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Parks Canada’s Historic Canals

Parks Canada manages and protects nine historic canals for the use, enjoyment and benefit of all Canadians. In Ontario, the Trent Severn Waterway and the Rideau Canal are historically and environmentally significant heritage resources that find their roots as nineteenth century transportation systems, but continue to contribute to Canadian society today. These heritage waterways provide outstanding recreation and learning opportunities and make significant economic contributions to their regions and to Ontario.

As part of its responsibility for setting long term management direction for historic canals, Parks Canada is implementing balanced and responsible shoreline management policies that will facilitate the needs of shoreline property owners, yet ensure that the heritage and recreational values of the waterways are sustained for the benefit of current and future generations of Canadians.


The objective of this document is to provide clear direction for the construction of in-water and shoreline works and related activities normally associated with the development and use of waterfront properties for residential purposes adjacent to the Rideau Canal and Trent–Severn Waterway National Historic Sites of Canada.

The policies will:

  • Provide shoreline residents with clear and consistently applied policies with respect to shoreline development activities;
  • Contribute to ensuring the commemorative integrity of these national historic sites;
  • Ensure the protection of cultural resources;
  • Minimize the cumulative effects of in-water and shoreline works;
  • Contribute to the ecological health and sustainability of the Canals;
  • Contribute to the public enjoyment of the canals by preserving the visual landscape and minimizing noise disturbance; and,
  • Protect public safety by ensuring that in-water and shoreline works do not interfere with navigation or other uses of the canals.

Key Policy Directions

The Rideau Canal and Trent–Severn Waterway National Historic Sites of Canada are managed to provide a wide range of benefits to Canadians. They protect extremely important elements of the historic fabric of Canada including First Nations cultural sites dating back 6,000 years and historic assets, which are remnant of Canada in the early 19th century.

The Historic Canals also make important ecological contributions to Ontario through protection of wetlands, attention to water quality and preservation of habitats for many species including an impressive array of species at risk. Both canals also play an important role in managing water to provide for navigation, hydro-electric production and flood minimization.

The canals are important recreational assets providing outdoor recreation opportunities for boaters, fishers, picnickers, campers, cottagers, resort goers and others. In an age when our population is growing and access to public open space is diminishing, this is an important contribution.

There is little doubt that the canals also make valuable contributions to the economic well-being of the Province and of Canada. Many thousands of boaters use the canals each year. Millions visit and enjoy the lock stations and other public sites along the Canals. Many community businesses thrive by providing service to those who visit and use the canals and, indeed, some communities are literally built around the lifestyles that are associated with water.

The broad purpose of these policies is to ensure that the many values, which the Canals provide to Canadians are sustained. Parks Canada will use these policies to evaluate proposed in-water and shoreline works through the permit process. The intent is that landowners, in planning and designing for in-water and shoreline work, will contribute to ensuring the site’s overall commemorative integrity and the protection of cultural resources; and that their project has the lowest possible impact on the environment and will not interfere with navigation and public safety. These policies apply to work associated with single residential lots.

These requirements are consistent with widely accepted standards for the construction of in-water and shoreline works and are based on the most current understanding of environmental effects as well as being consistent with the current legislative authorities and policies noted in Appendix A. A list of the beds of the lakes and rivers owned by the federal government and administered by Parks Canada on which these policies apply is provided in Appendix B.

These policies will be reviewed every five years to assess their effectiveness in meeting the objectives. Amendments may be made in the interim to address technical or other issues.

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