Background: Treaty Obligations

The rationale for systems of archaeological management is rooted in law at various levels, beginning with international law. There are two primary treaties which Canada has signed, and which impose a duty on the governments of Canada, its provinces and territories, to take action for archaeological management.39

The first is the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. That Convention was promoted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1970, and Canada formally acceded to it in 1978. The Convention underlines the importance of the subject by declaring, at article 4, that "cultural property acquired by archaeological, ethnological or natural science missions" is recognized as belonging to"the cultural heritage of each State."

For that purpose, countries are then obliged, under article 5, to:

  • contribute to the formation of draft laws and regulations designed to secure the protection of their cultural heritage...

  • establish and keep up todate, on the basis of a national inventory of protected property, a list of important public and private cultural property, [and]...

  • organize the supervision of archaeological excavations, ensuring the preservation “in situ” of certain cultural property, and protecting certain areas reserved for future archaeological research.

The second convention does not refer as specifically to archaeology, but refers more to countries' legal obligations to their heritage generally. Under the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention) which Canada adhered to in 1976, article 5 obliges each country:

  • to adopt a general policy which aims to give the cultural and natural heritage a function in the life of the community and to integrate the protection of that heritage intocomprehensive planning programs...

  • to develop scientific and technical studies and research, to work out such operating methods as will make the state capable of counteracting the dangers that threaten its cultural or natural heritage, [and]

  • to take the appropriate legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary for the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and rehabilitation of this heritage.

Although Canada has no unifying statute that codifies its national legislation on archaeology, there are relevant federal statutes (referred to later), plus a variety of provincial and territorial statutes. In short, Canada is one of many countries that have indeed adopted legislation along these lines. In every case, the relevant government has assigned the implementation of those laws to a specific agency. (See sidebar pages 15-16.)

Each province and territory has a single governmental body to deal with archaeology. At the federal level, the organizational arrangements are more complicated, as the following pages will reveal. Unlike the provinces and territories, there is no federal legislation governing archaeological research and planning per se; the federal statutes only cover archaeological exports, and archaeological studies within the confines of an environmental impact assessment. In other words, unless there is a prospect that artifacts will be exported — or that a government department is about to undertake an environmental impact assessment for some reason — then there is no federal statute directing how a given department is supposed to treat archaeological issues on its lands.

In the absence of such a statute, federal land managers (who might be faced with an archaeological issue) are expected to rely on two other kinds of documentation:

  • federal policies generally applicable to all departments and
  • the specific directives of their own department.

Those "policy" statements are mentioned at various points in this report. However, several federal departments have taken the further step of enacting specific directives. One example is the Department of Canadian Heritage, which works in close co-operation with the Parks Canada Agency.

The Archaeological Services Branch of the Parks Canada Agency not only has responsibilities pertaining toarchaeology on Parks Canada lands, but also responds to requests for advice from other government departments. In the meantime, questions pertaining to archaeological policy and legislation are handled not by the Parks Canada Agency, but by the Heritage Branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage. That Department, together with Parks Canada, has developed an extensive body of directives governing archaeology on lands under the control of either Parks Canada or the Department.40

Another example of a federal department which has specific rules to protect archaeological heritage is the Department of National Defence.41 In the case of many other federal bodies, however, decisions concerning archaeological research are (in practice) essentially left to the discretion of individual land managers.


Resource Archaeologist
Department of Tourism,
Culture and Recreation
P.O. Box 8700 (Confederation Building)
St. John's, NF A1B 3A7
Tel: (709) 729-2462
Fax: (709) 729-0870


Director of Culture, Heritage and Recreation
Department of Education
P.O. Box 2000
Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
Tel: (902) 368-4789
Fax: (902) 424-0560


Curator of Archaeology
Nova Scotia Museum
1747 Summer Street
Halifax, NS B3H 3A6
Tel: (902) 424-6475
Fax: (902) 424-0560


Director of Archaeology
Department of Municipalities,
Culture and Housing
P.O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1
Tel: (506) 453-2792
Fax: (506) 457-4880


Direction de l'architecture,
de l'art public et de l'équipement culturel

Block B, 2nd Floor
225 Grande-Allée East
Québec, QC G1R 5G5
Tel: (418) 643-6211
Fax: (418) 643-4080


Manager of Heritage Operations
Ministry of Citizenship,
Culture and Recreation
400 University Ave.
Toronto, ON M5G 1S5
Tel: (416) 314-7144
Fax: (416) 314-7175


Co-manager, Heritage Registry Unit
Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Citizenship
Main Floor, 213 Notre-Dame Ave.
Winnipeg, MB R5B 1N3
Tel: (204) 945-4420
Fax: (204) 948-2384


Archaeological Resource Management
Community Support Services Branch
Saskatchewan Municipal Affairs,
Culture and Housing
1855 Victoria Avenue, Room 402
Regina, SK S4S 5W6
Tel: (306) 787-5772
Fax: (306) 787-0069


Provincial Archaeologist
Archaeology and Ethnology
Provincial Museum of Alberta
12845 102nd Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5N 0M6
Tel: (780) 453-9149
Fax: (780) 433-3553


Archaeology Branch,
Ministry of Small Business,
Tourism and Culture
P.O. Box 9816 Station Provincial Government
Victoria, BC V8W 9W3
Tel: (250) 356-1437
Fax: (250) 387-4420


Director Culture and Heritage Division
Prince Of Wales Northern Heritage Centre
Education, Culture and Employment
Government of the Northwest Territories
P.O. Box 1320
Yellowknife, NT X1A 2L9
Tel: (867) 873-7551
Fax: (867) 873-0205


Senior Archaeologist
Heritage Branch, Department of Tourism
Government of Yukon
P.O. Box 2703
Whitehorse, YK Y1A 2C6
Tel: (867) 667-5983
Fax: (867) 667-5377


Chief Archaeologist
Culture and Heritage Division
Department of Culture, Language,
Elders and Youth
Bag 800
Iqaluit, NT X0A 0H0
Tel: (867) 975-5500
Fax: (867) 975-5504


Director, Archaeological Services Branch
Parks Canada Agency,
25 Eddy St., 6th Floor
Hull, QC K1A 0M5
Tel: (819) 997 3426
Fax: (819) 953-8885
Director, Heritage Policy and Research
Heritage Branch,
Dept. of Canadian Heritage
15 Eddy St., 3rd Floor, 15-3-C
Hull, QC K1A 0M5
Tel: (819) 997-8466
Fax: (819) 997-8533

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