Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
On behalf of ICOMOS Canada, I would like to thank the committee for initiating this important study.
We believe it is timely to address this subject, because it is about protecting a human right, addressing the challenges of climate change, and envisioning a sustainable future for our communities.
I'll start by saying a few words about us to set the context for our comments. ICOMOS is the only global non-governmental organization dedicated to the conservation of the world's cultural heritage buildings, sites, landscapes, and areas. It carries out its work through more than 100 national committees and 28 international scientific committees. ICOMOS has the mandate to advise UNESCO on cultural heritage matters, especially in the context of the world heritage convention. It also focuses on developing theory and guidance for best practices through a series of charters.
At ICOMOS Canada we're the Canadian national committee. We have been active since the early 1970s in influencing the theory and best practices in conservation in Canada as well as abroad. We are an independent and multidisciplinary organization with members from coast to coast to coast. Our current priorities are to develop guidance on cultural landscapes, indigenous heritage, and climate change related issues. Recently, we've taken a leadership role internationally on sustainable development policies and bridging policies between environmental and cultural conservation.
We are happy to share with the committee a few important observations about our country's international commitments and how they translate into federal policies. Our comments are relevant to Parks Canada's mandate, but also to a number of other federal departments, such as Environment and Climate Change Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and Public Services and Procurement Canada.
Canada made commitments towards the protection and conservation of cultural heritage as early as 1976 by adopting the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, or the world heritage convention, as it's known. In 1998, it ratified the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, or the Hague convention. Canada led the development and ratification of UNESCO's Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in 2005.
Cultural heritage is included in international agreements related to the environment and sustainable development adopted by Canada. They include the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the New Urban Agenda, and the new sustainable development agenda.
A look at these commitments allows us to make three main observations. The first is that article 5 of the world heritage convention guides our current assessment of Canada's compliance with it and offers us the opportunity to update our national tools in response to that obligation. In particular, Canada would need to complete the main set of tools required, including legislation to protect, tools to guide decision-making, and financial incentives to implement proper practices.
The second is that the international commitments made by Canada regarding ecosystem protection and climate change include provisions related to protecting cultural heritage. In order to be consistent with these commitments, this should result in the integration of federal policies regarding natural and cultural heritage and a strengthening of federal capacity to protect and conserve cultural heritage through impact assessments, policies towards the reduction of emissions, and infrastructure investments.
The third is that the international commitments made by Canada regarding sustainable development recognize the role of cultural heritage in achieving sustainability and in making cities and human settlements inclusive, resilient, and sustainable. In order to be consistent with these commitments, the federal government should develop policies to guide planning, funding, and partnerships that address sustainability holistically, including the conservation of cultural heritage.
Based on these observations, ICOMOS Canada draws four conclusions.
The first is the disconnect between the practice of cultural heritage conservation internationally and federal legislation. The international context is broader in its definition of cultural heritage, ties together intangible and tangible heritage, considers more closely the relationship between nature and culture, and increasingly focuses on sustainable communities.
The second conclusion is that there is an incomplete set of federal legislative and policy tools to address the conservation of cultural heritage. Without legislation to protect, it is difficult to implement proper guidance and challenging to develop financial incentives. The federal government has a responsibility in regard to the international agreements and can play an important coordinating role with provinces, territories, other jurisdictions, and civil society to meet these commitments.
Third, there is a need to integrate policies related to cultural heritage, the environment, and sustainable development to reflect international commitments. This would strengthen the goals of addressing the impacts of climate change, investing in collective infrastructure especially in cities, and advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
Last, there is an imbalance in investments and resources to support civil society to take action and conserve cultural heritage. This includes the support provided internationally to the advisory bodies to the UNESCO world heritage committee, such as ours.
As such, ICOMOS Canada would like to make a few recommendations to create an ecosystem of national cultural heritage; to establish priorities on sustainability and cultural heritage; and to develop an action plan for Canadians to conserve cultural heritage.
We recommend developing and implementing legislation, tools, and incentives to protect built heritage, archeological sites, underwater heritage, landscapes, and other forms of heritage.
We recommend reviewing the national historic sites program to articulate an active role and responsibility for the federal government in the conservation of all national historic sites. This would include developing appropriate governance models for cultural and indigenous communities to be actively involved at sites administered by the federal government. It would also include developing policies and resourcing Parks Canada to actively contribute to the conservation of sites that the agency does not administer.
We recommend strengthening Parks Canada's role in advising federal departments on the conservation of built and archaeological heritage and enhancing its ability to provide technical advice on cultural heritage matters related to impact assessments, energy efficiency, and climate change adaptation.
We recommend creating an interdepartmental advisory committee with the mandate of articulating goals for a federal sustainable development strategy that includes the conservation of cultural heritage and reflects Canada's international commitment.
We recommend developing and implementing practices to jointly recognize the significance and jointly conserve natural and cultural heritage.
We recommend correcting the imbalance of federal support to offer opportunities for cultural heritage groups to actively contribute to solutions. This includes strengthening existing environmental and infrastructure programs and investing in initiatives that support civil society's ability to engage in the conservation of cultural heritage.
Last, we recommend reviewing the role of Parks Canada in relation to the implementation of the world heritage convention in Canada. This is to recognize the shared responsibility with other jurisdictions and partners of protecting sites of outstanding universal value.
These recommendations are to be understood in the international context that I've just described. You have a supporting document that gives you more details and more fleshed out information on that.
It is important to note that Canada is the only G7 country without comprehensive national heritage legislation, as I echo Mr. Bennett's statement. This is a disservice to the citizens and a missed opportunity for Canadians to apply tools that have made a positive difference to the well-being of communities around the world.
The question of whether to invest and support the conservation of cultural heritage has been answered. Canada is already committed through its international agreements in culture, the environment, and sustainable development. Governments have called upon Canadians to play their part in achieving the goals of building a better society and addressing climate change. ICOMOS Canada is answering that call. We are bringing together professionals and communities to contribute solutions based on a better understanding of the role of cultural heritage in achieving these, such as diverting construction waste from landfill, improving building maintenance, and enhancing the resiliency of cultural landscapes. What we need now is federal leadership to achieve our full potential.