Thank you very much.
Madam Chair and members of the committee, thank you for your interest in the conservation and preservation of Canada's cultural heritage, a subject that is central to the mandate of the Parks Canada Agency.
It is a privilege to be before you today to share the agency's perspective on the current situation in Canada, to highlight Parks Canada's role, and to suggest some future prospects for the field.
Heritage places are of profound importance to Canada. They reflect the rich heritage of our country and provide an opportunity for Canadians to learn more about our diversity, including the history, cultures and contributions of indigenous peoples. Heritage places are a critical part of Canada's historical record and provide opportunities for employment and incomes, support sustainable tourism and contribute to the quality of life of Canadians by providing character and ambience to neighbourhoods, towns and regions.
Built heritage also helps preserve the environment by protecting existing structures thereby reducing construction and demolition waste.
Parks Canada's mandate is to protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage, and to foster public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment in ways that ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity of these places for present and future generations.
On behalf of the government, Parks Canada contributes to the protection of our national heritage, pursuant to a variety of legislative and policy documents. Over the years and through a patchwork of heritage commemoration and conservation instruments, the government has formally recognized more than 2,150 persons, places, and events of national historic significance, over 1,300 federal heritage buildings, 164 heritage railway stations, 92 heritage lighthouses, and 39 Canadian heritage rivers. In addition, 18 world heritage sites have been inscribed on the world heritage list. Each of these designations carries a different focus. For some it's commemoration, for some it's protection and conservation, and for some it's a combination of both.
Parks Canada has direct stewardship of a 171 national historic sites, as well as other heritage places recognized at the federal level, including more than 500 federal buildings, 10 heritage lighthouses, six Canadian heritage rivers, 12 world heritage sites, and more than 10,000 archeological sites representing the deep and diverse history of indigenous peoples. These heritage places often overlap with one another. For example, the Rideau Canal is a national historic site, a world heritage site, a Canadian heritage river, and home to 26 federal heritage buildings.
For Parks Canada, management of cultural resources is governed by its cultural resource management policy. The main objective of the policy is to ensure that cultural resources administered by Parks Canada are conserved and that the heritage value is shared for the understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of present and future generations.
Cultural resources covered by our policy include buildings, artifacts in our collections, in situ archaeological resources, cultural landscapes, and engineering works. It is applicable to all Parks Canada heritage places.
Other key resources that help the agency manage its cultural resources include the “Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada”, the cultural resource impact analysis process, and Parks Canada's research permitting system.
I'll say few words on each of these. The “Standards and Guidelines” is a pan-Canadian set of principles and guidelines to guide the conservation of historic places. It is a product of the historic places collaboration under the FPT table on culture and heritage. The cultural resource impact analysis process is used to assess the potential impact of proposed projects on cultural resources under the care of Parks Canada and to identify any mitigation measures that may be required. The agency's research and collection permit system allows us to ensure that all natural, archeological, and social science research proposed to be undertaken in the protection heritage areas adheres to our standards.
Parks Canada also has tools to assist with the conservation of federally recognized heritage places owned by others. The federal heritage buildings review office provides guidance to other federal custodians on the conservation of their heritage buildings. The national cost-sharing program for heritage places provides matching funds to eligible non-federal custodians of national historic sites, lighthouses, railway stations, and federal heritage buildings to support heritage conservation and presentation projects.
All of these tools are what we have in our tool box, but the government does face challenges in the conservation of federal heritage.
As was noted by the Auditor General in 2003, built heritage is at risk because of inadequate financial resources allocated to heritage conservation and the lack of legislative framework. For example, there is no legal protection for terrestrial or underwater archeological resources at the federal level, which can put these resources at risk, the vast majority of which are indigenous in origin. The lack of legislative protection also prevents the agency from meeting international standards, such as the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.
At Parks Canada, national historic sites are not protected through specific legislation. Over the years it has often been suggested that a clear framework, established specifically to provide legal protection to national historic sites and other cultural heritage places, would help ensure that cultural heritage conservation is a priority in the context of limited financial resources.
Non-federal owners of national historic sites, heritage lighthouses, and railway stations also face significant challenges to preserve cultural resources. Budget 2016 invested $20 million over two years in the national cost-sharing program, but the allocation is set to return to its permanent reference level of $1 million in 2018. This program has been consistently oversubscribed, with Parks Canada receiving applications for over $107 million in funding since 2009 for a total of just over $40 million in available funding. A decline in funding will create additional pressure on non-federal owners of these important sites and increase risk vis-à-vis conservation of heritage values recognized by the federal government. It could also limit our ability to support development of a heritage plan in relation to the legacy of residential schools as required by the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
There are also external factors that impact on our cultural heritage. The effects of climate change and environmental forces are increasingly being felt by Parks Canada and others, be it the loss of permafrost, extreme weather, or erosion. Some work is currently under way in some Canadian jurisdictions to examine mitigation and adaptation measures to meet the challenges of climate change, including within Parks Canada.
Development pressure also continues to pose challenges for historic places in urban areas. Without legal protection, heritage conservation often takes a back seat to other considerations. While Parks Canada's expertise and leadership is often called upon to help other federal departments manage their heritage places, the federal family would benefit from a more uniform framework of conservation and protection measures for its heritage places, as well as greater definition of roles and responsibilities.
While many challenges remain, the recent investment of $3.6 billion in Parks Canada's assets will address much of the deferred maintenance that has accrued over a number of years, including for historic buildings, engineering works, and other cultural resources. As was noted in budget 2017, a medium and long-term plan will also need to be developed to address ongoing financial needs to ensure that cultural resources stay in good condition.
In conclusion, the Government of Canada has adopted, over time, a number of legislative and policy instruments to protect our irreplaceable cultural heritage. Parks Canada is proud of its leadership role in heritage conservation within the federal family and as the steward of cultural resources.
The challenges we face to conserve our heritage are not new: funding, development, uneven protection and environmental forces. An analysis done in 1999 concluded that in one generation, Canada had lost 20% of its built heritage, and much of what remains continues to be threatened. It is therefore critical to continue exploring the best ways to address these challenges to prevent the continuing loss of Canada's heritage.
Surveys have consistently found that heritage protection is important to Canadians. In the context of Canada 150, Parks Canada's national historic sites have experienced a 27% increase in visitation—this serves to reinforce that Canadians care about the nation's history, culture and heritage.
I am happy to answer any questions you may have.