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World Heritage: Canada

Periodic Report on the Application of the World Heritage Convention



December 2004



In Canada, it is well-accepted that strong public support and involvement are necessary for heritage protection. Federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments have ongoing programs and initiatives to increase the awareness of decision-makers, property owners, and the general public about the importance, protection, and conservation of cultural and natural heritage. Several key initiatives are highlighted below. Please see the site-specific reports in Section II for information about the World Heritage Sites. In general, the kinds of public education programs, information products and awareness building activities described for the Canadian World Heritage Sites are typical of efforts at all protected heritage areas in Canada. In Ontario, for example, interest and participation in such park programs has steadily increased over the last decade to a current average of approximately 3.5 million participants per year.

The third Saturday of July each year is Parks Day, sponsored by the Canadian Parks Council. It is celebrated in protected heritage areas, both natural and cultural, across the country. The third Monday in February each year is Heritage Day, an opportunity to celebrate the architectural heritage and historic places of Canada.

An important development in the last decade has been the development of the web sites for federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governmental departments and agencies with responsibility for heritage3 and, similarly, for non-governmental organizations focused on heritage. These web pages make information easily available across the country and around the world. A section in the Teachers’ Resource Centre of the Parks Canada web site focuses on World Heritage Sites, linked to the Grade 12 Geography curriculum for Ontario. In addition to its web site, Parks Canada makes information about Canada’s World Heritage Sites and other heritage properties in Canada available through printed media.

Since 1996, a series of television programs has also been produced highlighting Canada’s history and parks, including some World Heritage Sites. ‘Historylands’ presented a series of national historic sites; ‘Great Canadian Parks’ was a similar treatment of some national and provincial parks. ‘Canada: A People’s History’ was a multi-part series tracing Canadian history from first settlement by Aboriginal peoples to modern times. It drew heavily on images and stories related to protected areas. ‘CG Kids’ (a joint venture with Canadian Geographic Incorporated) is television for young people, with many parks and sites contributing to the fun.

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In recent years, there has been an increased commitment to communicate the stories of Aboriginal peoples at protected heritage areas across Canada. This has resulted in more heritage places which commemorate aspects of Aboriginal people’s experiences in Canada. It has also meant greater inclusion and emphasis on Aboriginal perspectives in the stories that are told at other protected areas. Many provinces and territories provide opportunities for education, promotion and celebration of Aboriginal heritage places including both support for activities and the production of educational materials. Providing opportunities and empowering Aboriginal people to voice their own heritage are central tenets of these initiatives.

Demonstration archaeology programs, such as those formerly offered at Head-Smashed-In, supplemented interpretive development which included the 1987 opening of a $10 million interpretive centre built into a cliff face to enhance visitor understanding of the regional geography, animal behaviour, the Buffalo Culture of the plains people, the impact of the Europeans, and the science of archaeology. In this sense the role of the government presence at the site is both protective and educative, presenting the story of this World Heritage Site as it is known. First Nations and other Aboriginal groups are often important partners in community archaeology programs. Educational programming offered by universities and short-term excavations offered by most provincial archaeology societies provide further opportunities for public involvement while raising awareness of the importance of archaeological heritage. Archéo-Québec, for example, promotes understanding of some fifty archaeology sites throughout the province.

Parks Canada is implementing a cross-Canada program aimed at making primary and secondary school students more aware of their heritage in national parks and national historic sites. The program will work through educators - provincial departments of education, curriculum developers, teacher associations, publishers and teachers themselves - to develop high quality, curriculum-based learning materials to integrate the stories represented by these heritage places in school curricula. This program is already reaching hundreds of thousands of students.

Overall, the results of these activities are impressive. According to recent polls, 90% of Canadians consider it important that their governments take action to protect wilderness while 91% believe that preservation of the historical record is essential in promoting pride in the country. In public opinion polls, Canadians consistently rate national parks and historic sites among the top five symbols of Canadian identity.

3 Please see Appendix B for a listing of web site addresses for organizations cited in this report.