Bill C-23: Historic Places of Canada Act
A legislative project to give our past a future
The Government of Canada administers over 300 historic sites in every province and territory, including rural, remote and Indigenous communities. Besides providing a wide range of benefits to their communities, these places tell the story of who we are and connect us to our past, enriching our understanding of ourselves, others and our country.
Currently, Canada does not have a comprehensive set of laws to ensure the protection and conservation of historic places across the country. To address this, Parks Canada undertook a major project to modernize the protection and conservation framework for historic places administered by the federal government. As a result of this work, Bill C-23, the Historic Places of Canada Act, was tabled in Parliament on June 7, 2022.
If passed, this new legislation will:
- ensure that the Parliament Buildings and other treasured places administered by Parks Canada are protected and conserved into the future
- ensure that Canada's historic places are representative of the country's history and meaningful to all Canadians, including Indigenous peoples, youth and members of diverse groups across the country
This legislation is the first of its kind in Canada. It will give Indigenous peoples stronger voices in determining the heritage considered to be of national historic significance and national interest in Canada. The legislation will also allow for transparent decision making, information sharing with Canadians and parliamentarians, and the sustainable protection of historic places administered by the federal government.
Bill C-23 ensures inclusion through:
- appointment of representation for First Nations, Inuit and Métis to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (the Board). This implements Call to Action #79(i) of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
- consultation with a variety of Indigenous governing bodies and entities that represent the interest of Indigenous groups and their members on the appointment of three new representatives to the Board for First Nations, Inuit and Métis
- commitment to public participation in the process to identify places, persons and events of national historic significance or of national interest
- requirement that recommendations for designation are based on the best available information, including Indigenous knowledge and community knowledge
- identification of significant heritage places by Indigenous governing bodies which may, on request, be listed on the register
Bill C-23 ensures sustainability through:
- common benchmarks for stewardship of federal historic places administered by federal authorities
- improved access to information about historic places through a public register that supports decision-making and public interest
- mandatory heritage evaluation of buildings that are 50 years of age and administered by federal authorities
Bill C-23 ensures transparency through:
- a clear and consistent designation process with one advisory body (the Board)
- established criteria that is approved by the Minister that informs recommendations respecting the designation of places, persons and events
- a public register established and maintained by Parks Canada that contains information on designated historic places, persons and events and information about federal historic places, their condition and any planned action that may result in a physical change that may affect their heritage value
- informing the public of new designations through appropriate means
- a public annual report detailing the activities of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
- a service standard for the Board to communicate its recommendations respecting designation to the Minister within 90 days
- prescribe requirements for the modification or revocation of a designation by the Minister
Bill C-23 will ensure due diligence for the conservation of federally-owned historic places for present and future generations by providing a strong response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 's call to action 79(i). The Bill also follows up on the recommendations set out in the 2017 Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI) Report, Preserving Canada’s Heritage: The Foundation for Tomorrow, and the Office of the Auditor General of Canada ’s 2018 report, Conserving Federal Heritage Properties.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released its final report on the experiences and impacts of the residential school system on Indigenous peoples, the impacts of which are still being felt by Indigenous peoples. Respectful and truthful actions must be taken to advance reconciliation in Canada.
As Parks Canada is the federal organization responsible for the protection of historic places in Canada, as well as the custodian of the largest proportion of federally designated heritage buildings in the country, it is also responsible for the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action 79.
The 2017 report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, Preserving Canada's Heritage: The Foundation for Tomorrow noted that "many of our heritage places are disappearing or under threat." This report called for requirements under the Treasury Board’s Policy on Management of Real Property to be integrated into new legislation in order to protect the commemorative integrity of federal heritage buildings and to prevent their demolition by neglect.
In its Fall 2018 report, Conserving Federal Heritage Properties, the Auditor General of Canada identified two main issues with the protection and conservation of heritage properties:
- a lack of complete and accurate information about heritage properties, noting that such information matters because it allows Canadians and parliamentarians to fully understand and discuss the condition of heritage properties and the potential consequences of not conserving them
- the state of deterioration of federal built heritage, which was also noted by the Auditor General of Canada in 2003. Further, the lack of protection for historic places under the custody of other federal departments was also reported in 2007.
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