In August, 1994, Parks Canada initiated an operational review of the communities within the National Park system. This review was undertaken in the context of significant budget cuts in Parks Canada and large Federal deficits.
The Waskesiu community established a six-member committee, with six alternates, to negotiate the future administration of the townsite. Parks Canada appeared intent to devolve some of its management authority to the community level in return for increased financial participation by the community. The goal was to make the community self-sufficient financially. The Committee became known as the Waskesiu Interim Community Council.
The negotiations, which were slow and sometimes difficult, lasted for more than two years. The Committee took the position that it would not accept responsibility without authority to make decisions. Therefore, the task became one of finding ways to provide the community with meaningful input into decisions affecting the village without impinging on the authority of the Minister under the National Parks Act.
The final product, agreed upon in 1997, but not signed until 2002, was a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that, for all intents and purposes was implemented upon agreement. The first Council elections were held in August, 1997.
The MOU details the mandate of the Council, election procedures, a dispute resolution mechanism, funding mechanisms, and the relationships of the Council to Parks Canada at all levels. The MOU essentially provides for a quasi-municipal structure with some major differences. In particular, the Council has no taxation or levying authority, thereby limiting its ability to undertake community projects. However, the Council is very much involved in setting budgets for utilities.
The MOU should be viewed as a Work in Progress to be amended and improved, as required to meet the needs of the community and the Park. The Council is increasingly recognized as the voice of the community.