Protection and conservation
Lighthouses have long symbolized strength, safety and safe harbour, and for that reason the Government of Canada decided to take legislative action to protect them for the future.
The Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
In May 2008, Canada adopted a new law to protect and conserve heritage lighthouses: the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act.
The Act is an opportunity for Canadians to participate in the conservation and protection of heritage lighthouses that form an integral part of Canada’s identity, culture and heritage.
The Act conserves and protects lighthouses in four key ways:
- By providing a process for the selection and designation of heritage lighthouses, which includes a two-year public petition period to nominate any federally-owned lighthouse for designation. The public petition period ended on 29 May 2012.
- By preventing the unauthorized alteration or disposition of lighthouses that are designated as heritage lighthouses.
- By requiring that heritage lighthouses be reasonably maintained and altered only in keeping with the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.
- By facilitating sales or transfers of heritage lighthouses to promote an ongoing public purpose or new uses for them while ensuring their long term protection.
The designation of a heritage lighthouse may also include related buildings that contribute to the heritage character of the lighthouse, such as keepers’ residences and fog alarm buildings.
Additionally, the Act requires that the public be given notice prior to any sale or transfer of a heritage lighthouse out of the federal portfolio. Specifically, the Act requires that:
- a notice be published at least 90 days before any sale or transfer of a heritage lighthouse in one or more newspapers in the area where the lighthouse is located;
- a public meeting be held in the area where the lighthouse is located, unless the sale or transfer is to a municipality or to a person or body that is acquiring the heritage lighthouse for a public purpose.
The Act also requires public notices and public meetings if the demolition of a heritage lighthouse is proposed, unless such demolition is in response to an emergency situation or an urgent operational requirement.
The Act requires that any sale or transfer of a heritage lighthouse provide for the protection of its heritage character. There are a variety of legal tools to achieve this and the type of protection will vary depending upon the location of the lighthouse. Once designated, the Act requires that heritage lighthouses be reasonably maintained and that alterations be consistent with national and international standards for conservation. New owners will be required to respect the heritage character of the heritage lighthouse and of any related buildings that are included in the designation.
Conservation of heritage lighthouses owned by the federal government
In May 2010, the Minister responsible for Parks Canada approved the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada (the Standards and Guidelines) to guide the maintenance and alteration of heritage lighthouses owned by the federal government.
The use and application of the Standards and Guidelines fully meet the requirements of the Act as they:
- are based on internationally recognized conservation charters, principles and practices
- were developed to be applicable to all types of cultural resources
- are already used as the benchmark for assessing proposed interventions on Government of Canada historic places
- have attained a broad recognition across the country thereby permitting a pan-Canadian approach to the conservation of heritage lighthouses
Conservation of heritage lighthouses owned by non-federal owners
All non-federal owners of heritage lighthouses will be encouraged to adopt the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada to guide their conservation efforts.
Additionally, the international lighthouse conservation community has produced comprehensive guides and manuals specific to the care and maintenance of lighthouse buildings and equipment.
Notably, the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) has produced several documents on the conservation of lighthouses, including a comprehensive Lighthouse Conservation Manual. The IALA lists their publications on their web site (www.iala-aism.org) and they are available for purchase directly from the Association. The US National Park Service has also published a “Historic Lighthouse Preservation Handbook” (https://www.nps.gov/maritime/nhlpa/handbook.htm).
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