Parks Canada Archaeological Recording Manual: Excavations and Surveys

APPENDIX G: Human Remains, Cemeteries, and Burial Grounds

Cemeteries, burial grounds, human remains, funerary objects, and grave markers found on federal Crown lands, lands under water, and in waters under the administration and control of Parks Canada are managed in accordance with Management Directive 2.3.1: Human Remains, Cemeteries and Burial Grounds (Parks Canada 2000). Management Directive 2.3.1 applies to all human remains, and their associated sites and material culture, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike.

It provides direction and guidance:

  • to Parks Canada Agency personnel or other agencies, organizations, groups and individuals undertaking activities involving a NPC, NPRC, NMCAC, NHSC, historic canals, and other lands and waters administered and controlled by Parks Canada;
  • concerning where the responsibility and authority lies for decision-making concerning any activity relating to burials, burial grounds, cemeteries, human remains and funerary objects;
  • when a burial site, burial, human remains or funerary objects are discovered accidentally during the course of an archaeological field project or other activities;
  • when human remains are discovered in association with a shipwreck;
  • when human remains and funerary objects are found in collections;
  • for investigation, identification, and consultation;
  • for the repatriation and/or disposition of human remains and associated funerary objects;
  • for the management and maintenance of cemeteries, burial grounds, and grave markers; and
  • for the management and use of documentation, images, or replicas.

The directive stresses the requirement to follow provincial and territorial laws in that the coroner and/or the police must be notified when human remains are discovered. If the site is deemed to be of forensic significance, the coroner and/or the police will lead the investigation. Where human remains are associated with a shipwreck, the Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Transport must be notified.

The directive emphasises that all human remains, funerary objects, cemeteries and burial grounds, shall be treated with respect and dignity. Moreover, any activity related to them must be undertaken, where applicable, in consultation and cooperation with the appropriate group, next of kin, the RCMP, or Veterans Affairs Canada.

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