Thank you, Madam Chair, and I thank the committee for inviting me to speak to you today.
I'll just give you a little bit of my background so you understand my perspective. I was with Parks Canada for 24 years. I retired as director of the archaeology and history branch. Prior to that, until 1992 I was with the Alberta government. I was head of the Archaeological Survey of Alberta and I oversaw the archaeological research and resource management program with a staff at one time of up to 24 people. I also worked as a private archaeology consultant for five years, mainly in western Canada, and I practised field archaeology everywhere west of Quebec.
I'm here today to speak to you about archaeological resource management in Canada. I first want to give you a broad perspective on provincial and territorial programs. Then I'll focus on federal programs and where I believe there are opportunities for improvement. I won't address shipwrecks and underwater archaeology too much. It's a complicated subject and beyond my ability to speak to you on today.
By archaeology I mean the material remains of human activities in the past, including the indigenous past going back some 20,000 years. It's a non-renewable record. Therefore, that's why archaeologists require high-resolution recovery and recording methodologies. Archaeological sites vary a lot. They can be a single stone artifact. They can be large aboriginal villages. They can be remains of industrial buildings, fur trade forts, and so on. They can be under the ocean, under lakes, on mountain tops, anywhere in the country they can be found.
They can be also given different levels of significance and that's a key way of looking at resource management. There are different scales of assessing significance. You can have qualitative assessments. You can have highly quantitative metric types of assessments for what is scientifically significant, what is historically significant, what is culturally significant. That's something to keep in mind.
All provinces and territories have legislation that protects archaeological resources and the management of those—because they occur mostly below ground but not all below ground—is facilitated by requiring assessments of developments that will disturb the ground such as dams and roads, subdivisions, parking lots, harbour improvements, etc.
The proposed projects are reviewed by the government bodies for the potential to impact those resources. Some types of geographic positioning are more likely to contain archaeological resources than others. If it is prime real estate today, it was prime real estate 20,000 years ago too.
The field assessments then are undertaken under legislation, regulatory requirements, by the proponent, whether it's the provincial government themselves or private industry, at their cost to assess whether there's something there and what its relative value is and then that assessment can lead to more intensive developments to further explore the nature of those resources and to gather those in the interests of the province or territory and the Canadian public. Of course, the artifacts coming from those resources are then curated by those government agencies as well.
The federal situation is different. First, as has been noted by my co-presenters here today, there is no federal legislation, no single statute, that protects archaeological resources other than possibly the Indian Act, which at one time protected only highly specific sites such as historic graves, totem poles, and rock paintings. I do not honestly know whether those provisions are still in place. There was a very strong push for federal archaeological legislation in 1989-90. It was drafted but it did not come to pass.
The push was accompanied by a three-year program called access to archaeology that was administered by the Department of Communications at the time, which provided funding for public archaeology. It was very popular. In particular, that program targeted indigenous community involvement in heritage and archaeology work.
There was another drafting of federal archaeology legislation some 15 years ago with the historic places initiative, which resulted in some expanded protective measures and incentives for built heritage in co-operation with the provinces and territories. However, the archaeological component was not completed.
Parks Canada is the only federal agency that is active in archaeological resource management. At one time, what is now the Canadian Museum of History was funded by the northern oil and gas program to undertake archaeological research in the Arctic, but that was principally a research-driven program and not a resource management one.
Federal lands, of course, are of a much smaller scale than what is contained in the provinces and territories, and those federal lands are unequally distributed. For comparative purposes, with about 440,000 square kilometres in area, federal lands equal approximately two-thirds the size of Alberta. Approximately 93% of federal lands are administered by Parks Canada.
Other federal land managers are the Departments of National Defence, Fisheries and Oceans, Transport, and Indigenous Affairs. Transport, for example, oversees airport lands, and I was heavily involved at one time in helping with the archeology in the Vancouver International Airport. The size of the land area, of course, is only part of the equation in estimating the archaeological resource management needs, since, for example, many DND and DFO lands are in strategic harbour locations and some Indian reserves are in areas that are rich in economic resources.
Again, for comparison, Parks Canada right now has a record of about 10,000 archeological sites. The Province of Alberta has a record of, say, 35,000 to 40,000 archeological sites, and British Columbia has about the same level. Most of those inventories were gathered by resource management from industrial development.
Parks Canada has a staff of archaeologists that undertake resource management principally for park purposes, both in resource management and for the purposes of public history and public education. Parks Canada maintains site records, curates artifacts, informs and engages the public, and works closely with indigenous communities. However, Parks Canada archaeologists also assist with the management of archeological resources on other federal lands.
In other federal lands, archeology is administered in the following manner. Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, archaeological resources are to be considered in determining whether a project will have an environmental effect. Parks Canada is listed as an expert department that is available to assist the relevant department with that determination and with pursuing further action. However, there is no compulsory requirement for that consultation with Parks Canada experts. CEAA is fairly effective for large projects, but it is definitely not effective in capturing archaeological impacts in the case of smaller-scale projects where environmental effects, largely spoken, are negligible.
In any case, it remains the responsibility of the land manager itself, the Department of Environment, for example, or DND, to determine whether an archaeological issue has any possibility. Some CEAA archaeology projects—many, actually—take place without Parks Canada's knowledge. Some projects, such as CN's large Prince Rupert harbour development, take place in a regulatory grey zone largely administered by provinces, but again, they don’t recognize that as their lands.
Outside of CEAA, under federal archaeology policy, Parks Canada has a mandate to provide advice to other departments as well. At the present time, Parks Canada provides support only to some five to 10 federal projects per year, but Parks has no authoritative role nor any proactive role in reviewing federal projects ahead of development, unless requested to do so by the responsible department.
I suspect that there are many projects impacting archaeological resources on federal lands of which Parks Canada is not aware. I base this on some work that I did in the nineties, assisting various government departments when there was a period of government downsizing and changes to Indian reserve management administration. I had contacts with many departments, principally DND, Public Works, DIAND, and DFO in B.C. and Alberta, to assist them with assessments for National Defence base closures, harbour privatizations, logging, infrastructure, and housing developments on Indian reserves, etc. Overseeing private consultants and working on a fee-for-service basis at the time, by 2005, my staff were overseeing up to 40 projects a year. We learned at the time that many more were not being captured in our loosely framed net at the time.
In 1999, that work led to Parks Canada creating a document for DND, a reference manual for land archaeology, which laid out procedures for them for archaeological assessments, including consultations with indigenous communities and identification of appropriate repositories. When these works take place on federal lands these days, the materials that result from them are deposited in repositories identified by the province.
I want to say one thing. Since the 1970s, indigenous communities have become greatly aware of the value of archeological heritage in their territories, and there have been some very good programs, particularly in British Columbia. There is a resource inventory program called RIC, which has trained aboriginal people to participate in forestry impact developments.
I believe that federal archeology legislation would be very welcomed among the professional community in Canada and would be applauded internationally. I think it would benefit from some level of provincial and territorial involvement as well at some scale. Careful thought would need to be given to the curation of collections.
Finally, I believe that meaningful engagement with indigenous communities with respect to archaeology, including consultation at drafting stages, would be a very positive sign of government's intent to responsibly manage the material remains of their history in this country.
I thank the committee for inviting me today.