We are responsible for 171 national historic sites across the country. These are varied places and tell many chapters in the story of Canada from time immemorial until the 20th century. Parks Canada also acts as the secretariat for the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which advises the minister for Parks Canada on the designations of persons, places and events of national historic significance. We administer a number of programs, including heritage railway stations, heritage lighthouses and federal heritage buildings. The agency is Canada’s representative to the World Heritage Committee and oversees the program for world heritage sites.
The framework on commemoration that we delivered in 2019 is our new system plan for national historic sites. The framework sets priorities for new designations and for the renewal of the way in which history is told at our heritage places. The framework provides a foundation for how we work with others—including, importantly, indigenous peoples—to identify, recount and mark our common past. Our achievements include the discovery and exploration of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which have been collectively designated as national historic sites.
The 2019 archaeological research season was one of the best ever. The Parks Canada underwater archaeology team’s findings contributed to a better understanding of historical and Inuit accounts of the Franklin expedition, and in particular will help establish a clearer picture of the storied ships and their crew.
In 2019 the World Heritage Committee supported the inscription of Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai'pi as Canada’s most recent world heritage site. This landscape in southern Alberta is characterized by hoodoos and rock art. Some of the in situ archaeological remains date back approximately 3,000 years. The landscape is considered sacred to the Blackfoot people. Their centuries-old traditions are perpetuated through ceremonies and enduring respect for places.
Some of the work of your committee has also contributed to the studying of built heritage in Canada, producing in the last session of Parliament the report entitled “Preserving Canada's Heritage: The Foundation for Tomorrow” in 2017. This report made 17 recommendations, many of them relating to the need for legislation to protect federal heritage. As a result of this mandate being given to our minister, we will be developing new legislation for the effective protection of federally owned heritage places, ensuring that these cultural crown jewels are sustained for future generations.
I will conclude my remarks by saying that one of the most effective ways to achieve concrete results in advancing an important objective of this government—reconciliation—is through negotiated agreements and increased roles for indigenous peoples in decision-making. Parks Canada works with approximately 300 indigenous communities. More than 30 places are currently managed through collaborative structures with indigenous peoples. We are engaged in 40 modern treaty negotiation tables and over 30 rights and recognition tables.
Finally, in 2019 Parks Canada published a work plan to address barriers to its work with indigenous peoples. This document, entitled “Mapping Change: Fostering a Culture of Reconciliation within Parks Canada”, sets out commitments to be achieved within a five-year timeline. Commitments include work to support inclusion of indigenous languages in heritage places and collaborative development of messaging regarding the ongoing roles and responsibilities of indigenous peoples as stewards of their traditional territories.