In Support of Federal Protection for Canada's National Historic Sites

Photo: Heritage Ottawa

Thursday, March 18, 2021


Heritage Ottawa has sent a letter to the Mayor and Councillors supporting Ottawa City Council’s Motion of February 24 approving a letter from Mayor Watson to the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change to formally request that the federal government strengthen legislative protection for National Historic Sites of Canada.

Canada is the only G7 country lacking federal legislation to protect its national historic sites. Heritage Ottawa has been advocating for meaningful protection for decades. 

National historic sites are places of national significance that have been designated by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change who is responsible for national historic sites, historic canals, heritage railway stations, heritage lighthouses, federal heritage buildings, archeology and historic places. The Parks Canada Agency Act stipulates that protecting these special places is in the national interest “in view of their special role in the lives of Canadians and the fabric of the nation.”

There are nearly 1,000 national historic sites. Of those, 750 fall outside federal jurisdiction (this includes the Château Laurier) and their protection depends on an uneven set of provincial and territorial laws. The recent Château Laurier controversy highlights the need for the federal government to step up to protect these nationally significant places. 

With federal legislation the burden of protection for national historic sites must be shouldered by municipalities. The absence of the federal government on the Château Laurier file was unconscionable. 

Heritage Ottawa has tried many times to engage with the Government of Canada on this subject. Letters have been written to past and current Ministers responsible for national historic sites; to the Prime Minister concerning the abandoned 24 Sussex; and to the World Heritage Commission concerning the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site. Heritage Ottawa has met with senior Parks Canada Agency staff, and most recently has written to Minister Wilkinson (responsible for national historic sites, World Heritage Sites, and the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office) and Minister Anand (responsible for the National Capital Commission) where details of the issues and measures to correct decades of neglect are proposed. 

Heritage Ottawa | Letter to Mayor Watson

Heritage Ottawa | Letter to Ministers Anand and Wilkinson