Over time, the Board has developed a number of criteria and guidelines to frame its advice to the Minister. The “criteria” are those found in the “Criteria for National Historic Significance.” The term “guideline” refers to both the “General Guidelines” as adopted by the Board in 1998, and the “Specific Guidelines,” which are based on Board decisions to address specific aspects of commemoration, adopted through the years.

The booklet Criteria and Guidelines for evaluating subjects of potential national historic significance (PDF, 413 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.

In keeping with the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it is anticipated that the booklet will be a primary focus of review as part of the implementation of Call to Action 79(ii) which calls upon the Government of Canada to revise the policies, criteria, and practices of the National Program of Historical Commemoration to integrate Indigenous Peoples’ history, heritage values and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history.

Criteria for National Historic Significance

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 human history.

Subjects that qualify for national historic significance will meet one or more of the following criteria:

  1. A place may be designated of national historic significance by virtue of a direct association with a nationally significant aspect of Canadian history. An archaeological site, structure, building, group of buildings, district, or cultural landscape of potential national historic significance will:
    1. illustrate an exceptional creative achievement in concept and design, technology and/or planning, or a significant stage in the development of Canada; or
    2. illustrate or symbolize in whole or in part a cultural tradition, a way of life, or ideas important in the development of Canada; or
    3. be most explicitly and meaningfully associated or identified with persons who are deemed of national historic importance; or
    4. be most explicitly and meaningfully associated or identified with events that are deemed of national historic importance.
  2. A person (or persons) may be designated of national historic significance if that person individually or as the representative of a group made an outstanding and lasting contribution to Canadian history.
  3. An event may be designated of national historic significance if it represents a defining action, episode, movement, or experience in Canadian history.

General guidelines

Uniqueness or rarity are not, in themselves, evidence of national historic significance, but may be considered in connection with the above criteria for national historic significance.

Firsts, per se, are not considered for national historic significance.

In general, only one commemoration will be made for each place, person, or event of national historic significance.

PLACES

Buildings, ensembles of buildings, and sites that are 40 years of age or older may be considered for designation of national historic significance.

A place must be in a condition that respects the integrity of its design, materials, workmanship, function and/or setting to be considered for designation of national historic significance, insofar as any of these elements are essential to understand its significance.

The boundaries of a place must be clearly defined for it to be considered for designation as a national historic site.

Large-scale movable heritage properties that would not normally be considered suitable for museum display may be considered for designation of national historic significance.

PERSONS

Persons deceased for at least twenty-five years may be considered for designation of national historic significance, with the exception of Prime Ministers, who are eligible for commemoration immediately upon death.

EVENTS

Events that occurred at least 40 years ago may be considered for designation of national historic significance. Historic events that continue into the more recent past will be evaluated on the basis of what occurred at least 40 years ago.