Wendy and Allan Gibbs
Wendy and Allan Gibbs

I’ll go back to Georgian Bay Islands and a story involving Don Rose and his dry humour. During the mid-1970’s we started a study involving the Eastern Massassauga Rattlesnake, a species at risk. They were abundant on the Park Islands and Wardens were regularly called to remove them from visitor use areas and relocate them. We decided to install colour-coded tags on the rattles to enable future identification and to help determine their home range. The tags were simple coloured plastic which we attached to a rattle by making a small needle hole, putting a piece of monofilament fishing line through the hole, attaching the tags, tying a knot and burning the knot, so it didn’t come untied. Experiments with matches, lighters, etc. did not work well, but we discovered that a lit cigarette, applied to the knot, did an excellent job. The only smoker on the Warden team? Don Rose, who smoked very long Peter Jackson cigarettes. Don would light up, burn the knot and continue his smoke, with the comment: “Christ, you guys, do you realize what this snake study is doing to my lungs!” Don also drilled a hole in his snowmobile helmet visor to allow one of his long cigarettes to stick through and he could keep smoking, keep his visor down and keep both hands on the controls when he was on snowmobile patrol.

16. Do you ever miss being a Warden?
I did during the first few years of retirement. I mistakenly thought that I could help prevent the dismantling of the Warden Service by sending letters and messages to politicians and providing them with some facts that were not being revealed to them by senior bureaucrats. It took me a few years, but I finally gave up in disgust.
I must make some remarks about the sidearm issue, as this was the main excuse used by the bureaucrats to dismantle what we knew as the Warden Service. The National Parks Act and the Criminal Code of Canada have always recognized Park Wardens as peace officers. All Canadian peace officers are issued standard equipment, including sidearms, by their employer (the taxpayers of Canada). Why Parks Canada refused to recognize this standard and wasted millions of dollars making the issue go in circles for years, is totally disgusting. When the final legal decision was reached, rather than spend a relatively minor amount of money and use the existing RCM Police standing offer to purchase the required 450 firearms, the “leaders” decided to get a consulting firm to determine the type of handgun needed. Did the Wardens not know what they needed? Could not the RCM Police standing offer simply be used to purchase the firearm issued to each Warden following training at Regina (as the Police do with their own recruits)?? Would it not have been so much simpler and so much cheaper to keep all the Wardens in the generalist role, issue them the equipment required by law and move on? Not likely! The number of positions designated as Park Wardens was drastically downsized. The cost of the consultants and the cost of a new standing offer for a very small number of firearms drastically exceeded the cost of using the existing and most practical approach by a massive amount. The fact that our elected representatives allowed this fiasco to happen is unbelievable.
17. What year did you retire or leave Parks Canada? Presuming you are now retired, what do you enjoy doing during your retirement?
I took early retirement in 1997, just before the Parks Canada transition from an ecological integrity service of Environment Canada to a “revenue agency”. We live on a 50 acre forested property in rural Ontario. We heat our home with firewood and “recreational wood cutting” is one of the activities I enjoy. I do some hunting and trapping. I’m also licensed as a Managed Forest Plan Approver, which keeps me active in the resource management field, doing plans for private properties enabling landowners to get property tax reductions under the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program.
18. Is there anyone else from the Warden Service you would suggest we talk to?

Roger Eddy, in Revelstoke, Michel Villeneuve, Hal Morrison, George and Janet Mercer , Ray Whaley, Heather Davis, Gerald Bourgeois, Duane West.

ED. NOTE: George & Janet Mercer were interviewed in Phase 11 of the Oral History Project. Duane West is on the list for future interviews. Michel Villeneuve, Hal Morrison, Ray Whaley Heather Davis and Gerald Bourgeous have now been added to the list for future interviews.

19. Is there anything I have not asked you that you think I should know about the Warden Service?

Not that I can think of.

20. Do you have any photos of yourself as a Warden that you would like to donate to the Project, or that we may copy? Do you have any artifacts/memorabilia that you would like to donate to the Project (Whyte Museum)?
I have a couple of good “team” pictures from Cape Breton Highlands and of the Warden group helping with enforcement at the Point Pelee Smelt run. We are a little low tech but may be able to photo or scan and send them separately.