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World Heritage: Canada

Periodic Report on the Application of the World Heritage Convention



December 2004




As stated at the beginning of the report, the Canadian system of federal, provincial or territorial, and municipal governments shapes the way that heritage is protected in Canada. There is no single entity responsible for the management of all World Heritage Sites in Canada, let alone for heritage more generally. Federal legislation and policy are complemented by those of the provinces, territories and municipalities.

The Canadian approach to conservation and protection of heritage resources is not centrally planned and encompasses a wide range of protected areas mechanisms and approaches, including national parks, national historic sites, provincial and territorial historic sites, municipally designated heritage properties and heritage conservation districts, migratory bird sanctuaries, national wildlife areas, national marine conservation areas, marine protected areas, and a variety of provincial protected areas, ranging from ecological reserves to wilderness areas to recreational parks.

A variety of partners are engaged in protecting areas including all levels of government, and sometimes more than one department or ministry within the same government, non-governmental organizations, private citizens, and corporations. The choice of mechanism for any particular heritage area is dependent upon the jurisdiction, the heritage resources, and the planned use of the area.

In Canada, approximately 8.5% of the nation’s territory constitutes protected natural areas and there are about 20 000 designations relating to cultural heritage.

To the top a. General policy development

Given that responsibility for the management of natural and cultural heritage is split between levels of government and among governmental organizations, policy governing heritage is similarly multifarious.

Policies that aim to give the cultural and natural heritage a life in the community
Launched by the Government of Canada in June 2001, the Historic Places Initiative (HPI) is a significant national initiative to engage Canadians in conserving and celebrating the historic places that tell stories of local, provincial, territorial or national significance in Canadian history. Parks Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage have partnered with other levels of government to develop: the Canadian Register of Historic Places; Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada; and a certification program, linked to financial incentives. The tools initiative will raise Canadians’ awareness of historic places and what they represent, and will encourage and assist communities across Canada, including Aboriginal communities, to become more involved in conserving historic places important to them. A report by Canada’s Auditor General, released in February 2004, which underlined the poor condition of many cultural heritage properties and shortcomings in their governance structure, has galvanized support for HPI.

Parks Canada supports and encourages other owners of national historic sites, including those owned privately, municipally, provincially, or by not-for-profit organizations through a variety of means. These include providing access to information, tools and best practices to guide the stewardship of national historic sites, opportunities to share best practices, learn together and develop co-operative action, and eligibility for specific programs designed to support the protection and presentation of national historic sites.

Similar policies exist for those sites designated provincially, territorially or municipally. Since sites with historic designations do not have to be owned by the government body which oversees the designation, these properties continue to play a variety of roles in the life of the community, many continuing to be used in ways that relate to their historic importance. Several provinces and territories also have programs to support Aboriginal communities to protect areas of heritage significance. For example, the Québec government has several longstanding provincial heritage agreements with independent Aboriginal groups, societies and non-governmental cultural organizations. The province also contributes matching funds towards any innovative community project that promotes public awareness about regional heritage. Similarly, the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta all offer extensive community heritage project support programs for a range of historic place conservation/restoration, identification, research, education and promotional activity.

As the largest property owner in Canada, the federal government plays a key role in ensuring the on-going protection of the country’s built heritage. In recognition of this responsibility, the government applies the Federal Heritage Buildings Policy which requires federal departments to acquire, use and dispose of buildings in a way that protects their heritage character. Federal heritage buildings are located in 321 communities across Canada. In addition to contributing to the heritage fabric of their communities, many of these buildings continue to be places where services are delivered to the community. Through the Ontario Heritage Foundation, the Province of Ontario has similar programs for provincially-owned heritage property.

Most areas protected for natural values are under governmental ownership. Involvement in the life of the community is based on access for educational and recreational opportunities, and through public consultation relating to management planning and decision-making. For example, Saskatchewan Parks has established community advisory committees for 17 of its parks. These committees ensure that there is communication and understanding about the goals of both the community and the protected area. Alberta and Manitoba use a similar approach for historic sites. Alberta has created Lay Ministerial Advisory Committees drawn from the appropriate localities, to advise on the administration of its provincial historic sites and Manitoba has helped to establish 51 volunteer “Municipal Heritage Advisory Committees” that assist their local councils with heritage site identification and protection.

Public policy relating to heritage protection in Canada is strongly influenced by the participation of non-governmental organizations. For example, the Canadian Nature Federation, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, ICOMOS Canada, the Heritage Canada Foundation and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario influence policy development by governments. They represent an opportunity for Canadians to participate directly in debate about heritage issues and also provide educational opportunities for individual Canadians.

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Integrating protection of World Heritage Properties into comprehensive planning programs
Planning requirements for protected areas are dependent on the authority under which the area is protected. These requirements are independent of whether a protected area is a World Heritage Site. Given the multiplicity of jurisdictions under which World Heritage Sites operate in Canada, not all are subject to the same planning requirements.

The World Heritage Sites which are administered by Parks Canada are subject to legal requirements under the Parks Canada Agency Act for comprehensive management planning on a rolling five year cycle. The planning programs are explicitly aimed at protecting the heritage values of these properties and are required to take into account the values associated with the World Heritage designation, as well as other heritage designations. Parks Canada’s Cultural Resource Management Policy requires that management plans for national historic sites that have been designated World Heritage Sites contain strategies for protecting and promoting the values that resulted in this international designation. In recognition of World Heritage values, Parks Canada has made on-going efforts to participate in land and resource use planning processes beyond the boundaries of the national parks or national historic sites it administers as World Heritage Sites. For example, Parks Canada has promoted the World Heritage values of Nahanni, Gros Morne and Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Sites in the context of external planning processes.

For sites which are provincially owned, provincial planning requirements prevail. For those World Heritage Sites which are part of municipalities, municipal planning activities take into account the values of the site. In the case of sites managed by a municipality, the planning framework can be very complex, especially when there are many property owners. This is particularly true of the Historic District of Québec, which has, in effect, ten management plans prepared by three levels of government, each contributing in a complementary fashion to the protection of the site’s integrity. As State Party representative, Parks Canada works with provincial, territorial and municipal authorities and Aboriginal communities to ensure that the values for which a site was inscribed on the World Heritage List are recognised in all planning processes affecting the site. For more details, please see the site-specific reports in Section II.

For those World Heritage Sites which cross boundaries between established parks, between provincial and territorial boundaries, and over the international border with the United States, no plans exist explicitly for the World Heritage Sites as a whole. Consultation and co-operation between the authorities responsible for each part of the site ensures that the values of the whole are reflected in the plan for each part. For more details, please see the site-specific reports in Section II.

In addition to management planning processes described above, Canadian governments use environmental assessment processes in the management of protected heritage areas. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and similar provincial legislation establish processes to ensure that potential effects of human activities are considered in planning, decision-making and consultation. Ontario Parks is currently developing a new environmental assessment process that aims to consider alternative approaches, mitigation, monitoring and consultation needs for projects in protected areas. Specific provisions focus on both cultural and natural heritage management in Ontario’s protected areas.

To the top b. Status of services for protection, conservation and presentation

Because responsibility for heritage is shared among agencies at all levels of government in Canada, each responsible agency has its own services for protection, conservation and presentation.

The overall lead for the World Heritage program lies with the Parks Canada Agency, which manages Canada’s obligations under the World Heritage Convention. Parks Canada’s central administration includes the National Parks and the National Historic Sites Directorates. Parks Canada directly operates 41 national parks, 151 national historic sites, and 2 national marine conservation areas. It is also responsible for the administration of a number of other heritage programs including the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, the National Program for the Grave Sites of Canadian Prime Ministers, Heritage Railway Stations, the Federal Archaeology Program, and the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, and is working with provincial and territorial governments to create the Canadian Register of Historic Places and to establish national standards and guidelines.

Two other federal agencies are directly involved in the protection of the natural environment. The Canadian Wildlife Service, a division of the federal department Environment Canada, is Canada’s national wildlife agency. It is responsible for protection and management of migratory birds and nationally important wildlife habitat, endangered species, research on nationally important wildlife issues, control of international trade in endangered species, and international treaties. Included is the establishment of migratory bird sanctuaries, national wildlife areas and marine wildlife areas. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, another federal department, is responsible for policies and programs in support of Canada’s economic, ecological and scientific interests in oceans and inland waters. Included in its responsibilities is the establishment of marine protected areas for the purpose of conserving and protecting commercial and non-commercial fisheries resources, including marine mammals and their habitats, endangered or threatened marine species and their habitats, unique habitats, and marine areas of high biodiversity or biological productivity.

All provinces and territories have departments or agencies which play a key role to establish and manage protected heritage areas and designated historic properties within their jurisdictions. For example, Miguasha National Park is part of the network of natural areas managed by the government of Québec,while Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and Dinosaur Provincial Park are part of a network of cultural sites managed by the government of Alberta. Provincial and territorial wildlife agencies are also responsible for all wildlife matters not under federal jurisdiction. These include conservation and management of wildlife populations and habitat within their boundaries, issuing licenses and permits for fishing, game hunting, and trapping, guidelines for safe angling and trapping, and outfitting policies. Please see Appendix A for links to more information on provincial and territorial protection services.

To the top c. Scientific and technical studies and research

A substantial body of scientific, technical and research work has been conducted on Canada’s World Heritage Sites, as well as on the many other heritage areas in Canada. Please see the site-specific reports in Section II for information on scientific studies related to specific World Heritage Sites.

The National Historic Sites of Canada System Plan (2000) provides a framework for the analysis of Canadian history, with reference to proposed and actual designations of persons, places, and events. The launch of the system plan coincided with refocused efforts to establish commemorations related to the history of women, ethnocultural communities, and Aboriginal peoples. Expanded interest in commemorations reflecting a variety of world views has encouraged examination of the concept of ‘site’ to involve different types of cultural landscape, settlement patterns, engineering achievements, and modern architecture. This expansion has also taken into consideration the systems of values of Aboriginal cultures. Parks Canada has devised and implemented new strategies for fostering positive working relationships with Aboriginal and ethnocultural communities, predicated upon consultation and participation. Parallel to the system plan for national historic sites, the National Parks System Plan (1997) divides Canada into 39 geologically, physiographically and vegetatively distinct regions. The intention is to complete the system by having at least one national park in each of these regions.

Similar to these system plans for historic sites and parks at the national level, many provinces and territories also have system plans which guide the selection of protected areas.

In conjunction with the other elements of the Historic Places Initiative, Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada have been developed. These are the first Canada-wide standards for heritage conservation. They were developed through a pan-Canadian collaboration among federal, provincial and territorial heritage conservation officials, municipal governments, conservation specialists, and property developers involved in conservation projects. Intended as a common reference point for conservation practice in Canada, the document is designed to guide interventions to historic places in order to satisfy both conservation and functional requirements.

Canada also recently participated in an international study, sponsored by the Getty Institute, to examine the role of values in historic site management, and the processes that connect theoretical management guidelines with management planning and its practical application.

The Canadian Conservation Institute is a leader in conservation research, including physical and chemical analysis of pigments, wood, natural fibres, and organic materials. Significant research relating to natural and cultural heritage also takes place in Canada’s museums, including centres of expertise at the Royal Ontario Museum, the McCord Museum and the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal and the national museums.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta is a world leader in research in the fields of palaeontology, geology/sedimentology, and palaeo-botany. Research in Dinosaur Provincial Park World Heritage Site has expanded to include cooperative international initiatives. Numerous articles published in scientific and technical journals have greatly expanded knowledge of the “Age of Reptiles”. Scientific research has greatly enhanced the ability to present the World Heritage values for which Dinosaur Provincial Park was inscribed. Several universities also have active research programs which relate to heritage sites, including for example, the Canada Research Chair in Urban Heritage at the University of Québec at Montreal and the Institute on Cultural Heritage and the UNESCO Chair on Heritage at Laval University.

Significant research has been completed over the past decade on the state of Canada’s national parks. Beginning with the Banff-Bow Valley Study, which considered the conflicting demands for development, tourism, and wilderness in the area of Banff National Park (part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site), and subsequently in the Report of the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada’s National Parks (2000), the state of the ecology of many national parks was examined. The Banff-Bow Valley Study, and First Priority Parks Canada's Response to the Panel Report have prompted additional research into how best to define ecological integrity, how to measure and monitor it, and how to manage in order to achieve it.

The Canadian Parks Council, a federation of the federal and provincial parks services, has developed a Framework for the Valuation of Parks and Protected Areas focussing on personal benefits (use and non-use), commercial benefits (direct and indirect expenditures) and societal benefits (ecological, health, education). The project includes an economic model for estimating commercial benefits, a handbook for estimating personal benefits and a number of pilot projects in the area of societal benefits.

To the top d. Identification, protection, conservation, presentation and rehabilitation

Legal and administrative measures
Protection of heritage is governed by an array of laws, at various levels of government. In the realm of natural heritage, provincial governments deal with sites and issues within their own borders, while the federal government is responsible for cross-border trade, migratory birds, fish, marine animals, and federally protected areas. For cultural heritage, provinces and territories have responsibility for resources within their jurisdictions, and for property, while the federal government is concerned with its own protected heritage areas and built heritage. Given the separation of powers in the Canadian constitution, provincial legislation has been central to protecting heritage properties in private hands. In general, each type of recognition or protection for heritage areas is governed by a separate piece of legislation. Appendix A provides a list of the most important federal, provincial and territorial legislation. There is currently no legislation in Canada which directly addresses World Heritage Sites.

For both cultural and natural heritage, provinces and territories continue to up-date and strengthen their heritage legislation. For example, the Province of British Columbia enacted a new Protected Areas of British Columbia Act (2000), and the Province of Ontario is now amending its Ontario Heritage Act (1990). All jurisdictions have, or are working toward, a policy framework or enabling legislation for heritage designations.

As part of the Historic Places Initiative, Canada is working toward enhancing the statutory protection of federally-owned historic properties. This proposed legislation would introduce a comprehensive regime for the protection of national historic sites, federal heritage buildings, and archaeological resources within areas of federal jurisdiction. The legislation would provide the means to identify, conserve and celebrate Canada’s historic places, create requirements directly applicable to all federal lands, and place obligations on federal custodians. The proposed measures would include a review to consider the impact of any proposed federal action on federal lands and on designated heritage properties. It is anticipated that World Heritage Sites gain enhanced statutory protection from these measures.

Both federal and provincial governments are in the process of settling land claims with Aboriginal groups, a process which often includes obligations related to the creation of protected areas. Since 1995, self-government agreements have empowered participating Aboriginal peoples to govern their own affairs, including protecting their culture and heritage, and managing their own lands, resources and assets. For example, an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement in the territory of Nunavut provides for management of territorial parks by local communities and, in northern Québec, arrangements are being made so that provincial parks can be run by the Kativik regional authority. These initiatives are accompanied by programs to build capacity in local communities. Several of Canada’s national parks are cooperatively managed by Parks Canada and specific Aboriginal peoples.

In recent years, there have been a number of changes to the ways governments in Canada administer their protected heritage areas. In 1998, for example, the Parks Canada Agency Act established the Parks Canada Agency as a separate service agency that manages national parks and national historic sites, as well as other protected areas programs. The establishment of the Parks Canada Agency created greater administrative flexibility in the management of its protected heritage areas programs, including the prerogative to establish a new parks and sites fund which could exist outside the normal government fiscal framework and be used to acquire new protected heritage areas. Further, in Québec, two government agencies have been created to oversee natural areas. The Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec oversees the conservation and development of wildlife and wildlife habitats and the development and management of parks to allow for conservation, education and the pursuit of recreational activities. A second agency, the Société des établissements de plein air du Québec, operates and develops natural sites and tourist facilities. Its mission is to ensure accessibility, development, and protection of these facilities for the benefit of its clientele, Québec’s regions, and future generations. In addition, in Newfoundland and Labrador, the operation of provincially-owned protected areas has been let to private operators, while the management of some visitor services in BC Parks has been let to private contractors. Saskatchewan has agreed to private sector leases for the development of commercial facilities in parks as well as an incentive-based budget system to encourage entrepreneurship among park managers. This approach to park operation is intended both to respect the heritage values of the protected areas and to make available viable business opportunities to the private sector.

A number of public and private foundations have been established to support natural and cultural heritage and as a means of channelling donations for heritage sites. The Heritage Canada Foundation is a national, membership-based organization and registered charity established in 1973, which seeks to encourage the preservation and interpretation of the nationally significant historic, architectural, natural and scenic heritage of Canada with a view to stimulating and promoting the interest of the people of Canada in that heritage.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is a national charity dedicated to preserving ecologically significant areas through outright purchase, donations and conservation easements. Since 1962, it has secured a long-term future for approximately 1,73 million acres, including 27,000 acres adjacent to the Canadian component of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park World Heritage Site, which received protection in June 2004. Wildlife Habitat Canada is a national, non-profit, conservation organization which was established in 1984 by Environment Canada, provincial wildlife agencies and conservation agencies within the wildlife habitat coalition. It works through partnerships with communities, landowners, governments, non-government organizations, and industry to find effective solutions to complex environmental problems facing wildlife habitat.

Other groups are limited in geographical scope. For example, the Land Conservancy is a non-profit, charitable land trust working throughout British Columbia. It protects important habitat for plants, animals and natural communities as well as properties with historical, cultural, scientific, scenic or compatible recreational values. There are protected areas established and managed by non-governmental bodies in almost all provinces and territories. These groups include Ducks Unlimited, and l'Union québecoise pour la conservation de la nature (UQCN). The Ontario Heritage Foundation and other provincial foundations and trusts work actively to conserve and present cultural heritage across the country.

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Canada has entered into co-operative relationships with the United States and other countries in order to protect natural and cultural heritage. Several examples follow.

  • The 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty between Canada and the United States created the International Joint Commission to prevent or resolve disputes relating to common water supplies, including the Great Lakes, in an equitable and responsible way. The treaty has been supplemented with the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (1972) and the Air Quality Agreement (1991).
  • The 1916 Migratory Birds Convention was negotiated between Canada and the United Sates to halt the extinction of migratory birds and establish regulations for their cross-boundary protection. The most ambitious migratory conservation program to date is the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. It is a joint Canada/US program designed to protect and enhance wetland habitat throughout North America. Waterfowl are the most economically important group of migratory birds, but they face a serious decline throughout their range. The objective of the plan is to restore the populations of ducks, swans, and geese to the levels of the 1970s.
  • Through the Canadian Wildlife Service, Canada participates in a number of initiatives to protect migratory birds throughout the Americas, including the Latin American Program, and the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. These focus on birds common to both American continents. By strengthening relationships with the Latin American countries, the Canadian Wildlife Service is able to share research and conservation expertise on migratory birds and their habitats.
  • Canada is one of five countries with populations of polar bears. Canadian Wildlife Service research helps to estimate their populations and their ecological requirements by studying the bears’ longevity, feeding, breeding, and denning habits. An international conservation agreement with the United States, Russia, Norway, and Denmark provides for information exchange and for co-operative research on the bear.
  • The conservation of fisheries is advanced through Fisheries and Oceans Canada which negotiates and administers international treaties and agreements that regulate fishing in Canadian waters and for those ‘straddling’ stocks that migrate in and out of Canada’s 200-nautical mile fishing zone. For example, under the Canada-US Pacific Salmon Treaty arrangements are made to accommodate science and habitat protection. Canada has also taken measures to protect high seas fish stocks by successfully pressing for a multi-lateral treaty to protect and manage straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. It continues to work toward ratification and full implementation of the United Nations Fish Agreement by key fishing states.

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Other international conventions
Canada adheres to a number of other international conventions affecting cultural and natural heritage.

Convention Year of Ratification
Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and Protocol I (1954)
Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970) 1978
Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar) (1971) 1981
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (1973) 1975
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (1982) 1999
Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) 1992

Canada’s ratification of the Kyoto Accord (Convention on Climate Change) in 2002 has encouraged direct action to improve the environment. The government of Canada has made a total commitment of $1.1 billion to address climate change over five years.

Canada also participates in the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program, with thirteen reserves.

Scientific and technical measures
For both national parks and national historic sites, there have been recent advances in monitoring of the health of heritage values. For natural areas, this is focused on biodiversity, ecosystem functions like succession, productivity, decomposition and nutrient retention and stressors to the ecosystem. For historic sites, the monitoring strategy considers the condition of resources, the effectiveness of the communications program in conveying the reasons why these places are nationally important, and whether appropriate cultural resource management practices are in place. These two initiatives to monitor ecological and commemorative integrity represent a considerable investment in enhancing science-based management.

See also I.3 c Scientific and technical studies and research, and the site-specific reports in Section II.

Financial measures
Canada has taken a range of financial measures to encourage the identification, protection and presentation of areas of natural or cultural importance.

The National Historic Sites of Canada Cost-Sharing Program is one of the key tools Parks Canada uses to support partners in ensuring the commemorative integrity of Canada’s national historic sites. The contribution program allows for assistance to owners or operators of national historic sites not owned by the federal government for protection and presentation of those sites.

Part of the Historic Places Initiative, the Commercial Heritage Properties Incentive Fund was introduced in 2003 in order to: save threatened historic properties from demolition or destruction; preserve historic properties for future generations through proper conservation; and develop new or enhance existing commercial purposes for historic properties within the community. The program contributes to conservation work on eligible commercial historic places listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places, provided that the conservation work is certified as compliant with the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada. Financial support programs, aimed at building the capacity of Aboriginal people to participate in historic place conservation, are also being studied.

There are 46 provincial or territorial financial incentive programs, such as Ontario’s Heritage Property Tax Relief program, in support of built heritage conservation or restoration. Many municipalities also offer financial assistance programs.

In 2003, the federal government announced that additional money would be devoted to the protection of natural heritage. This will permit the establishment of ten new national parks and five new national marine conservation areas. It will also help to improve the ecological integrity in Canada’s existing national parks.

Tax incentives are also available for the donation of ecologically sensitive lands and for heritage properties. Revisions to the federal Income Tax Act in 1995, 1997 and 2000 have increased incentives for donations of land to registered charities or to the Crown.

To the top e. Training

Training in a broad range of heritage-related fields, disciplines, and skills is offered at a number of institutions of higher learning across Canada. Colleges and universities provide the bulk of professional training for those working in the natural and cultural heritage fields. Opportunities for training are numerous in Canada, given the large number of educational institutions and the high proportion of the population which takes advantage of post-secondary education. A project has been initiated by the Heritage Canada Foundation to develop a strategy for the full range of education and training in heritage conservation for professionals, trades and the general public. Specific knowledge or skills may also be generated through in-house training.

The Canadian Parks Council has delivered a two-week park management course for more than twenty years. Some provincial parks services have created partnerships with institutions of higher education to provide training or certification programs and others have established strategies for training in-house. For example, Ontario Parks has developed a “Learning Team” that identifies staff training needs and develops training courses to meet those needs while British Columbia Parks has an agreement with the British Columbia Institute of Technology to deliver some types of staff training.

Federal student work programs offer high school and university students the opportunity to work in parks and historic sites. Young Canada Works, for high school-aged students, and the Federal Student Work Experience Program both provide opportunities for young people to gain work experience in cultural or natural heritage conservation and presentation.