Legal Obligations, Policy Directives, and Administrative Duties for the Practice of Archaeology on Federal Lands, Federal Lands Underwater and on Lands Administered by Parks Canada

Accidental Discovery

An accidental discovery ranges from noting the presence of archaeological objects on the ground or the seabed to discoveries made on eroding banks after a flood.  Archaeological objects or structures can also be exposed during excavations done for maintenance purposes, other general works, or during a response to an emergency situation.

The discovery of an archaeological site or archaeological object on Parks Canada administered lands, including lands underwater, must be reported to the Parks Canada FUS. The Service Centre Director is the primary contact for a FUS seeking archaeological resource management advice.  The Service Centre Director relies on the Service Centre archaeologists for expert advice on archaeological resources (see Appendix 4).

Archaeological Research Permitting

Parks Canada’s Management Bulletin 2.3.2: Archaeological Research Permitting requires that all individuals conducting archaeological research, survey, inventory or excavation in lands and lands underwater under  Parks  Canada’s administration obtain a permit from the FUS.  The Director of the appropriate Service Centre (through a designated archaeologist) must review and advise the FUS on permit  matters. All research and/or collection applications for archaeological, natural, and social sciences permits should be submitted through the Parks Canada on-line Research and Collection Permit System (RCPS).  A Research Coordinator, associated with each Heritage Area, administers the research permitting process within the RCPS and assures that the advice and recommendations of specialist reviewers are taken into account at all stages of the permitting process.

In order to obtain approval for the permit, the archaeologist must submit the project design to the Field Unit’s environmental assessment specialist (or through the Research Coordinator responsible for the Heritage Area). The environmental assessment specialist will determine if an assessment is required under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Management Directive 2.4.2: Impact Assessment, or another applicable regime. The Research Coordinator will also ensure that other mandatory reviews   take place (SARA or other) and that health and safety issues are taken into consideration according to Management Bulletin 2.3.2: Archaeological Research Permitting.

Parks Canada managers and other federal land managers do not require provincial or territorial archaeological permits for research on lands that they administer. However, it is recommended as good archaeological practice to inform the provincial or territorial authorities about any archaeological work conducted. All Parks Canada archaeological sites will receive Borden site numbers from the Canadian Museum of Civilization or as appropriate, fromprovincial or territorial authorities (see Appendix 5).

Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada

Any project planning for heritage conservation projects should always take into consideration the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, formally adopted by Parks Canada.  The Standards and Guidelines now serve as a reference to guide heritage conservation projects, including projects on archaeological sites that have an impact on archaeological resources.  It complements the Cultural Resource Management Policy of Parks Canada and the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Code of Practice.

Environmental Assessment

Field Units have primary responsibility for conducting environmental assessments for projects on Parks Canada lands.  The Service Centres provide an advisory role to the Field Units in this area.  The National Parks Directorate in National Office is responsible for providing national direction and coordination on environmental assessment within Parks Canada, and providing advice regarding specific projects11.

Environmental assessment is an effective means of integrating environmental factors into planning and decision-making processes. There are a number of environmental assessment regimes that apply to Parks Canada, depending on the region that you are in.  It is recommended that you consult with an environmental assessment specialist to determine which regime applies and what that regime requires.

For example, CEAA requires that any impact on archaeological resources be assessed or evaluated, but only if the impact results from a biophysical change to the environment. CEAA lists inclusions and exclusions that specify which projects are to be considered under the law.  As a result, not all land disturbance activities will be captured under CEAA

However, because Park Canada’s mandate is to protect ecosystems and cultural resources, Parks Canada goes further in conducting environmental assessments than what is required under CEAA. Parks Canada Management Directive2.4.2: Impact Assessment, which reinforces this approach, addresses proposals that fall outside the scope of CEAA, but that have an adverse effect on cultural resources under Parks Canada’s responsibility. In addition, the directive applies to all policies, programs, plans and projects that may affect natural and cultural resources. This directive reinforces the CRM Policy that states “In all actions that affect cultural resources, Parks Canada will consider the potential consequences of proposed actions and the cumulative impacts of those actions”12.

Canada Shipping Act

Wrecks (ships and aircraft) have a special status when they are partially or completely recovered within the borders of Canada, including Canadian waters. Under the Canada Shipping Act (CSA, 1985) all recovered material must be reported to the district Receiver of Wreck, an officer of Transport Canada. Any individual or organization that recovers material froma wreck during any activity (fishing, diving, etc.) or during an archaeological excavation has to comply with the Canada Shipping Act.  The new Canada Shipping Act, 2001 provides for the regulation of “heritage Wreck”. However, until new regulations excluding these types of wrecks from salvage are developed in force, the present Canada Shipping Act salvage provisions continue to apply.

Human Remains

Human remains cannot be considered archaeological resources under the CRM Policy, but are sometimes found in the course of conducting archaeological activities. When human remains are found on Parks Canada administered lands, one must stop work and consult Management Directive 2.3.1: Human Remains, Cemeteries and Burial Groundsfor direction. However, the provincial and territorial legislation must be followed, as relevant provisions in those laws require a coroner to be notified when human remains are found. In some provinces (Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia), the Acts also contain clauses pertaining to exhumations, burials and out of province shipment of remains. In Ontario, the Cemeteries Act and related regulations may also apply.  In Yukon, the Cemeteries and Burial Sites Act may apply as well (see Appendix 5).

Settled Land Claims

In areas where final land claim agreements have been signed, these agreements are legally binding and override policies and directives. Parks Canada must adhere to sections and clauses in land claims agreements pertaining to archaeology and heritage on lands and lands underwater under its administration. Provisions may deal with issues such as consultation, permits, site and object identification, interpretation, presentation, management, object ownership and custodial arrangements, burial sites and human remains, sacred sites, and dispute resolution.  

11 Refer to Parks Canada Management Directive2.4.2 Impact Assessment, 1998, Annex 1.
12 Moreover, Parks Canada Management Directive 2.4.2 captures the principles recommended by the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan, and Program Proposals (1999). Departments and agencies are also encouraged to conduct strategic environmental assessments for other policy, plan and program proposals (e.g. management plans, business plans, etc.) when circumstances warrant.


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