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2.0 COMMEMORATIVE INTEGRITY

The cornerstone of the National Historic Sites Policy and the primary purpose of a management plan is to ensure the commemorative integrity of a national historic site. The concept of commemorative integrity is used to describe the health and wholeness of a national historic site. A national historic site possesses commemorative integrity when the resources directly related to the reasons for the site’s designation as a national historic site are not impaired or under threat, when the reasons for the site’s national historic significance are effectively communicated to the public, and when the site’s heritage values, including those resources not related to national significance, are respected by all whose decisions or actions affect the site.

The Commemorative Integrity Statement identifies the cultural resources of the Canal, objectives to ensure that they are not impaired or under threat, interpretive messages and objectives for effective communication of the reasons for national significance. It is intended to provide the benchmark for planning, managing operations, reporting on the state of the resource, and taking remedial action. At the core of the management plan are strategies and actions to ensure that these resources are protected and the public understands the reasons for the Canal’s national significance.

Appendix A contains the Commemorative Integrity Statement for the Rideau Canal and the Merrickville Blockhouse National Historic Site of Canada. A separate management plan for the Merrickville Blockhouse will be prepared in the near future. This document is an integral part of the management plan, and is referred to throughout the plan where appropriate. It is summarized in the following subsections.

Dam at Jones Falls when nearly completed, showing the last temporary passage for the surplus water, 1831
Dam at Jones Falls when nearly completed, showing the last temporary passage for the surplus water, 1831 - Thomas Burrows, Archives of Ontario

The construction of the Stone Arch Dam at Jones Falls illustrates the construction of the canal system.

2.1 Statement of Commemorative Intent

Commemorative Intent refers to the reasons for a site’s designation as a national historic site, as determined by the ministerially approved recommendations of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
The Rideau Canal was first commemorated in 1926 to mark the 100th anniversary of the commencement of construction of the Canal. This was followed by further statements of its national significance in 1967 and 1987, (see Appendix A, 3.0 for a complete description of HSMBC minutes). Based on the recommendations of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, the Rideau Canal was declared a national historic site because of :

  • the construction of the canal system;
  • the survival of a high number of original canal structures including locks, blockhouses, dams, weirs and original lockmasters’ houses plus the integrity of most lockstations;
  • the unique historical environment of the canal system.

These reasons for national historic significance provide the basis for determining which resources of the Canal are of national historic significance. An overview of the history of the Rideau Canal is found in Appendix A - Commemorative Integrity Statement, section 4.0 - Historical and Geographic Context.

Kingston Mills Blockhouse
Kingston Mills Blockhouse, Rideau Canal Photo Collection

The Kingston Mills Blockhouse is an outstanding example of the survival of a high number of original canal structures.

2.2 The Designated Place

Designated Place refers to the area which was designated by the Minister as the national historic site on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. In the case of the Rideau Canal, the designated place consists of the lands under the jurisdiction of Parks Canada and the bed of the Rideau Canal. All cultural resources within the designated place, which are related to the construction and military period of the Canal, are level 1 cultural resources as they are directly associated with  the reasons for commemoration. All other cultural resources within the designated place are level 2 cultural resources.

The primary focus of Parks Canada’s activities will be on preserving the cultural and natural values within the designated place. However, there has long been a recognition that much of the value of the Rideau Canal lies in its association with the unique historical environment of the Canal corridor comprising a cultural landscape modified by 200 years of settlement, consisting of historic villages and rural landscapes containing a large number of historic buildings and natural features. It is this combination of cultural and natural features which has led to the recognition of the Rideau Canal corridor as a distinct cultural landscape worthy of preservation. The Parks Canada study: “The Cultural Landscapes of the Rideau Canal Corridor” identifies the heritage values of the Canal corridor and ways to protect them.

The landscape adjacent to the Canal is both visually, ecologically and historically associated with the Rideau Canal, and its management affects the Canal and the quality of the visitor’s experience. This management plan recognizes the importance of preserving the cultural and natural values of the Canal corridor and the role of Parks Canada as a partner in conservation efforts. Section 5.0 of the Commemorative Integrity Statement describes the Designated Place and its values in greater detail.

1820’s stone cottage near Merrickville
1820’s stone cottage near Merrickville,
Rideau Canal Photo Collection

This stone Georgian Cottage near Merrickville exemplifies the unique historical environment of the canal system.

2.3 Cultural Resources of National Significance

Cultural resources of national significance consist of all those resources directly related to the reasons for commemoration. These level 1 resources consist of:

  • 40 of the Rideau’s 47 locks;
  • 18 of the Rideau’s 45 dams, weirs and embankments;
  • 18 Canal buildings consisting of 12 defensible lockmaster’s houses, 4 blockhouses, the Commissariat Building and Blacksmiths Shop;
  • all 22 lockstation landscapes;
  • all archaeological sites dating from the construction and military periods;
  • archival material from the miliary period;
  • archaeological artifacts from the construction and military period.

Sections 6 and 7 of the Commemorative Integrity Statement describes these resources, their values and objectives for ensuring that they are unimpaired and not under threat.

Commissariat Building at the Ottawa Locks
Commissariat Building at the Ottawa Locks,
Rideau Canal Photo Collection

The Commissariat Building is the oldest surviving building in Ottawa.

2.4 Messages of National Significance

The following messages of national significance will form the basis for informing the public of the Canal’s national historic significance:

  • the construction of the canal system;
  • the survival of a high number of original canal structures including locks, blockhouses, dams, weirs and original lockmasters’houses plus the integrity of most lockstations;
  • the unique historical environment of the canal system.

Section 8 of the Commemorative Integrity Statement contains the messages of national significance and context messages.

The Anglin House at Kingston Mills, once a lockmasters house (a level 2 cultural resource) is now a visitor centre
The Anglin House at Kingston Mills, once a lockmasters house (a level 2 cultural resource) is now a visitor centre.
Rideau Canal Photo Collection

2.5 Other Heritage Values of the Rideau Canal

The Canal possesses other associative and physical values, resources, and messages (level 2) that contribute to its heritage character and heritage experience but which are not related to the reasons for designation as a national historic site. These consist of engineering works, buildings, archaeological sites, and moveable objects from the post military period to 1967; and heritage messages dealing with the Canal after the  construction and military period.
Sections 9 and 10 of the CIS identifies these resources, their values, messages and objectives for effective communication and conservation of these level 2 resources.

Many of the wetlands along the Canal were created as a result of Canal construction and are of historic and natural significance.
Many of the wetlands along the Canal were created as a result of Canal construction and are of historic and natural significance.
Rideau Canal Photo Collection

2.6 The Natural Environment of the Rideau Canal Corridor

The waterway’s ecosystem features form an integral part of the history and natural landscape of the Rideau and are considered a vital heritage resource of the Canal system that must be respected and safeguarded. Section 11 of the CIS identifies the objectives for managing ecosystem values.