Over time, the Board developed a number of policies, criteria and guidelines which are used as a framework for the evaluation of the subjects to be recommended to the Minister for designation. Evaluation criteria as well as procedures and guidelines for designating subjects are drawn from the minutes of the Board’s meetings. New criteria and guidelines are continually added to this evaluation framework.

The booklet Criteria and Guidelines for evaluating subjects of potential national historic significance (PDF - 404 Kb)  lists the detailed HSMBC criteria and guidelines to date. The following is a summary of the criteria and guidelines that are important to review before nominating a place, event or person for designation.

Criteria and guidelines for all subjects

Any aspect of Canada's human history may be considered for ministerial designation of national historic significance. To be considered for designation, a place, person or event must have had a nationally significant impact on Canadian history, or must illustrate a nationally important aspect of Canadian history.

Uniqueness or rarity is not sufficient for a subject to be designated as historically significant; however, it may be considered in combination with other criteria at the time the application is evaluated.

"Firsts" are not in and of themselves events of national historic significance.

Generally speaking, each place, person or event of national historic significance may be commemorated only once.

The Board does not propose the designation of places outside Canada. However, it may issue a favourable recommendation regarding the commemoration of persons or events abroad.

Criteria and guidelines for places

An archaeological site, structure, building, group of buildings, district or cultural landscape of potential national historic significance must:

  • illustrate an exceptionally creative achievement in concept and design, technology and/or planning, or a significant stage in the development of Canada; or

  • illustrate or symbolize in whole or in part a cultural tradition, a way of life or ideas important in the development of Canada; or

  • be most explicitly and meaningfully associated or identified with one or more persons who are deemed of national historic significance; or

  • be most explicitly and meaningfully associated or identified with one or several events that are deemed of national historic significance.

Only buildings, groups of buildings and places installed before 1975 may be designated.

A place may only be designated as being of national historic significance if the integrity of its design, materials and execution, its function or environment has been maintained, inasmuch as these aspects are essential to understanding its historical significance.

Criteria and guidelines for persons

Applications to commemorate persons may only be submitted 25 or more years after the person’s death, except for Canadian Prime Ministers, who may be designated soon afterwards.

Criteria and guidelines for events

Applications for designating an event may only be submitted 40 years or more after the event has taken place. Historical events that have extended to a more recent past are evaluated according to what happened at least 40 years before.