Admiring the beauties of Canada’s national parks, observing wildlife, smelling the sweet scent of coniferous forests, that’s good. But also soaking up the history of a place and listening to the voices of the past is better.

Parks Canada has put together a series of five podcasts on Canadian parks and historic sites to inspire for future vacations.

So, it’s hard not to have a burning urge to visit Dawson City, Yukon, after listening to the podcast about it, called Ruby with a Heart of Gold. Ruby Scott is a somewhat unusual heroine: she’s a brothel owner. And a beloved and respected woman in the good society of Dawson in the early 20th century. How is it possible ?

This is what the podcast explains, starting from the beginning, the creation of Dawson City during the Klondike Gold Rush, between 1896 and 1899. A historian, a curator, and even a witness who was a child at the time, recount how the small town has changed over the years. But brothels and prostitutes continue to play an important role in the community. It was in 1935 that Ruby Scott (born in northern France as Mathilde de Lignères) bought an old rooming house to turn it into a brothel. It will only close in 1961, after nearly 37 years of activity.

Parks Canada will purchase the house, along with a few other buildings, to make it Dawson’s historic complex and allow visitors to relive the small town’s past.

The past is also honored at the other end of the country, at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, in northwestern Newfoundland. This time, the podcast called The Vinland Saga takes us back 1000 years, long before Jacques Cartier, long before Christopher Columbus. Archaeologists tell how Scandinavians, now known as Vikings, including Leif Eriksson, the son of the famous Erik the Red, visited and settled there. They did not stay long, but long enough to leave vestiges that have sunk into oblivion.

It took the late 1950s for a Norwegian couple, Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Moe, who were passionate about archeology and the Viking sagas, to finally discover evidence of the presence of Scandinavians at L’Anse aux Meadows. The story of this discovery is itself fascinating.

Archeology is also featured in the podcast about Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, off the coast of northern British Columbia. This time, the focus is on the story of an indigenous people, the Haida nation, and the Haida people themselves are called upon to tell it. This includes recounting events that had devastating impacts on the nation, such as the spread of smallpox and the passage of the Indian Act.

By listening to the program, we can therefore see beyond the magnificent remains, and in particular the totem poles, which characterize the Gwaii Haanas park reserve.

The Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site podcast is also not shy about tackling sensitive topics, such as slavery in an 18th-century French fortress, while Grosse Île National Historic Site, in Quebec, deals with immigration.

These podcasts can be found on the Parks Canada website, which provides additional resources for further research and for planning a site visit. Podcasts are also available on platforms like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube. As a bonus, virtual visitors can find additional photos and information about Dawson City and L’Anse aux Meadows on Google Arts