Heritage Ottawa Submits Feedback: Parks Canada’s Rideau Canal Draft Management Plan

Photo: Carolyn Quinn

Friday, April 2, 2021


On March 31, 2021, Heritage Ottawa submitted comments to Parks Canada on its draft 2021-2031 Management Plan for the Rideau Canal National Historic Site.

Built between 1826 and 1832, the Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated slackwater canal in North America. Its universal heritage value was recognized by UNESCO in 2007 when it was designated the only World Heritage Site in Ontario.

According to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, the commitments made by the Canadian government when the site was designated include the “protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage” of the Canal.

Heritage Ottawa expressed a number of concerns with the draft Plan, chief among them is the emphasis placed on tourism over heritage protection and commemorative integrity. Our assessment focused primarily on the second of five Key Strategies, namely Demonstrating Excellence in Sustainability, Protection and Presentation.

A summary of concerns include:

  • The lack of measurable targets and benchmarks to assess the plan’s progress;
  • The lack of a detailed strategy on how Parks Canada will exercise leadership in developing consensus amongst the varied jurisdictions along the length of the canal, identified as an important objective;
  • Parks Canada’s narrow interpretation of its responsibility for a 30-metre buffer zone along the Canal, which has resulted in development that has had a negative impact on the Canal’s Outstanding Universal Values.

Heritage Ottawa further recommends that legislation be created that enshrines in law the regulations that recognize the challenges and complexities of managing a 19th century heritage canal in the 21st century.

Finally, Heritage Ottawa supports the objective of Parks Canada convening and chairing annual meetings with strategic partners to discuss the management of the Rideau Canal. In this context, the draft plan identifies the tourism industry specifically as a strategic partner. Heritage Ottawa urges the inclusion of heritage organizations, given the Canal’s status as a National Historic Site, a Canadian Heritage River, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Read Heritage Ottawa's full letter here.

CLICK HERE to read the Rideau Canal Draft Management Plan (Key Strategies begin on page 10)

Public comments will be accepted to APRIL 30, 2021 by Parks Canada.  CLICK HERE to participate.