people who had a different vision of what that might permanently look like. Our people voted and agreed to go into co-management which created opportunities and jobs.”

Significantly, the agreement committed to providing Haida employment opportunities in the Canadian Park Service.

“A very important part of the GHA to the Haida community is the economic opportunity offered through employment with the Canadian Park Service Gwaii Haanas Field Unit,” Alsop says.

Co-management successfully put an end to land destruction. But twenty-five years later, Alsop’s research found while employment opportunities for Haida are available, realizing those opportunities is a challenge due to a number of barriers.

“Some people aren’t ready to work for the government of Canada, even in this co-management environment,” he says, noting that approximately half of all Canadian Park Service staff are Haida.

His research found numerous barriers to Haida employment at Gwaii Haanas including an “intimidating” and “flawed” hiring process.

Alsop says creating a platform for Haida people to really be heard is critical for reconciliation in Canada.

As a member of the AMB and a representative on the Council of the Haida Nation, Alsop says he wanted to be able to give back through his research, act on what he’s learned and apply his findings while working to maximize employment opportunities for Haida people.

He says previous evaluations have focused on the success of the Gwaii Haanas model from the perspective of the AMB, failing to adequately include Haida voices. While Alsop says a more robust community evaluation process is needed, his research has allowed him to consult more directly with the community while helping to map out future priorities in his AMB role.

“Looking back at Gwaii Haanas… allows us to look at current hiring process in Parks Canada and work with colleagues on how we can improve that so it’s more attractive to Haida people so they feel comfortable and not intimidated,” he says.

“In this broader conversation on reconciliation, it’s imperative that we’re able to protect our territories in a way that we have decision-making authority on the ground and we’re in a position where we’re equals at all levels.”

Jason Alsop (Gaagwiis) graduates with his Master of Arts in Tourism Management June 12, 2018.