Omar McDadi and Pam Veinotte, Removing Socioeconomic Barriers To Accessibility
Throughout his 19-year career, Omar has worked as a scientist, educator, writer, hiking guide, and professional communicator in both public and non-governmental sectors. Omar has been with Parks Canada since 2004, including long tenures in some of Canada’s most treasured places such as Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks. Based in Toronto since 2014, Omar has spent the last four years working to establish Canada’s first ever national park in a city – Rouge National Urban Park. Omar is passionate about initiatives that help improve human health and environmental well-being.
In July 2012, Pam moved from her position as Field Unit Superintendent of Canada’s first national park (Banff) to her current position as the first Field Unit Superintendent of Rouge National Urban Park – Canada’s first and only national park in an urban setting. Throughout her remarkable four-decade-long career with Parks Canada, Pam has spearheaded many innovative conservation initiatives and demonstrated a spirit of collaboration, forging numerous partnerships between the public, private and non-profit sectors.
Removing socioeconomic barriers to accessibility in Canada's first national urban park
Since 2011, Parks Canada has worked with community groups, Indigenous partners and all levels of government to create Rouge National Urban Park – Canada’s first national park in an urban setting. Comprized of a rich assembly of natural, cultural and agricultural landscapes in the Greater Toronto Area, the park is located within one hour’s drive of 20% of Canada’s population and will soon be the largest urban park in North America. Unlike remote national parks that can be cost-prohibitive to access, the Rouge is uniquely placed to act as a gateway to connecting newcomers and urbanites to Canada’s natural and cultural heritage. While the park is free, barriers to accessibility remain, including lack of transportation, awareness and connection to place, and inadequate programming. To overcome barriers, innovative initiatives have been introduced such as citizenship ceremonies, free shuttles, collaborations with settlement agencies, free “learn-to-camp” programming, and other collaborations with academic institutions, the private sector, and not-for-profits.