Engaging Canadians in the planning process

Canada's treasured natural and historic places will be a living legacy, connecting hearts and minds to a stronger, deeper understanding of the very essence of Canada.

Invitation to participate

Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site is in the process of reviewing its management plan. You are invited to participate in the review by sharing your viewpoints and suggestions as part of the public consultation process.

The purpose of this consultation is to invite partners, community stakeholders, residents and Canadians to help shape the development of the management plan which is the official document that will guide management of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal for the next 10 years. It provides direction for protecting cultural and natural resources, as well as improving visitor experiences, outreach and education, and promotional opportunities.

This newsletter outlines the proposed vision for the future desired state of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal and the key strategies that are being considered during the management plan review.

Please take time to review this newsletter and contact us with any suggestions or comments.


The Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site Management Plan is a guiding document that provides Parks Canada’s accountability to Canadians, including Indigenous peoples.

Management plans for national historic sites describe the medium and long-range strategic guidance chosen for protection, presentation and use of these heritage areas. Reviewed every 10 years, each plan embodies the commitments made to the Canadian public by the Minister responsible for Parks Canada.

At the commencement of the planning process, a site assessment is conducted internally and key issues are identified. Opportunities and desired management results for each issue are then drafted.

During the preliminary steps for the Sault Canal plan, five sets of issues and opportunities were identified as major considerations for the new management plan. These include improving the condition of cultural resources, visitor experience enhancements, building Indigenous relationships, strengthening stakeholder relationships, and site operation during and following the ongoing construction projects.

Meetings with First Nations and Métis groups and key stakeholders took place in the summer and fall of 2017 to discuss the identified issues and opportunities and gather feedback and input for the development of a draft management plan. The draft management plan will be posted on the website and presented at a public meeting for feedback from partners, stakeholders and the public.

Proposed vision for the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site

The following vision is proposed for the future desired state of the Sault Ste. Marie National Canal Historic Site:

Located at the edge of downtown Sault Ste. Marie on the shores of the St. Marys River rapids, lies a place with a long history and deep connections for First Nations and Métis peoples. The rapids served as a major fishery and trading centre dating back thousands of years. Over the centuries, these turbulent waters were navigated by skilled fishermen, intrepid explorers, and hardy fur traders, before being harnessed to provide power to turn a small settlement into an industrial city. The construction of an innovative lock system provided passage for commercial vessels and spurred further development.

The Sault Ste. Marie Canal stands as a testament to Canadian ingenuity and engineering achievements. Once the longest lock in the world, it completed an all-Canadian waterway linking the Atlantic Ocean to the interior of the country and helped facilitate the growth of a nation.

The Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site will be:

  • a complex of historic buildings and cultural resources that commemorate the integrity of the site, and provide exceptional opportunities for learning and enjoyment;
  • a well-promoted and welcoming destination with a clear sense of arrival and a variety of interpretive elements to engage visitors;
  • a place where visitors can participate in innovative programming and interactive displays in revitalized heritage buildings;
  • a major regional tourist attraction with diverse experiences for visitors such as food service, accommodation, recreational activities and site rentals;
  • a place where the spirit of reconciliation fosters respectful relationships and First Nations and Métis cultures and histories are presented and celebrated;
  • a community gathering place that welcomes special events and collaborative opportunities with new and existing partners; and
  • a place where visitors connect with nature and history in a park-like setting.

The canal’s beautiful red sandstone buildings, now fully revitalised and open to the public, feature interactive displays and innovative programming designed to share the site’s unique stories. First Nations and Métis cultures and histories are presented and celebrated, and through strong relationships with a variety of partners, the canal has become a community gathering place. As a major regional tourist attraction the canal offers diverse experiences for visitors ranging from food and accommodation to rentals and special events.

This is an urban oasis, a place to escape and connect with nature; to walk among historic buildings and century-old trees, and to discover our nation’s rich and diverse heritage. Today, as in the past, this is a place where people come to gather, share experiences, make connections and build lasting memories.

Key strategies in the draft management plan

The following are brief descriptions of the proposed key strategies in the draft management plan. Specific objectives and targets for each key strategy can be viewed in the draft plan.

  • Key strategy 1: Infrastructure improvements - The foundation for the future
    This strategy is focused on transforming the site into a more engaging and interesting place for visitors to enjoy and learn about the history of Canada. Significant investments in infrastructure will improve the condition of historic buildings to enhance visitor experience, fulfill corporate priorities for conservation and position the canal as a key attraction, boosting visitation and revenue. The completed site will support efficient visitor circulation and access to buildings, enabling visitors to experience the historic site in new and exciting ways.
  • Key strategy 2: Working together with First Nations and Métis partners
    The intent of this strategy is to collaborate with First Nations and Métis partners in the spirit of reconciliation to foster respectful relationships, and support opportunities for economic development. A main objective will be the creation and delivery of new cultural experiences on-site which tell the story and significance of the place before the construction of the canal. It is envisioned that mutual benefits for First Nations, Métis and Parks Canada will result from improved collaboration based on agreements such as the Memorandums of Understanding that have framed a new path forward.
  • Key strategy 3: The gathering place for history and culture in Sault Ste. Marie
    Working with our partners and stakeholders, the canal will be a destination of choice for vacationers and a special gathering place for local and regional residents. New ways for visitors to enjoy and connect with the site through a mix of educational, recreational, leisure and Indigenous cultural activities will draw people back again and again. Collaborating with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard on educational opportunities will support diverse visitor experience opportunities. Raising awareness of the site and attracting new visitors will be achieved through collaboration with local tourism groups and other promotional and outreach activities.
How to participate

You can share your views on any aspect of the draft management plan by:

  • Attending the public meeting on July 10, 2018. Sessions will be held from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. with formal presentations at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
  • Emailing comments to: pc.ConsultationsCSSM-SSMCConsultations.pc@pc.gc.ca
  • Mailing comments to:
    Parks Canada Management Planning
    Sault Ste. Marie National Historic Site of Canada
    1 Canal Drive, Sault Ste. Marie ON P6A 6W4
You can learn more about the management plan here.