|Written By: Dean Roy||Originally Published in the July/August 1995
issue of The Outfitter Magazine.
The first guides of the 1600’s and 1700’s were vastly different than the guides of today’s tourism industry, yet never really received much more recognition than many of today’s guides. These early guides were known as the “courier de bois”. Not concerned with fishing, snowmobiling, or birdwatching these men devoted their lives to exploration, for trading and personal survival. Early explorers like La Verendrye received published credit for mapping out regions of Canada, yet the real explorers and guides were the native people and a few fur traders.
In the early days of guiding not all regions of Canada were accessible by road, and the float plane hadn’t yet made its impact on opening up the North. There were no electrical devices or complicated technical equipment for assistance. The guides and outfitters of these early years were on their own to challenge the wilderness elements. They were revered people of the community and in the eyes of the tourist carried an image of the “true woodsman” who the rich and famous would trust their lives with.
Then the early entrepreneurs of tourism made their mark across Canada. The wilderness they exploited was untouched and provided awesome opportunity. This type of extraordinary tourism opportunity was almost an exclusive privilege of the rich, upper class American. For many resort owners this was a time of prosperity and growth.
As the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s came on, the guiding profession began to change. The sport of angling and hunting was taking on a new look. Fishermen and hunters were becoming more educated, with access to much biological and technical information and equipment. People were fishing for more than just food and Canadian tourism opportunities weren’t always restricted to the rich and famous. Now there are many drive-to lakes as well, and guides had to be aware of contemporary equipment and techniques. They may also have been required to invest in a boat and other equipment.
Today’s guides and outfitters face different problems and tourism trends. The entrepreneurs of today’s industry must consider cross-marketing various components of today’s ever-expanding tourism market.
The Ontario Tourism Education Council (OTEC) has recently developed a set of occupational standards for outdoor guide training; this is a first for the industry. As a result, the first OTEC certified outdoor guide program is now being delivered in Cochrane, Ontario at the Commando Complex. This is a new innovative type of program that is twenty-five weeks in duration. According to Guy Lamarche, director of the James Bay Frontier Association “this kind of program is something the industry has needed for some time.” Throughout the program, four main components are stressed on a daily basis; communication skills, safety awareness, conservation ethics, and of course practical technical skills.
The program addresses all aspects of different guiding jobs involved in the tourism industry. It also takes guiding a step further, by encouraging an entrepreneurial approach for a variety of different future tourism trends. The program teaches components of non-consumptive tourism such as ecotourism, educational, cultural and adventure tourism.
Many different agencies have played a role in making this program possible. The course is sponsored by the Timmins Industrial Training Advisory Committee, North Claybelt Community Futures Corporation, Smooth Rock Falls/Kapuskasing Training Committee, Temiskaming Industrial Training Committee and Timmins District Community Futures.
The funding is provided by Human Resources Development Canada and the training is delivered by Franklin Field Services, a Timmins training and consultant firm.
Editor's Note: While there have been changes to the guide certifications offered by OTEC since the time this article was published, more information can be obtained on current guide certifications available at www.otec.org