People may soon be able to carry guns in northern national parks to shoot man-eating polar bears.
In June, Parks Canada started consultations with the public as part of a review of its wild animal regulations.
Though they are considering allowing more people to pack weapons, the practice will be heavily regulated.
“There’s nothing in the provisions that is opening this up to individuals of the public to carry firearms in parks,” said Rob Prosper, executive director of northern Canada for Parks Canada.
To obtain a permit, an applicant will have to be licensed to carry a firearm and demonstrate knowledge of bear behaviour.
The change is specifically aimed at bear monitors, guides and researchers.
As the regulations stand, the only people legally allowed to carry guns in a national park are conservation officers, park wardens and First Nation people with land claims agreements allowing hunting.
“Much of this is focused on beneficiary guides (local First Nations), because of their experience travelling in the country and their experience with polar bears,” said Prosper. “These individuals know about firearms and the environment that they are working in, and because they understand polar bear behaviour they are the best equipped to provide that service.”
Many of these parks were established as part of land claim settlements.
There were provisions in many of the park-establishment agreements focussed on providing local services to tourists, said Prosper.
“It’s a land claim obligation that we’re meeting,” he said.
With the popularity of the North growing, the hope is that this change spurs tourism in the region.
“The North is a bit of a hot commodity right now and we are interested in attracting more visitors to our northern parks and contributing further to the economies,” said Prosper. “This is one of the pieces of the puzzle that we feel is required in order to attract visitors that may have a lot of skills in the backcountry, a lot of skills in camping, but feel that they would be more comfortable with security as it relates to polar bears.”
Certain classes of individuals have been permitted to carry guns for protection in national parks for a couple years.
But up until now it wasn’t codified in the regulations.
“For the last couple years you would have been able to get a permit to have a firearm for protection in those circumstances,” said Prosper. “After two years of doing that on a guideline policy basis, we think we’re ready to move this to include it in the Wild Animal Regulations.”
It’s all part of a wider review of the wild animal regulations.
They include updating wording and expanding protections for animals to include both them and their dwellings.
“We’re just trying to bring them into step with sort of modern wildlife regulations,” said Prosper.
Public consultations began last month and will continue until June.
Locals, park-management boards, outfitters and other stakeholders will all be invited to take part.
The public can also comment on the Parks Canada website.
Contact Josh Kerr at