Okay, thank you.
Museums are an important part of the fabric of our country, which has more than 2,600 museums, public art galleries, and related heritage institutions, the stewards of our national heritage. Museums have become innovative hubs, becoming more engaged and relevant within our communities. Many Canadian museums have developed social programs meant to engage the public in positive and innovative ways.
Museums help to foster a better understanding of Canadian life, its history, and diverse cultures.
Our community museum is located 15 minutes southwest of Chatham, Ontario, and was one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad. It began in 1849 when Reverend William King and an association known as the Elgin Association, with abolitionist principles, secured 9,000 acres, which were made available to fugitive slaves or to any free blacks who were looking for opportunities for a better life. As a sixth-generation descendant of this community, I am very honoured, privileged, and proud of the rich legacy that my ancestors paved for me so I may continue to tell that rich and amazing story.
There is a very competitive funding process and we, along with other community museums and institutions, have difficulty accessing those funds. There are limited funds in various programs such as the museums assistance program, Young Canada Works, and cost share, or insufficient funds. These programs are viable to sustain lesser known sites but equally as vital in telling Canada's story. These programs need to be reassessed with an increase of funding to assist in the sustainability of heritage and cultural institutions. If we, as Canadians, are proud of our diverse heritage and culture we need to invest for future generations.
I am also the chair of the National Historic Sites Alliance for Ontario, which is a not-for-profit organization that links over 256 national historic sites in the province. The alliance promotes the commemorative integrity and value of national historic sites through co-operative action by site owners, managers, and stakeholders. We are dedicated owners, managers, and stakeholders who work together to conserve and present the rich diversity of national historic sites in Ontario. We have a passionate and energetic board of directors.
For many years, Parks Canada viewed the alliance as a valuable asset and would provide funding for us to host conferences, workshops, and resources. These were valuable hands-on learning opportunities for our members as travel subsidies were also being offered. With budget cuts, we have not been receiving funds from Parks and have been faced with many challenges, but we are still working cohesively to tell that rich, diverse heritage that has shaped this great Canadian mosaic.
The alliance has been neglected by Parks Canada. Parks are not fulfilling their obligations under the Parks Canada Agency Act, which states:
...the Government of Canada wishes to establish an Agency for the purpose of ensuring that Canada’s national parks, national historic sites and related heritage areas are protected and presented for this and future generations....
The alliance could assist with aligning activities with Parks by distributing information binders to newly designated national historic sites. They underestimate the value we have to promote all national historic sites.
I would like to leave you with one last story about our museum.
At the museum this summer there was a couple from north of Peterborough and their goal was to visit 150 sites, mainly museums, in honour of Canada's 150th. They chose Buxton as their first stop. They had seen Canada Over the Edge, which featured Buxton, and also Still Standing starring Jonny Harris. They were so impressed that they just had to come to visit, to ring the bell that was sent from Pittsburgh to Buxton in 1850, to visit an 1850 log cabin to touch the hand-hewn logs, and to visit one of the only schools still existing as a school that was built in 1861 by that first generation removed from slavery. That was just amazing.
This is my community; this is my home; and my hope is sustainable funding so my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will also be able to add another chapter to this marvellous book that our ancestors have started.