Addition of the Wrecks of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site of Canada to the Historic Sites of Canada Order

September 24, 2015

A strategic environmental assessment was conducted for the Order Amending the National Sites of Canada Order - Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site of Canada proposal (the proposal) pursuant to the 2010 "Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals" (CEA Agency/Privy Council Office 2010). Strategic environmental assessments provide an opportunity to identify the broad and unintended impacts of proposed management actions resulting from a proposed policy, plan or program, including the cumulative environmental effects of multiple activities. Strategic environmental assessments also inform the subsequent assessment of related projects and are initiated early in the planning process to ensure that environmental effects are fully considered.

National historic sites are places of profound importance to Canada that commemorate persons, places, and events for their national historic significance. They bear witness to this nation's defining moments and illustrate its human creativity and cultural traditions. Each national historic site tells its own unique story, part of the greater story of Canada, contributing a sense of time, identity, and place to our understanding of Canada as a whole. There are more than 972 national historic sites in Canada; of these, 168 are administered by Parks Canada. An important part of Parks Canada's mandate involves protecting the health and wholeness, or commemorative integrity, of the national historic sites it operates. This means preserving the site's cultural resources, communicating its heritage value and national significance, and kindling the respect of people whose decisions and actions affect the site.

In April 2015, Parks Canada added the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site of Canada (the site) and the site description to the Schedule of the National Historic Sites of Canada Order under the Canada National Parks Act. This will provide legal protection for the site under the Canada National Parks Act and regulations made under that Act, enabling Parks Canada to control access to and activities in the area of the wreck of HMS Erebus. Legal protection is required to prohibit unauthorized access to the site, including the disturbance or removal of artifacts, so that the heritage value of the shipwreck can be protected for both present and future generations. Inuit beneficiaries are permitted access to the site area for the purposes of traditional harvesting activities.

The Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror is the first national historic site in Nunavut to be administered by Parks Canada. The site is in Wilmot and Crampton Bay, Queen Maud Gulf, Nunavut, and was established to protect the wreck of HMS Erebus. In 1845, explorer Sir John Franklin set sail from England with two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, in search of a Northwest Passage across what is now Canada's Arctic. The ships and crews vanished, prompting a massive search that continues to this day. A breakthrough was made in September 2014 when an expedition led by Parks Canada discovered the wreck of HMS Erebus.

The expected outcome of the proposal is protection of the cultural resources and support of the commemorative integrity of the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site of Canada. The proposal will have important positive effects on these factors; no important negative environmental effects are expected to result from the proposal.