Common menu bar links

World Heritage: Canada

Periodic Report on the Application of the World Heritage Convention



December 2004



a. National inventories

Parks Canada maintains the list of Canada’s thirteen World Heritage Sites, two of which straddle the border between Canada and the United States and are therefore shared between these two countries. The list of World Heritage Sites in Canada is available on Parks Canada’s web site.

Parks Canada also publishes the list and information about the heritage values of each of the sites in a printed publication ‘World Wonders Canada’s 13 extraordinary sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List’.

In addition to sites that are of outstanding universal value, Parks Canada maintains lists of sites which are of national significance, for cultural or natural reasons, through the systems of national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas. The list of national historic sites is maintained in the Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance that, in addition to national historic sites, also inventories persons and events recognized as being of national historic importance. The Directory is up-dated and published once a year and is available on Parks Canada’s web site. The system plan which governs the designation or establishment of new sites is also available on the web site.

Provinces and municipalities also keep lists of the protected heritage areas designated by them. Please see Appendix A for references to these lists.

As part of the Historic Places Initiative, the Canadian Register of Historic Places is being established. This will be a national, searchable register containing listings of historic places of local, provincial, territorial and national significance. The principal purpose of the Canadian Register will be to acquaint Canadians with the full breadth of historic places in Canada and to engage Canadians in heritage conservation. To be listed, historic places must be formally recognized by an appropriate authority within a federal, provincial, territorial, or local jurisdiction and must comply with documentation standards. Initially, it is estimated that approximately 20 000 historic places may be eligible for listing on the Register. The web site for Canada’s Historic Places contains information about the program.

With respect to natural heritage, no national government register, inventory or list currently exists. However, as the basis for planning of systems of parks and protected areas, the federal, provincial and territorial governments identify terrestrial and marine areas of national, provincial, territorial or local significance. Each government keeps lists of those areas which it has protected. Further, the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA), a national non-profit organization, has for more than fifteen years collected information on the status of Canada’s protected areas systems and maintains this information in the Canadian Conservation Areas Database (CCAD). Please see Appendix A and B for details. In 1992, the Canadian Parks Ministers Council met with the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment and the Wildlife Ministers’ Council and signed A Statement of Commitment to Complete Canada’s Networks of Protected Areas. The key commitment was to make every effort to complete Canada’s network of protected areas representative of Canada’s land-based natural regions by 2000 and accelerate the protection of areas representative of Canada’s marine regions. Governments across the country made concerted efforts to expand their systems of protected areas, resulting in protected area strategies for 8 provinces or territories1 and the addition of 24,145,096 hectares of protected lands between 1992 and 2000.

To the top

b. Tentative List

Canada released its new World Heritage Tentative List on 30 April 2004 and expects to be in a position to propose nominations of sites from the revised list by 2005.

Process by which the Tentative List was revised

  1. Suggestions to the State Party from a number of sources about potential nominees, resulting in 125 serious proposals for consideration.
  2. Two independent Canadian experts, both authorities on World Heritage, prepared an initial assessment of possible nominees.
  3. Public consultation on this assessment. There were two phases of consultation. In the first, discussions took place with representatives from all provincial and territorial governments, from selected Aboriginal organizations and from national stakeholder groups. In the second, consultations were carried out with municipal governments, Aboriginal groups and other stakeholders near those communities where sites were being seriously considered for the Tentative List.
  4. Panel of renowned Canadians reviewed list and considered the views raised during the consultations.
  5. Panel advised the federal Minister responsible regarding the sites that appeared to meet the criteria.
  6. Minister responsible decided on new Tentative List.
To the top
c. Nominations

So far, all places nominated by Canada to the World Heritage Committee have been accepted for inscription on the World Heritage List. In each case, the full extent of the areas proposed was inscribed2, although the criteria cited in the inscription were not always those in the nomination.

The Burgess Shale site, which was listed in 1980 as a separate World Heritage Site, was subsumed into the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks site when the latter was inscribed in 1984.

The thirteen sites, with their year of inscription, follow.

1978 L'Anse aux Meadows
National Historic Site
C (vi) Parks Canada
1978 Nahanni National Park
N (ii) (iii) Parks Canada
1979 Dinosaur Provincial Park N (i) (iii) Alberta Community Development, Province of Alberta
1980 Burgess Shale Now part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks. N (i) Parks Canada
1981 SGaang Gwaii (Anthony Island) C (iii) Parks Canada
1981 Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump C (vi) Alberta Community Development, Province of Alberta
1983 Wood Buffalo National Park N (ii) (iii) (iv) Parks Canada
Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
(additions of 3 British Columbia provincial parks)
N (i) (ii) (iii) Parks Canada and British Columbia Parks,
Province of British Columbia
1985 Historic District of Québec C (iv) (vi) City of Quebec, Department of Culture and Communications, Province of Quebec, and Parks Canada
1987 Gros Morne National Park N (i) (iii) Parks Canada
Kluane National Park and Reserve / Tatshenshini-Alsek Park
(in conjunction with Wrangell-St. Elias and Glacier Bay, in Alaska, USA)
N (ii) (iii) (iv) Parks Canada and British Columbia Parks,
Province of British Columbia
1995 Old Town Lunenburg C (iv) (v) Town of Lunenburg
1995 Waterton Lakes National Park (as part of the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, with Glacier National Park in the USA) N (ii) (iii) Parks Canada
1999 Miguasha National Park N (i) Province of Quebec

As a result of the process to update the Canadian Tentative List and the preparation of this periodic report, the possibility of future extensions to the following sites has been identified: Nahanni National Park; Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks; Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and Wood Buffalo National Park.

To the top

Process by which nominations are prepared
The process by which nominations have been prepared generally involves the following steps:

  1. Development of awareness in the public and specialist audiences of the values of the place over time through research and publication.
  2. Designation of the site, as a national historic site, national park, provincial park or other protected heritage area through federal or provincial heritage legislation
  3. Development of public interest in and support for a World Heritage designation.
  4. Assessment study to establish if the site could potentially satisfy the World Heritage Site criteria.
  5. Decision of the State Party to submit the nomination.
  6. Preparation of the nomination package, including an analysis of comparative sites in an international context. If the site is a national park or national historic site, this work is done by Parks Canada. If the site is managed by another authority, Parks Canada provides advice and assistance to that authority in preparing the nomination.
  7. Provision of the nomination document to the World Heritage Centre.

In Canada, there is no requirement for World Heritage Sites to be administered or operated by the federal government. The nomination process does not, therefore, require the transfer of lands to a central authority or the creation of new administrative arrangements.

Collaboration and co-operation with local authorities and people
Local authorities and people have played a significant role in the nomination process for the four nominations (Tatshenshini-Alsek, Waterton Lakes, Old Town Lunenburg, Miguasha) since 1990. Before 1990, the inscription process was viewed as the work of experts and it was considered sufficient to have the support of the relevant provincial government. Since 1990, nominations have engaged the public to a much greater extent. In some cases, the nomination process has been initiated by provincial or local authorities. Nominations have been prepared by them and/or in collaboration with them. This is particularly true in those cases (Tatshenshini-Alsek, Old Town Lunenburg, Miguasha) where the federal government is not the owner of the properties proposed for inscription. In all cases, support for the nomination from local communities and appropriate Aboriginal groups is required before a nomination is put forward.

Motivation, obstacles and difficulties encountered in the process
The motivation for World Heritage inscription is to establish international recognition for the outstanding universal value of the sites. Such recognition brings with it the hope for greater awareness and understanding of these values, and greater respect for them in all decisions and actions that affect the site. International recognition confirms local, regional and national pride in these extraordinary places. In some cases, inscription is hoped to blunt the pressures for development or change.

One of the challenges in preparing nominations has been meeting the stringent tests established by the World Heritage Committee. The comparative analyses of Canadian sites with similar sites internationally necessitate comprehensive study. While Canada has done comparative studies internally on a variety of historical themes and natural areas, international comparisons require new research in each case.

Another challenge in the nomination process for some of the Canadian World Heritage Sites has been the requirement to demonstrate adequate management of the site when the whole site is not under single ownership. A few Canadian World Heritage Sites - Historic District of Québec and Old Town Lunenburg - include both publicly and privately owned areas. In such cases a management plan, similar to those for sites which are entirely publicly owned, is not feasible . Instead, the management authority takes advantage of the provisions for protection and management from the range of heritage designations for properties contained in the site. Municipal planning tools are also used to address conservation issues.

To the top

Perceived benefits and Lessons learned
Perceived benefits of World Heritage listing include:

  • increased recognition of the international importance of the heritage property.
  • enhanced local pride and identity.
  • increased pride for Canadians in having places which are of international value and an enhanced sense of identity as a nation.
  • increased attention by the governing authority to the management of the site.
  • promotion of greater co-operation among levels of government, and the volunteer and private sectors.
  • greater investment in the sites, particularly to enhance interpretive facilities.
  • increased influence on development issues in areas surrounding World Heritage Sites.
  • increased attention and concern by the public and by non-governmental organizations to the management of the site.
  • increased tourism, with attendant economic benefits, although this remains to be empirically demonstrated.

Lessons learned from the nomination process and listing include:

  • These places are already protected through other legislation and often are tourist destinations; the additional impact of World Heritage status is unclear.
  • Increased tourism development and activity are economic benefits.
  • The desirability of living in or near an urban World Heritage Site may raise property values to the point where it is difficult for the local population to continue to buy houses, repair them or pay property taxes.
  • The numbers of visitors may alter the character of the place. Seasonal visitation may result in significant annual tides of population and economic activity. Residents may turn from traditional activities in order to service the tourism industry.
  • Inscription of urban sites may result in the enactment of by-laws which restrict property owners’ rights or which impede the natural evolution of the community.

All of these issues are addressed through careful planning and development of the site in recognition of the needs of local, national and international interests.

1 These strategies are: British Columbia Protected Areas Strategy (1992); Alberta Special Places Program; An Action Plan for Manitoba’s Network of Protected Areas 2000-2003; Ontario’s Living Legacy Land Use Strategy, 1999; Quebec Plan d'action sur les parcs: la nature en héritage (1992); Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy; Wild Spaces, Protected places: A Protected Areas Strategy for the Yukon (1998); and Nova Scotia Protected Areas Strategy.

2 For L'Anse aux Meadows, it is unclear whether only the archaeological site was inscribed or the entire site managed by Parks Canada.