The province of Ontario is making it easier for past and present Canadian Armed Forces members to spend more time in nature and green spaces at Ontario Parks.
Spending time in nature and green spaces is known to have a positive impact on physical and mental health. Health studies have suggested that it can lower the risk of heart attacks by 50 per cent, as well as reduce stress and the risks of mental health challenges.
Ontario manages and protects 340 provincial parks and 295 conservation reserves totalling 9.8 million hectares or nine per cent of the province.
Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, Jeff Yurek, announced that Ontario is offering free weekday day-use entry to Ontario Parks for veterans and serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces, who reside in Ontario, from November 11, 2019.
“Ontarians are grateful for the service of the brave heroes in uniform and of those heroes who have served our great country in the past,” said Yurek. “Providing veterans and active Canadian Armed Forces members free access to our beautiful provincial parks is a token of appreciation for the sacrifices they have made to protect the freedoms we have and the values we hold dear.”
Ontario Provincial President of the Royal Canadian Legion, Garry Pond said, “Ontario Command of The Royal Canadian Legion is pleased with this announcement by our provincial government! Nature and the great outdoors is most cherished by veterans and military members.”
He added, “The Royal Canadian Legion has long been advocating for government to improve research, care and access to services and supports for Operational Stress Injuries. We thank the Ontario government for implementing this initiative. It’s a step forward in helping de-stigmatize mental health in the military, and this news should be well received by our veteran community.”
The government of Ontario is also providing all veterans and active Canadian Armed Forces members residing in Ontario with the ability to enjoy recreational fishing across the province without having to purchase a fishing licence.
The government launched a Healthy Parks Healthy People public consultation in September of this year. The consultation was designed to discuss ways that the health benefits of nature can be fully realized by those residing in Ontario.
Feedback received from the consultation will be used to develop more effective programs, policies, and partnerships to improve awareness and access to these health benefits. The consultation is open for comment until November 25th, 2019.