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James B. Harkin

James Bernard Harkin
  • A journalist by profession, Harkin served as Canada's first Commissioner of National Parks (1911-1936).
  • During his period as Commissioner of National Parks, James B. Harkin helped establish the world's first park service. Harkin played a critical and primary role in the formation, organization and vision of national parks in Canada.
  • As stated by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, "He transformed Canada's first National Park at Banff (established in 1885), and a number of Dominion park reserves, into a cohesive, representative system of National Parks that served as a prototype for many conservation-minded nations to emulate. He influenced the establishment of new parks on a nation-wide scale, established new standards for their preservation, control and management, and shepherded the National Parks Act through Parliament. Mr. Harkin developed the idea of conservation at a time when there was little precedent for conservation in Canada, and is often called 'the Father of National Parks.'"
  • Harkin is honored today by the Harkin Conservation Award which honours individuals who have demonstrated a significant contribution throughout their lifetime through words and deeds to the conservation of Canada's parks and wilderness. This contribution may have resulted from the individual's occupational or professional responsibilities, or from their activities as a citizen or member of a group.
  • According to Canadian scholar Connie Bresnahan, Harkin paid tribute to Muir by quoting directly from Muir's writings in his departmental correspondence. Another Canadian scholar, J. Alexander Burnett writes of Harkin: "He was deeply influenced by the writings of the American conservationist John Muir, and he believed fervently in the recreational, aesthetic, and spiritual values of unspoiled wilderness."
  • Harkin wrote circa 1920: "The day will come when the population of Canada will be ten times as great as it is now but the national parks ensure that every Canadian ... will still have free access to vast areas possessing some of the finest scenery in Canada, in which the beauty of the landscape is protected from profanation, the natural wild animals, plants preserved, and the peace and solitude of primeval nature retained."
Portrait photograph of James Harkin by Yousuf Kars, courtesy of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

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