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Enhancing the System of National Historic Sites of Canada

System Planning

One of Parks Canada’s key objectives is to ensure that the system of national historic sites of Canada reflects the country’s evolving history and heritage. To this end, in 2000 the Minister of Canadian Heritage approved a new National Historic Sites of Canada System Plan, which replaced the National Historic Sites System Plan of 1981. The plan will provide guidelines enhancing Canada’s system through designations of national historic sites, persons and events.

Early in the 20th century, designations tended to reflect the preoccupation of that era with the “great men and events” associated with the establishment of Canada. Mid-century saw a shift of focus toward political and economic history. As we enter the new millennium, an emphasis on social history has underscored the achievements and experiences of everyday Canadians from all sectors of Canadian life. The National Historic Sites of Canada System Plan will be updated on a cyclical basis in order to reflect the continuously developing interests and values of the Canadian population.

The objectives for the National Historic Site program are:

  • To foster knowledge and appreciation of Canada’s past through a national program of historical commemoration;
  • To ensure the commemorative integrity of national historic sites by protecting and presenting them for the benefit, education and enjoyment of this and future generations, in a manner that respects the significant and irreplaceable legacy represented by these places and their associated resources; and,
  • To encourage and support owners of national historic sites in their efforts to ensure commemorative integrity
The Thematic Framework

The National Historic Sites of Canada System Plan is organized around a thematic framework for Canadian history. The framework takes a holistic approach, organizing Canadian history into five broad, inter-related historical themes, each of which has a number of sub-themes. Application of the framework to the system assists in the identification of subject gaps, and aids Parks Canada’s efforts to ensure diversity of representation in designations.

The thematic framework provides guidance through the identification of under-represented historical themes. All 59 designations since the State of Protected Heritage Areas 1999 Report can be categorized under one or more of the framework’s themes. Twenty-two of the 59 designations are new national historic sites. The commemorated places, persons and events encompass eight provinces and one territory, as well as Canada’s presence overseas.

The thematic framework and designations by the Minister between April 1999 and March 2001 are listed below. A single designation may fall under more than one thematic area. The numbers of designations relating to Military and Defence and Canada and the World reflect the current public interest in designations relating to the Second World War.


National Historic Designation Reported in 19991 Designation 1999-20012 Total Designations
Sites 847 22 869
Persons 556 13 569
Events 327 24 351

* 1 Review of the decisions of the HSMBC has resulted in changes to the reported number of designations of sites, persons and events prior to March 1999, as compared to the data reported in the State of Protected Heritage Areas 1999 Report.

*2 Figures reported for period April 1999 to March 2001.

Strategic Priorities

Consultations on the review of the 1981 system plan identified the history of Aboriginal peoples ethno cultural communities and women as insufficiently represented. These three areas cut across or overlay all historical themes. As Parks Canada’s strategic priorities for enhancing the system of national historic sites, they have been the subject of further consultations and national workshops. In launching the National Historic Sites of Canada System Plan in 2000, the Minister charged the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to “do more to mark the historic achievements of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, women and ethnocultural communities.”

Historical and archaeological research and analysis support efforts to enhance the representativeness of the system of national historic sites. Since 1999, framework studies have been completed to evaluate the commemorative potential of Métis history in the Mackenzie Basin, coal mining landscapes in western Canada, and women’s religious communities and health care. An approach to Aboriginal cultural landscapes has also been developed, which respects the world views, traditional knowledge and attachment to the land of Aboriginal peoples.

Since 1999, the Minister has made a total of 59 designations. Nineteen of these newly designated sites (7), persons (9) and events (3) fall under one or more of the three strategic priorities.

Thematic Priority Number of Designations 1999-2001
Peopling the Land  
Canada's Earliest Inhabitants 4
Migration and Immigration 3
Settlement 7
Governing Canada  
Politics and Political Processes 2
Military and Defence 15
Security and Law 1
Canada and the World 12
Building Social and Community Life  
Religious Institutions 5
Community Organizations 1
Education and Social Well-being 2
Social Movements 3
Developing Economies  
Technology and Engineering 2
Trade and Commerce 2
Communications and Transportation 2
Extraction and Production 4
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life  
Learning and the Arts 1
Philosophy and Spirituality 2
Sciences 1
Architecture and Design 9

ABORIGINAL HISTORY: this priority area includes the full record of the presence and activities of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada. Although the National Historic Sites of Canada system includes a number of sites, persons, events and other phenomena commemorating aspects of Aboriginal history, gaps in representation remain.
Îles aux Basques National Historic Site of Canada Early commercial contact between Europeans and Aboriginal Peoples. Îles aux Basques, Quebec
Old Wendake Historic District National Historic Site of Canada An evolving Huron cultural landscapr and community. Wendake, Quebec
Jim Boss (1871-1950) National Historic Person Provided guidance and inspiration to the Yukon's First Nations in their struggle for survival.
Youkon Archives / E.J. Hmacher
 
Louis-Hector de Callière (1648-1703) National Historic Person Demonstrated exceptional diplomatic abilities in the meetings between Europeans and First Nations culminating in the Treaty of Montreal of 1701. Montreal, Quebec
Kondiaronk (ca. 1625-1701) National Historic Person Played a pivital role on facilitating negotiations which culminated in the Treaty of 1701.
Montreal Quebec
Ignace-Nicolas Vincent Tsawenahohi (1769-1844) National Historic Person Elevated the position of Grand Chief to an unprecedented level of respectability.
Wendake, Quebec
(recommended plaque location)
Demasduit (1796-1820) National Historic Person
Changed the mutually negative attitudes that prevailed between Europeans and the Beothuk.
Botwood, Newfoundland and Labrador
(recommended plaque location)
Shanawdithit (1801-1829) National Historic Person Taught her captors much of what is now known of Beothuk society and the last chapter of her people's history; last of the Beothuks. St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
(recommended plaque location)
Thanadelthur (-1717) National Historic Person
Played an important role in the English fur trade on western Hudson Bay in the early 18th century.
Churchill, Manitoba (recommended plaque location)
François Beaulieu II (1771-1872) National Historic Person Founding father of the Northwest Territies Métis; pre-eminent Métis leader.  
Treaty of Montreal in 1701 National Historic Event Crowning achievement of French diplomacy in colonial North America; virtually ended a century of conflict between the signatories of the treaty. Montreal, Quebec
ETHNO-CULTURAL COMMUNITIES HISTORY: a term adopted by Parks Canada to describe identifiable ethno-cultural groups that make up the Canadian social mosaic. This program definition does not include people of French, British or Aboriginal origins.
Îles aux Basques National Historic Site of Canada Represents the westernmost and most important concentration of French Basque occupation in the Gulf of St. Lawrence between 1584 and 1637. Îles aux Basques, Quebec
Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church National Historic Site of Canada Last built remnant of a community of African Canadians whose roots are uniquely anchored in the history of the United Empire Loyalists. Edgar, Ontario
R. Nathaniel Dett British Methodist Episcopal Church National Historic Site of Canada Illustrates the early Black settlement of the Niagra area and the role of the church in assisting newly arrived Underground Railroad refugees. Niagra Falls, Ontario
Sandwich First Baptist Church National Historic Site of Canada Represents the once numerous border churches built to accomodate the growing communities created by Underground Railroad refugees. Windsor, Ontario
St. Catherines British Methodist Episcopal Church / Salem Chapel National Historic Site of Canada Focus of abolitionist activity and associated with famous Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman. St. Catherines, Ontario
St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church National Historic Site of Canada Symbol of historic cultural traditions of the Syrian Orthodox community in Canada. Montreal, Quebec
Wiiliam Hespeler (1830-1921) National Historic Person Contributed to the Mennonite immigration in Manitoba and to the settlement and development of the West.
The Western Canada Pictorial Index
Winnipeg, Manitoba
(recommended plaque location)
Establishment of New Iceland National Historic Event Distinct experiment in democratic governance associated with settlement of Canadian West; Icelandic-Canadian cultural legacy Gimli, Manitoba
WOMEN'S HISTORY: women's history in Canada is now a major field of study. By identifying women's history as one of it's strategic priorities, Parks Canada intends to reflect this important trend in its commemorative program.
Demasduit (1796-1820) National Historic Person
Changed the mutually negative attitudes the prevailed between Europeans and the Beothuk.
NAC/ANC/C-87698 (Artist: Henrietta Hamilton - 1819)
Botwood, Newfoundland and Labrador
(recommended plaque location)
Shanawdithit (1796-1820) National Historic Person Taught her captors much of what is now known of Beothuk society and the last chapter of her people's history; last of the Beothuks. St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
(recommended plaque location)
Thanadelthur (-1717) National Historic Person
Played an important role in the English fur trade on western Hudson Bay in the early 18th century.
Churchill, Manitoba (recommended plaque loactaion)
National Council of Women in Canada National Historic Event Established a national, non-partisan, non-sectarian umbrella association of women's groups; founded in 1893. Toronto, Ontario
(recommended plaque location)

The Red River Floodway was designated a national historic site in 2000 as an outstanding engineering achievement.
The Red River Floodway was designated a national historic site in 2000 as an outstanding engineering achievement.