Bill S-215 (Historical)
Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
An Act to protect heritage lighthouses
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
May 29th, 2008 / 3:15 p.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
May 29, 2008
I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Marie Deschamps, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in her capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 29th day of May, 2008, at 2:38 p.m.
The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill S-215, An Act to protect heritage lighthouses—Chapter 16; Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of official development assistance abroad—Chapter 17; Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments)—Chapter 18; and Bill C-459, An Act to establish a Ukrainian Famine and Genocide ("Holodomor") Memorial Day and to recognize the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33 as an act of genocide—Chapter 19.
Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
Private Members' Business
May 1st, 2008 / 6:05 p.m.
Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to bill S-215, in the name of the Bloc Québécois. We will not join the Liberal and Conservative harmonies, although we would like to have a real policy for the enhancement of heritage lighthouses.
In our view, the problem when a bill comes from the Senate or is a private member's bill is that there is no budget attached to it. That is the drama in this case. Even though a bill could be adopted to designate heritage lighthouses, if no money is allocated for the enhancement of lighthouses before offering them to groups who could preserve them, there is a problem. The federal government has probably been the worst property owner in Canada. One just has to look at the West Block to understand that the government has not maintained it as it should have.
In my riding, along the Ottawa River, we have the Carillon Canal and the Grenville Canal, two military canals. The Grenville Canal was handed over to the municipality 25 years ago. It would need an investment of $2 million because it is about to collapse. No money is available for that. The canal was returned to the community. Ask the mayor of Grenville if he wants it. He is trying by all means to find the money and he is stuck with a historical canal, a military monument.
In the study done by the Auditor General, she recommended that half the Carillon Canal—one of the two military canals—be buried instead of being maintained. That is obviously what Heritage Canada did. As it did not have the money to maintain the canal, it decided to fill it up with soil so that only the nice part would be visible. The part that needed to be redone was simply buried.
Along with my colleagues, I would like to support this bill. But for us, it is clear that if the necessary funds are not provided, it is impossible. It is that simple. Many of these canals have been damaged by adverse weather, by the wind and by nature. Sometimes, there has been vandalism, as the member said earlier. Because of new technologies, no one lives in these lighthouses any more. As a result, they are in a poor state and the federal government has simply not maintained them. If we wanted to preserve them for heritage reasons, we would first require the necessary sums of money to restore them. Afterward, it might be possible to offer them to organizations, along with the necessary funds to ensure their proper maintenance in the future.
Once again, it is a pleasure for me to represent Quebec because when the Government of Quebec decides to look after its heritage it provides the necessary money, which the federal government has not done. I would have liked to have heard my colleagues, both Conservatives and Liberals, say that they want to provide the funds required for restoration. Otherwise, I will think they know about it and they are a little embarrassed to have taken part in that.
In fact, over the past 100 years, the Liberals and Conservatives have been in power in Canada and they have not provided the money necessary for maintaining our heritage. It is a shame, because these lighthouses really should be preserved. The necessary money really should be provided. We are not able to provide the money to restore them but we are deciding to adopt a bill that creates a process for assigning that task to either organizations or municipalities.
That does create a problem. Many municipalities have refused to accept that responsibility because some lighthouses have been contaminated by the old technology that produced spills. As a result there is contaminated material near the lighthouses.
No municipality would want to take ownership of a lighthouse that was suspected of being on contaminated ground. There must be a restoration program with the necessary funding to decontaminate the soil, where required, and to restore lighthouses that have been damaged by bad weather or vandalism or, quite simply, because the federal government did not look after them.
If this whole principle had been implemented, the Bloc Québécois would have been happy to support the bill. Clearly, we will not fight a huge battle in this regard. We would like the Liberals and the Conservatives to take note of the fact that they have not maintained their heritage lighthouses, in particular, much less other aspects of their heritage.
I repeat: the best example is just two steps away and that is the West Block. It was not until stones started falling off that anyone realized there was a problem. That is the reality.
That is how the Conservatives and the Liberals have taken care of their assets over the past 100 years. Clearly, we cannot talk about Bill S-215 here today and say that everything is fine and that we can transfer and protect the equipment and the lighthouses.
When this equipment is in bad shape, either because a new technology is now used, because people go there less, or because no one takes care of it anymore, we must act responsibly and say that we will implement measures for heritage lighthouses, that a budget will be allocated and that all the equipment will be restored before handing it over to community organizations, municipalities, and the like.
The bill is sponsored by a Conservative member and that is just great. He could have made sure the necessary funding was in place in order to make a nice announcement today that this legislation will indeed be implemented to protect heritage lighthouses, that there will be a budget of so many millions of dollars to restore them and that a procedure and everything needed to restore and protect them thereafter will be established to ensure they remain part of our heritage. We need to make sure that the organizations that take over the lighthouses have the necessary resources to maintain them and do better than the federal government has done in many cases since those lighthouses were built.
It is clear to us that a restoration program is important. Heritage lighthouses must be protected, but this legislation has to come with a program and the necessary funding to restore the lighthouses. When we read this bill and the comments about this legislative measure, it is as though the communities had let them deteriorate. They were the federal government's property. It is was up to the federal government to maintain them. Then they would not have deteriorated the way they have. They are isolated and the government abandoned them and did not take care of them.
I was listening to the hon. Liberal member tell us that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has demolished a lighthouse because of concerns. I understand, they did not maintain it and did not want anyone in the community to take it over. If there had been any accidents or injuries, the government or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans would have been sued. I understand them. That is what it has come to with much of this equipment that is in a rather advanced state of disrepair. Some is located near contaminated soil. Nothing has ever been done to remedy these situations.
Again, we hope that one day the necessary budgets will be adopted and that the Conservatives, like the Liberals, will understand that it is all well and good to say in a bill that they will protect heritage lighthouses, but that the necessary funding needs to be in place to restore them before they are turned over to the community to be taken care.
Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
Private Members' Business
May 1st, 2008 / 5:40 p.m.
Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON
moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise in the House today to debate third reading of Bill S-215, an act to protect heritage lighthouses. But before I go any further, I would like to personally thank my seconder, the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, for all his hard work on this, and also for the very strong support from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
I would be remiss if I did not mention some of the history of this bill which some may or may not know. This initiative was initiated seven or eight years ago by the late Senator Forrestall. After his unfortunate passing, it was carried on by Senators Carney and Murray. We have had some great support from people all over the country which I will be talking about a little further here.
There is a book called Alone in the Night. It is a collection of stories about the lighthouses of Georgian Bay, where I happen to live, the Manitoulin Islands and the North Channel in Ontario. It speaks about what our Canadian lighthouses really are when the authors wrote:
Lighthouses capture the imagination. There is an obvious appeal in the romantic image of lights as beacons of strength and protection, but the fascination goes beyond that. Pass one of the silent towers and an eerie presence beckons--of untold stories and forgotten memories.
By most standards, we are still a very young country. Lighthouses are a critical and important part of our early history and our development as a nation. From Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia, they have shaped our destiny. Let me offer but a few selected samples.
The Cape Pine light tower, which is a national historic site, was built in 1851 on Newfoundland's southernmost point to guide transatlantic navigation. It was the first of a series of cast iron structures that substituted for fire-prone timber structures. On a personal note, I had the privilege of being at that site last July and it is truly something to see. Its contribution continues today. In recent years it has operated as a pollution research station.
In the Maritimes, we have Sambro Island, just outside the entrance to Halifax Harbour. It is 250 years old this year and the oldest operating lighthouse in all of the Americas. Along the St. Lawrence, L'Isle-Verte and Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouses were built almost 200 and 150 years ago respectively, and both are designated national historic sites. In British Columbia, Race Rocks and Fisgard light stations will be 150 in 2010.
All members know of the important role that lighthouses have played in our development as a nation. With many lighthouses celebrating important anniversaries this year, and I have mentioned just a couple of them, I can think of no better way to honour their importance than for this House to pass Bill S-215.
The fact that this bill has arrived at third reading speaks to the tremendous amount of thought that this House and the Senate have put into protecting our heritage lighthouses. In fact, it is the seventh time that Parliament has considered a bill to protect heritage lighthouses, and I sincerely hope we will be seventh time lucky. Going back to my Irish roots, maybe the luck of the Irish will be upon us here.
There is broad support for this bill in this House, in the Senate, and certainly among Canadians. To date we have spent a considerable amount of time on this bill, with many hours in committee listening to Canadians voice their support for protecting heritage lighthouses. We heard from the Senate, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada, and from academia and community stakeholders on both coasts, in central Canada and Quebec. We have heard the voices of people across this country urging us to pass this legislation and I agree with them.
I can tell members that in my riding of Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound, there are a number of lighthouses, including some of the six historic imperial lighthouses that were constructed between 1855 and 1859, but the condition of some of those majestic properties has deteriorated. I would like to see this bill passed to spare a similar fate to the one on Griffith Island in Georgian Bay, which is in my riding.
Just this past Saturday night I had the pleasure of being on the Chi-Cheemaun, a local Ontario Northlands ferry, where a fundraiser was held, and part of the tour that we had passed by Griffith Island.
While it was very nice to see it at dusk, the light tower standing there with the light is great, but some of the outbuildings have deteriorated. This bill will keep that from happening and hopefully as well to some other important lighthouses in the country.
Why should we pass this bill? Mr. Robert Square, the chair of the Cove Island Lightstation Heritage Association, which is another lighthouse in my riding, said it best:
I believe that the preservation of lighthouses, Bill S-215, is a shared responsibility, shared between the government and our groups, the non-profits. There's a wonderful opportunity here to do some really good work in preserving our lighthouses.
These sentiments were echoed by Mr. David Bradley, chair of the Association of Heritage Industries of Newfoundland and Labrador. In his testimony, he said:
Canada's cultural heritage is vital to our identity and sense of place. The built heritage is the most vivid physical representation of that cultural heritage--
He also told the committee:
As with railway stations, lighthouses have a special significance to Canadians. They are iconic structures. Many have significant architecture. But their importance stems more from their role in Canadian history. Often standing in relative isolation on islands or headlands, they have been the first evidence of Canadian culture encountered by generations of immigrants to this country.
Natalie Bull also appeared before the committee as executive director of the Heritage Canada Foundation. She noted that lighthouses are used extensively in promoting tourism and that many are, as she put it, significant destinations in and of themselves. Peggy's Cove, I think, is one that truly represents that.
Mr. Barry MacDonald, who has worked tirelessly to advance this initiative, spoke to the committee of the bonds that maritime communities have with the lighthouses that served them and their forebearers. He is the president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society and he also noted how volunteer groups are benefiting their community by keeping these bonds intact. He said:
A pioneering effort began in Prince Edward Island in 1984 with the lease of the West Point lighthouse. A well-organized development plan saw ten rooms, a full-menu restaurant, and a gift shop in place by 1987. A real success story, this lighthouse has consistently employed 25 local people and is a major tourism destination on Prince Edward Island.
Casting an eye to New Brunswick, Mr. MacDonald pointed out that the interpretive centre at the Cape Enrage lightstation welcomes more than 40,000 visitors per year to the rugged Fundy shore. The non-profit group that developed it and operates it generates annual revenues of $350,000 and employs about 20 students. This group has been in business since 1993 and has not looked back.
The committee heard time and again of the tremendous benefits to transferring lighthouses to communities. It allows those closest to these heritage sites, those with the greatest stake in their preservation, a chance to have a hand in their future. Non-government groups have more flexibility in fundraising than does a government organization.
The executive director of Heritage B.C., Mr. Rick Goodacre, also appeared before the committee. He noted the contribution of the many volunteers who are adopting and will adopt lighthouses for alternate use. He stressed that the sustainability of lighthouses is dependent on the will to conserve them. He said of Bill S-215:
I think that's why, in this case, special legislation is valuable and necessary. I don't believe the general blanket of federal policy for heritage buildings is sufficient to deal with our historic lighthouses.
I say amen to that.
Mr. Goodacre told the committee that if Bill S-215 is passed, his organization will strive to help implement it in his province and realize its goal of protecting heritage lighthouses. To quote him: “We'll do whatever we can to make this work”.
The witnesses who came before the committee clearly gave Bill S-215 a lot of thought. They recognized that while perhaps not every lighthouse can be saved, they are willing to work with the Government of Canada on this. They ask that we pass this bill so they can continue to be part of the process. They want to ensure that local communities are included and can assist in ensuring the future of their lighthouses.
Speaking on behalf of the heritage community on the east coast, Mr. Bradley, who again, is the chair of the Association of Heritage Industries of Newfoundland and Labrador, said:
--the heritage community recognizes that the compromises made along the way were a necessary part of that process, and we are happy with this bill.
Barry MacDonald, whom I mentioned earlier, was one of those people who helped make this bill work with compromises and I truly thank him for that.
I agree with Mr. Bradley when he added, “It is time to move ahead”.
Returning to Mr. MacDonald of Nova Scotia, he urged passage of the bill to, as he put it:
--recognize and protect the rich architecture that is present in our lighthouses across this country,--
From the grand beacons that rise along our coastlines to the small, wooden pepperpot styles that are unique to Canada, few nations can boast such a varied and treasured collection of lighthouse architecture. Put simply, these heritage sites are worth protecting.
This initiative has been around the block several times and it has always received strong support. Unfortunately, those attempts suffered the fate of many private members' bills, the parliamentary clock simply ran out. However, opportunity has knocked a seventh time.
The fact that this bill is here again speaks volumes to the importance of this proposed legislation to many Canadians who are determined to protect these unique symbols of our past.
There is wide support for this bill in the community and in government. The government sought changes and we in committee, through collaboration and compromise, made them. What we have before us today is quite simply a better bill, a workable solution.
Essentially, the bill requires that a designated heritage lighthouse be reasonably maintained. It facilitates ongoing protection and ensures use for a public purpose when heritage lighthouses are transferred from federal ownership.
We have also addressed the issue of access structures. To better define the scope of the act, we changed the terminology from “related structures” to “related buildings”. These measures will improve protection for heritage lighthouses, whether they stay in federal hands or are transferred to the community.
Thanks again to the input of many stakeholders, Bill S-215 offers a statutory mechanism to identify lighthouses worthy of heritage protection. It puts in place a process to recognize, protect and maintain them. It is a bill that would allow community members to have a say and take a hand in the future of their lighthouses, as well they should.
I call on members of this House to realize the dream of the late Senator Forrestall, who first brought this issue into the spotlight, and pass this bill.
Once again, I would like to thank Senator Carney and Senator Murray for all their hard work. I wish to thank Barry MacDonald and everyone else across this country who have helped to bring this bill to the point that it is. I thank them for their tireless support.
I urge everyone in the House to support this bill.
Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act
Private Members' Business
May 1st, 2008 / 5:40 p.m.
The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-215, An Act to protect heritage lighthouses, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.
May 1st, 2008 / 9:45 a.m.
Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Thank you for the question.
Yes, we are aware of Bill S-215. I believe that a number of our colleagues have appeared before the committee and have provided quite a bit of information.
I believe that with the amendments that were proposed we are in a better position to also transition once the bill is put in place. There are some timelines that will enable us to get ready for the discussion and analysis that needs to be undertaken. Part of that will also depend, I would suggest, on the number of lighthouses that are brought forward and on the interest. There is a fairly consistent process we will be going into and discussing with a number of potential hosts of some of these lighthouses, for divestiture purposes. We will be taking, I would say, a pretty in-depth look at and analysis of the financial implications and the ways in which we would be working with them. But we have not necessarily, at this moment, done any financial analysis.
Mr. Hegge, would you like to add anything to that? No. Okay.
May 1st, 2008 / 9:45 a.m.
Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB
Oh, good, there is lots of time.
My last question deals with Bill S-215. I'm sure the department is aware of Bill S-215. We heard testimony, obviously, about the potential impacts on the budget, and there is a lot of speculation as to what that will be. I understand that nobody can nail that down, because we won't know. Given the timeline, should the bill receive royal assent, and given that we know that there is a scheduled, clockwork type of progression through the process of the bill to designate lighthouses as heritage lighthouses, what plans has the department made at this point in anticipation of that bill coming to pass, which it looks like it will?
Fisheries and Oceans
Committees of the House
April 11th, 2008 / noon
South Shore—St. Margaret's
Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and to the Minister of International Trade
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
In accordance with its order of reference of Tuesday, March 11, 2008, your committee has considered Bill S-215, An Act to protect heritage lighthouses and agreed on Thursday, April 10 to report it with amendment.
April 10th, 2008 / 9:10 a.m.
The Chair Fabian Manning
I call the meeting to order.
Pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, March 11, 2008, the committee will now commence clause-by-clause consideration of Bill S-215.
The preamble and clause 1 are postponed, pursuant to Standing Order 75(1), and I call clause 2.
Mr. Keddy, do you want to move your amendment, G-2?
(On clause 2--Definitions)
April 8th, 2008 / 10:30 a.m.
Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I just want to say that if I do have any time left, I'd like to share it with Mr. Miller from Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound.
I'd like to thank all the witnesses here, but also I have one question for Mr. Goodacre—given the realm of experience that you have, as I think most have, to answer this question.
Right now, Bill S-215 proposes a new process to define lighthouses as heritage buildings. Currently, in all the processes that I'm aware of, we have the ability to designate places as national historic sites through Parks Canada. There are already heritage lighthouses designated as heritage buildings within Parks Canada, and there is already a process through Treasury Board to designate heritage buildings.
The way I see it, this is a fourth process. Could you differentiate for this committee what Bill S-215 adds in light of comparing and contrasting those other three processes?
April 8th, 2008 / 10 a.m.
Chair, Cove Island Lightstation Heritage Association
I think Bill S-215 will allow the non-profit organizations that will eventually be running a lot of the heritage lights the opportunity to take care of them. It'll allow the organizations to work with the government agencies responsible for heritage preservation.
Because we're outside of the government, our organizations would have greater leeway in what we could do as far as fundraising is concerned. Somebody would be far more amiable and willing to give money to a non-profit heritage organization that was taking care of a lighthouse rather than to Fisheries and Oceans. In that way we can work together, whether it's on matching grants or some sort of creative fundraising or cost-sharing arrangements, and think outside the box, so to speak.
Non-profits also have a large volunteer pool they can draw on. One of the communications I've been working on is regarding the restoration of the fog alarm building. I've been in contact with Ingersoll Rand and the company that made the engines for the compressors, Lister diesel. Those two companies are quite interested in lending assistance in our restoration ideas. When the process goes through, Bill S-215 would give those organizations legitimacy in the restoration efforts, along with the government.
April 8th, 2008 / 9:55 a.m.
Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First, Mr. Square, I would like to thank you for your brief. I read it carefully. I know that if you have gone to the trouble of writing a brief—and this takes nothing away from those who did not—it means you have gone the extra mile to prepare for us. So I thank you.
You will understand however that I am uncomfortable with your request or complaint. Yes, heritage lighthouses deserve to be recognized, protected and maintained. Maybe they are recognized by the department but they are not maintained. I think we all agree on this. This means that over time, as they deteriorate, they disappear and it is our loss.
In my view, the bill will not help. I would like to hear you on this. In your submission, Mr. Square, you have a short paragraph dealing with Bill S-215. I would like to give you an opportunity to discuss further the bill under consideration. I would like to hear from you a compelling case that this bill will indeed improve the situation in the short, medium or long term within a financial framework. A recognition framework is one thing, but it is the funding framework, as you know, that makes the difference between a well-maintained lighthouse that stays and one that does not. How do you see this from the point of view of the bill?
April 3rd, 2008 / 9:25 a.m.
David Bradley Chair, Association of Heritage Industries of Newfoundland and Labrador
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to speak to the committee on this issue.
I see a lot of familiar faces from my province around the table, and I guess that's a testament to the importance of fisheries matters to the province. Lighthouses may seem to be relatively less important compared to some of the major issues, but still it's an issue in which a lot of people are interested, and it's something that has to be addressed.
The Association of Heritage Industries, which I represent here today, is an umbrella group of volunteer provincial heritage organizations in Newfoundland and Labrador. The organizations that make up AHI include those with a direct interest or mandate in the protection of built heritage.
Much has been done at the provincial level. Several lighthouses have been preserved by either the provincial government or volunteer heritage groups. In the first half of this decade, the Lighthouse Society of Newfoundland and Labrador worked diligently for the preservation of lighthouses in the province. We also acknowledge that since 2000, coast guard officials in the province have undertaken their own research initiatives to document the knowledge and history of lighthouses. We support these efforts and we support this bill.
Canada's cultural heritage is vital to our identity and sense of place. The built heritage is the most vivid physical representation of that cultural heritage, and is therefore worthy of preservation in all its forms. As with railway stations, lighthouses have a special significance to Canadians. They are iconic structures. Many have significant architecture. But their importance stems more from their role in Canadian history. Often standing in relative isolation on islands or headlands, they have been the first evidence of Canadian culture encountered by generations of immigrants to this country. Many lighthouses have been guiding fishermen and mariners to port since the age of sail, and they stand as a testament to the tragedies throughout history that have befallen thousands of Canadian fishermen and mariners who, due to harsh conditions of climate, coast, and sea, were unable to bring their vessels to port.
How then will Bill S-215 help protect these historic structures? It will not guarantee that every historic lighthouse in Canada has a secure future. However, if passed, the bill will ensure that lighthouses are subjected to a formal process to determine their value for designation and protection. It would compel the government to assess lighthouses in its inventory and to consider which should be saved for posterity. However, when the government decides that it must dispose of a lighthouse, the public will be notified in advance, and in these cases there will be a mechanism for transferring the affected structures to interested third parties who come forward.
Process and communication are the keys here, a process that is relatively straightforward and can be understood and followed by Canadians, and which requires the government to communicate with its citizens before disposing of the structures. In this way, Canadians and their government can work together to protect the country's lighthouses, and this is something that Canadians and their parliamentarians can agree is a desirable goal.
This brings me to the question of support for Bill S-215. I think it's fair to say that this bill has been around the block a few times. It's about to make its seventh appearance before the House of Commons. The issue and its proponents are clearly undeterred by rejection, but there are limits to the ability of even the most resilient advocates to continue the fight in the face of insurmountable obstacles. However, it appears that the landscape has changed now. With each reincarnation of the bill, there has been more discussion and more input at all levels. Lessons have been learned and compromises have been made on all sides.
In fact, we think there is a consensus in the making now. In such circumstances, it is tempting to consider Margaret Thatcher's firmly held definition of consensus as something to which everybody agrees but which nobody is happy about. But I don't think that's the case here. At least it would be fair to say that the heritage community recognizes that the compromises made along the way were a necessary part of that process, and we are happy with this bill.
Mr. Chair, it is time to move ahead. We therefore seek the committee's support for Bill S-215, and we ask that members offer their individual support when the matter comes before the House.
April 3rd, 2008 / 9:10 a.m.
Natalie Bull Executive Director, Heritage Canada Foundation
Thank you very much.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to speak in support of Bill S-215, an act to protect heritage lighthouses.
First I'll say a few words about the Heritage Canada Foundation. We are an independent charitable organization with a public mandate to promote the rehabilitation and sustainable reuse of Canada's built heritage.
I'd like to commend the many Members of Parliament, senators, organizations, and citizens who've worked tirelessly toward making protection for lighthouses a reality. In particular, I'd like to recognize the late Senator Forrestall, Senator Carney, Senator Murray, and members of Parliament Larry Miller, Gerald Keddy, and Peter Stoffer, among many others who've worked to make this a reality.
I think we can all agree on the landmark status many lighthouses have in their communities. Beyond their role as landmarks and icons, lighthouses have undeniable economic value. They are used extensively in marketing so many Canadian places as tourist destinations, and many are significant destinations in and of themselves. Today I'd like to emphasize why Bill S-215 is needed by clarifying how heritage conservation is regulated and legislated in this country. I think it would provide a useful context. I'd also like to share an example from a parallel universe.
All provincial and territorial jurisdictions, and by delegated authority all municipal governments in Canada, have binding heritage statutes and related legal measures they can use to protect heritage places. However, federal historic places—think of the post offices, the Government of Canada buildings and armouries in your own ridings, for example—have no such protection. This is an issue that needs to be addressed. Canada is the only G-8 nation without such protection for its own buildings. Indeed, we're a full 40 years behind the United States in establishing a national heritage act.
Since 1987 the federal government of Canada has dealt with heritage through the federal heritage buildings policy, but this policy framework is insufficient. Indeed, in November 2003 the Auditor General of Canada reported that built heritage under federal control “will be lost to future generations unless action to protect it is taken soon”.
The Auditor General's audit revealed a lack of accountability for heritage protection and called for strengthening the federal legal framework to protect heritage property. In the 1980s this lack of legal protection and lack of accountability reached a crisis point for a particular type of endangered federal heritage building: historic railway stations. Some were being dramatically altered to accommodate changes in railway technology, others were declared redundant and left to deteriorate, and too many were bulldozed into landfill sites while horrified citizens protested. Canadians discovered that no heritage railway station had any form of protection and that they had no voice in determining the future of these iconic structures. Even railway stations that had already been declared national historic sites by the Government of Canada had no legal protection.
Canadians protested, and the government responded with the introduction of the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act. An exact parallel now exists with heritage lighthouses. Like railway stations, they are at risk of becoming an endangered species. New technology and other forces have made many of them redundant, and their federal custodian does not have a heritage conservation mandate. Lighthouses are a special class of heritage facing unusual pressures, and there is a pressing need to get protection in place. Note that even in the U.S., where there is a national heritage act to protect historic places, the legislation that applies for heritage lighthouses exists as a separate amendment, and it's comparable to Bill S-215. So proceeding with Bill S-215 now, without further delay, is entirely appropriate and absolutely essential.
What are the strengths of Bill S-215? It's modelled on the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act, and it basically provides a systematic and legally binding mechanism for the recognition, protection, maintenance, and potential disposal of heritage lighthouses. One of the key deficiencies of current federal heritage policy is that citizens are not consulted when a lighthouse is altered, transferred, or destroyed. This act would engage communities in the protection of their historic places by putting a clear process in place, and it would increase accountability by providing opportunities for public scrutiny.
Briefly, Bill S-215 provides a means for evaluating lighthouses and identifying those worthy of designation as heritage lighthouses. So it's not about all of them; it's about the special ones. It provides an opportunity for public consultation before alterations are made to those designated lighthouses. It requires public notice before transfer, sale, or demolition. It requires that a designated heritage lighthouse be reasonably maintained. And it facilitates ongoing protection and ensures use for a public purpose when heritage lighthouses are transferred out of federal ownership.
These measures will increase the chances of long-term protection for designated lighthouses, whether they stay in the federal inventory or whether they are transferred to other owners.
The amendments under discussion to better define the scope of the act—namely, the change to related buildings rather than related structures—should not deter this committee from supporting this bill and sending it back to the House for third reading.
In closing, thank you all very much for your work in refining this bill. Thank you for this opportunity to contribute to the discussion, and godspeed in your deliberations.
April 3rd, 2008 / 9:10 a.m.
The Chair Fabian Manning
He'll jump to it at 10 o'clock; I have to leave early.
I want to welcome everybody here, and welcome our witnesses. My understanding is that each witness has a few opening remarks they would like to make. The order I have in front of me is that Ms. Natalie Bull will be going first. Ms. Bull represents the Heritage Canada Foundation. Following Ms. Bull will be Barry MacDonald, who's the president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society. Following Barry will be Peter Noreau, vice-president...and I'll be honest with you, sir, I'm not going to try the rest of it, so I'll let you explain your organization when you get the opportunity to speak. And then we have Mr. David Bradley, who is the chair of the Association of Heritage Industries of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Welcome, everybody. As you're fully aware, we started a process last week in regard to Bill S-215. We're delighted that you took the time to join us here today. Following your opening remarks, the floor will be open for questions from our members to ask you anything they might be interested in.
Ms. Bull, the floor is yours.