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1.0 Principles of Cultural Resource Management

In managing cultural resources Parks Canada will adhere to principles of value, public benefit, understanding, respect, and integrity, and will proceed on a case-by-case basis. These principles are not mutually exclusive; they share common elements and work most effectively when considered as a whole rather than individually. Applying the principles is the key to sound cultural resource management, because the principles provide the means for determining the appropriateness of actions affecting cultural resources. Given the complexity of cultural resources, it is apparent that they cannot be managed on the basis of a general list of approved or prohibited activities. Consequently, all activities that might affect cultural resources, including activities relating to conservation and presentation, will be evaluated, and when approved, implemented in accordance with these principles.

An activity that compromises the commemorative integrity of a national historic site will not be permitted.

The principles provide requisite guidance for treating both the material and non-material aspects of heritage conservation and presentation.

The principles of this policy apply to all agreements that Parks Canada makes with others respecting the management of cultural resources.

The guidance provided by these principles is made more explicit in directives, manuals, standards and guidelines developed by Parks Canada.

1.1 Principles of Value
1.2 Principles of Public Benefit
1.3 Principles of Understanding
1.4 Principles of Respect
1.5 Principles of Integrity

1.1 Principles of Value

For purposes of this policy, resources that have historic value are called cultural resources. It is for this value that cultural resources will be safeguarded and presented for public benefit.

While all cultural resources are valued, some cultural resources are deemed to be of the highest possible value and will be protected and presented accordingly.

  • Parks Canada will value most highly those cultural resources of national historic significance.

Cultural resources rarely occur in isolation. They often derive their value from being part of a place or a site.

  • Parks Canada will value cultural resources in their context and will consider resources as a whole as well as discrete parts.

Cultural resources will be valued not only for their physical or material properties, but also for the associative and symbolic attributes with which they are imbued, and which frequently form the basis of their historic value.

A cultural resource whose historic value derives from its witness to many periods in history will be respected for that evolution, not just for its existence at a single moment in time.

  • Parks Canada will reveal an underlying or previous physical state of an object, structure or site at the expense of later forms and material only with great caution; when historic value is clearly related to an earlier form, and when knowledge and existing material of that earlier form allow.

A cultural resource that derives its historic value from the interaction of nature and human activities will be valued for both its cultural and natural qualities.

Natural ecosystem features and paleontological resources frequently form an integral part of the history and landscape of national historic sites and historic canals. These features and resources in national historic sites and historic canals will be valued in a manner that reflects the role of Parks Canada as an important environmental steward.

  • Parks Canada will conduct a natural ecosystem feature inventory on lands and waters within national historic sites and historic canals to determine the state of such features and to identify natural features of special significance that should be protected.
  • Wildlife habitat of species that have been designated as rare, threatened or endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), or by the province or territory in which the area is located, will be protected.
  • Natural ecosystem features, which by virtue of their strategic location and physical or biological characteristics are of value to government agencies involved in environmental monitoring and programs to maintain biodiversity and genetic resources in Canada, will be protected.
  • Natural ecosystem features of special significance will be managed in accordance with the principles and relevant policies regarding the protection and management of natural ecosystems set out in section 3.0 of the National Parks Policy, and by the applicable directives and procedures used to guide the management of natural ecosystem features in the national parks.
  • National historic sites and canals with extensive areas may be zoned in order to indicate the types of activities that are appropriate in different parts of the site or canal.

1.2 Principles of Public Benefit

Cultural resources are dedicated and held in trust so that present and future generations may enjoy and benefit from them.

  • Public benefit of cultural resources will be most appropriately achieved by the protection and presentation of that which is of national historic significance.
  • The continuing public benefit of a resource will be assured through ongoing maintenance and care.

To understand and appreciate cultural resources and the sometimes complex themes they illustrate, the public will be provided with information and services that effectively communicate the importance and value of those resources and their themes.

  • Parks Canada will select the means for presenting the history and cultural heritage of its national parks, national historic sites and historic canals in ways that recognize the nature and interests of the public it serves

Parks Canada will encourage public involvement in the protection and presentation of cultural resources at national parks, national historic sites and historic canals.

  • Appropriate uses of cultural resources will be those uses and activities that respect the historic value and physical integrity of the resource, and that promote public understanding and appreciation.
  • Information about cultural resources will be made available. In cases where revealing the location of a cultural resource could constitute a threat to the resource (certain fragile archaeological remains, for example), information about location may be withheld.
  • In the interest of long-term public benefit, new uses that threaten cultural resources of national historic significance will not be considered, and existing uses which threaten them will be discontinued or modified to remove the threat.

1.3 Principles of Understanding

The care and presentation of cultural resources require knowledge and understanding of those resources, of the history they represent, and of the most effective means to communicate that history to the public for whom the resources are held in trust.

  • Cultural resource management activities will be based on knowledge, and professional and technical skills and expertise.
  • Parks Canada will integrate the contributions of relevant disciplines in planning and implementing cultural resource management, and will place a particular importance on interdisciplinary teamwork.
  • Adequate research, recording and investigation will precede any action that might affect cultural resources and their presentation.

The importance of genuine public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of cultural resources will be recognized. The understanding of cultural resources requires knowledge that goes beyond a simple knowledge of the physical properties of the resources.

  • Genuine public understanding may require the recording and use of traditional and other knowledge that previously did not exist in written form.
  • Parks Canada will proceed on the basis that the meaning of cultural resources may exist in a continuum ranging from national significance to local or special significance for particular people, and that the two orders of significance can be communicated.
  • Parks Canada will identify the nature and various interests of the public to develop effective means of communication.

Information about cultural resources will be recorded and those records will be maintained for the future.

  • Parks Canada will maintain up-to-date inventories and records on its cultural resources. Dossiers will contain basic data and related documentation, including the results of research and evaluation, records of decision and actions taken. Heritage recording will be carried out on cultural resources of national historic significance.
  • When faced with loss due to human or natural forces and when long-term stabilization or salvage is not possible, cultural resources will be recorded and documented to preserve a public record.

Parks Canada will avoid actions that reduce the potential for long-term conservation and for future understanding and appreciation of a cultural resource and the legacy that it represents.

1.4 Principles of Respect

Those who hold our heritage in trust are responsible for passing on that heritage in ways that maintain its potential for future understanding, appreciation and study. As an irreplaceable part of this heritage, cultural resources will be managed with continuous care and with respect for their historic character; that is, for the qualities for which they are valued.

  • Parks Canada will respect the distinguishing features that constitute the historic character of a cultural resource.
  • Uses of cultural resources will be respectful of, and compatible with, their historic character. This applies equally to the use of landscapes and structures, the display or use of artifacts and to public activities affecting cultural resources.
  • Appropriate visitor activities and public uses of cultural resources at national parks, national historic sites and historic canals will respect the resources and be consistent with the purpose, themes and objectives of the park, historic site or canal.

Trustees are obliged to act in ways that best ensure the continued survival of the resource, with minimum deterioration.

  • Parks Canada will respect cultural resources by using the least destructive and most reversible means to accomplish objectives. Variance from the path of least intrusive action must be justified.
  • Respectful, preventive and continuing maintenance will form an indispensable part of cultural resource management.

1.5 Principles of Integrity

Parks Canada will present the past in a manner that accurately reflects the range and complexity of the human history commemorated at or represented in a national historic site, historic canal or national park.

  • Evidence that is specific to a resource or site will always be preferred to general evidence of a type or period.
  • There are times when one may have to rely on evidence that is indirect, but which is consistent with what is highly probable in the light of known facts and patterns. Conservation and interpretation based on such evidence will be permitted only when the activities founded thereon are based on extensive knowledge, when they are carefully documented and recorded, and when, with respect to the physical features that constitute the historic character of a cultural resource, they are reversible.
  • The use of indirect or comparative evidence will be acknowledged.
  • History will be presented with integrity. This will include the presentation of differing contemporary views, perspectives informed by traditional knowledge, and later interpretations. Parks Canada will not play the role of arbiter of Canada's human history.
  • Depictions of the past without basis in knowledge will not be considered.

Cultural resources should be distinguishable from, and not overwhelmed by, efforts to conserve, enhance and present them.

  • New work of all kinds will be distinguishable from the work of the past.
  • New work will be sensitive to the historic character of the resource or resources of which it forms a part and will not overwhelm those resources.
  • Reconstructions and reproductions of past forms should not be confused with what is genuinely the work of the past. Reproductions and reconstructions will be suitably marked so as to distinguish them from the original and, in the case of national historic sites, will not be used when they impair the commemorative integrity of those sites.