Mr. Speaker, we are here tonight to discuss Bill S-7, an act to protect heritage lighthouses. This bill gives suggestions on the best way to identify them. It also suggests holding a public consultation before giving authorization to remove, alter, destroy, sell, assign, transfer or otherwise dispose of a heritage lighthouse.This would ensure that the designated heritage lighthouses would be well maintained.
More specifically, Bill S-7 suggests that heritage lighthouses be designated by the governor in council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Canadian Heritage. The bill also provides for public petitions to begin the designation process. If requested to do so by the Minister, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada would be responsible for considering all lighthouses and making a recommendation. If the board is involved, it will have to hold public hearings.
Bill S-7 also establishes an objection system. A person may object to the proposed alteration or destruction of a lighthouse. In such a case, the Minister of Canadian Heritage has to decide, in consultation with the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, to approve the proposal or not.
Even if the government of Canada supports the principles underlying Bill S-7, we are still concerned that this bill only deals with only one type of historic buildings, heritage lighthouses. As the members are no doubt aware, of all the federal historic sites, only national historic sites managed by the Parks Canada Agency are protected by the legislation. All historic sites administered by other federal departments or organizations are, at best, protected by a policy.
Apart from shipwrecks that are covered by the Canada Shipping Act, there is at present no federal protection for the archeological resources that can be found on federal properties, along our long coastlines or on the ocean bottom.
The Historic Places Initiativewas launched in 2001 as an overall strategy to seek to involve the public, private and volunteer sectors in the conservation of our man-made heritage. Since then, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Parks Canada Agency have worked with their provincial and territorial partners to create three basic tools to support the Historic Places Initiative: first, a Canadian Register of Historic Places; second, Conservation Standards and Guidelines, and third, a certification process to assess the eligibility of the expenditures and proposals under the contribution program. That program was announced in February 2003 to encourage private investment in the restoration of historic places.
In the fall of 2002, the Minister of Canadian Heritage released a working document entitled “Towards a New ActProtecting Canada's Historic Places”. It included proposals for legislation to provide the Government of Canada with the tools needed to address gaps in legislation in order to protect federal heritage and fulfill its obligations for stewardship of historic places owned by the Government of Canada.
The proposed legislation on historic places, as set out in the consultation paper, would offer legal protection for all historic places on federal lands and protection for archaeological resources on or under federal lands or waters. It would also formally recognize the Canadian Register of Historic Places and commit the Government of Canada to the agreed-upon Conservation Standards and Guidelines.
The proposed legislation would provide protection for federal buildings with heritage value and national historic sites.
The federal government departments would be requiredto ensure that their “classified” buildings are appropriately maintained and protectedagainst harmful or destructive actions.
Maintenance and any proposed change oraddition to a “classified” building would have to be carried out in accordance withthe new conservation standards and guidelines. Twenty-eight lighthouses would be covered by these two designations.
If a “classified” building were ever sold or leased out by the Government of Canada,the consultation document proposes that specific legal instruments be put in place to ensure that the building wouldcontinue to receive the same high level of conservation protection.
For “recognized” buildings, the proposed legislation wouldencourage the use of the standards and guidelines, and require departments,agencies and crown corporations to take into account the heritage status of thebuilding. Ninety-nine lighthouses would be in this category.
The proposed legislation would also ensure that no demolition of any part of national historic sites or “classified” federal heritagebuildings could take place without the consent of Parliament.
The consultation document proposes that allfederal departments, crown corporations and agencies be required to givepriority consideration to using these sites and buildings before opting for new construction or leases.
The conservation of Canada's historic places requires enormous effort by a vastarray of Canadians. The government is determined to engage Canadians inensuring that our country makes the most of the Historic Places Initiative launched in 2001.
The principles behind Bill S-7 deserve our warm applause. In many ways they match the principles of the 2001 initiative and the historic sites legislation proposed in 2002.
Still, the government believes that an approach focusing more on heritage protection is required, an approach that imposes a high degree of rigour in determining which properties should be listed.
The government also believes that the responsibility for protecting the heritage value of these federal properties should be shared by the organizations that take responsibility for the management of real property.
The most important point is that Bill S-7 adopts a fragmentary approach, since it addresses only one type of historic structure, heritage lighthouses. That is unfortunate. We believe that protection should be extended to all federal buildings with a heritage designation.
For these reasons, although the government supports the overall objectives of Bill S-7, it cannot support the bill as introduced without major amendments to allow to meet the objectives effectively. By doing so, the government wants to ensure that the appropriate resources have been identified to allow it to fulfill its obligations under the law.
Canada's historic places are the soul and spirit of this country. These places are evidence of the life and history of those who built Canada. The famous Haida totems, our Parliament Buildings, Africville in Nova Scotia, the historic district in Quebec City, the Cabot Tower in Newfoundland and Labrador, all these historic places are as important to our Canadian identity as the maple leaf, the beaver and the Rockies.
Historic places may be buildings, battlefields, lighthouses, shipwrecks, parks, archeological sites, cultural landscapes, bridges, houses, cemeteries, railway stations, historic districts, ruins, wonders of engineering, schools, canals, courthouses, theatres and marketplaces. They may be large, they may be small.
There may be only fragments left or they may have survived intact.
Historic places provide tangible benefits on the economic, environmental, social and cultural level. They contribute to Canada's social cohesion.
Buildings that have a heritage value enhance the warmth of urban centres. They may be a source of tourist dollars. When visitors come to see them, they spend money in the communities they go through.
Thus, historic places really contribute to job creation, community pride and national well-being in modern Canada.
Historic places connect us to our past, to our future and to one another. Unfortunately—