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HERITAGE ISSUES LIST
It is very disappointing that the new Director of Ontario Waterways, Ms. Jewel Cunningham, has refused my request to review the heritage issues that I first officially raised with Parks Canada back in 2010. It only reinforces the fact that Parks Canada is no longer in the heritage business and has abandoned heritage support for the Rideau Canal <sigh>
In the excitement leading up to World Heritage Status for the Rideau Canal in 2007, it seemed like the Rideau Canal was moving forward in terms of protection and enhancement of its heritage values. After the dust settled from both the World Heritage designation and the 175th anniversary celebrations in 2007, came the realization that Parks Canada was moving backwards, not forwards.
As various public input venues were shut down or left to die (see Public Input) and staff restructuring (and presumably internal policy decisions) reduced the ability of Parks Canada to protect and promote Rideau Canal heritage, I started to compile a list of issues. It was reviewed by various other heritage people and on December 8, 2010, I presented it in person to Don Marrin, Superintendent of the Rideau Canal.
2013 Update: We're now in the post-budget cut era and Parks Canada's lack of attention to heritage has only gotten worse. I've reviewed my list and every issue on it remains. In May 2013, I put in a request to Parks Canada to review the items on the list. I've yet to receive a reply. Bottom line is that Parks Canada has simply abandoned heritage support for the Rideau Canal.
I won't bore you with all the details, the following is a brief synopsis of the 16 items that made up the list.
1.0 PUBLIC INPUT REGARDING CULTURAL HERITAGE ISSUES
Issues surrounding mechanisms for public input into Parks Canada's heritage management of the Rideau Canal. See the Public Input section.
2.0 HERITAGE IN THE MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE
There is no Heritage Manager position and no other position directly looking after heritage issues. See Heritage Management.
3.0 HERITAGE COMMITMENTS IN THE RIDEAU CANAL WORLD HERITAGE SITE MANAGEMENT PLAN
This plan, submitted to UNESCO, outlines commitments made by Parks Canada. Several of these, such as "establish an outreach and education program" and "work with ... landowners ... to ensure that suitable land use policies for adjacent lands are in place to protect the property" are not being done. See the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site Management Plan for details.
4.0 HERITAGE COMMITMENTS IN THE RIDEAU CANAL MANAGEMENT PLAN
This plan outlines how Parks Canada is supposed to manage the Rideau Canal. Sections dealing with "Heritage Presentation" and "Ongoing Partnership and Public Involvement" either aren't being done or poorly done. Read the rest of this website for details. 2013 Update: The restructuring done by Parks Canada to merge the Rideau and Trent-Severn canals was done without a new managment plan being created. The changes have voided most of the existing management plan so the Rideau Canal is operating now with no management plan (Parks says they may do one in 2015).
5.0 HERITAGE LANDSCAPES AT LOCKSTATIONS
This covers everything from various types of heritage viewscapes (lockmaster's houses, engineering structures), to photographic viewpoints, to the placement of garbage cans at the lockstations. See Jones Falls for some examples.
6.0 HERITAGE INFORMATION AT LOCKSTATIONS
Every lockstation should have its own site interpretation brochure. These are easy and inexpensive to create. Additional points of interest signage are also required.
7.0 ON-CANAL HERITAGE INFORMATION OUTSIDE OF LOCKSTATIONS
The Rideau Canal is more than just the lockstations. There are many heritage points along the canal (i.e. Newboro Cut, Morton Dam, The Quarters) that are not being interpreted.
8.0 HERITAGE PRESENTATION ALONG WATERWAY
I recommended doing a on-site heritage review of the entire Rideau Canal (both on land and on water) at least once a year and fix any heritage presentation issues. An example that I pointed out to the Superintendent (and was later fixed) was a tree obscuring the Duke's Profile.
9.0 PUBLIC OUTREACH
The delivery of heritage information/awareness to the public needs improvement. That would include direct communication with Rideau shoreline landowners, facilitating the distribution of third-party Rideau heritage information, presentations to schools and community groups, etc.
10.0 RIDEAU CANAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL DOCUMENTATION
There should be a long term research strategy that defines what archaeology is needed along the canal, identify priorities and identify a timeline for addressing these needs. There are a number of cultural resources (sites directly relating to the building of the Rideau Canal) that have no documentation. This contravenes Parks Canada's own Cultural Resource Management Policy. Currently no work is being done.
11.0 SUPPORT FOR HERITAGE Non-Government Organizations
The Rideau Canal Office has no dynamic working relationships with groups or individuals working to support the heritage of the Rideau Canal. See Public Input for examples.
12.0 SUPPORT FOR RIDEAU HERITAGE RESEARCHERS
Parks Canada no longer has the capacity (or will) to do its own heritage research - but there are still research needs. An extremely cost effective way of doing Rideau research is to pro-actively provide people doing such research on a volunteer basis with the resources they require. From Parks Canada that would include everything from maintaining/expanding their library to digitizing heritage information (documents, images, maps) and posting it on-line.
13.0 HERITAGE INFRASTRUCTURE
The authenticity of the infrastructure of the Rideau Canal threatened by "short term" repairs (see Jones Falls as an example). There is a real danger that the cumulative impact of "short term repairs" will lead to the eventual erosion of the values which led to the National Historic Site/World Heritage Site designations. 2014 Update: There is a number on how much infrastructure repair work is needed for the Rideau Canal: $104.3 million (2012 Dollars)
14.0 HERITAGE PROTECTION - GOVERNMENT MECHANISMS
Parks Canada is not pro-actively soliciting public support into changes in government policies/legislation that can affect the heritage values of the Rideau Canal. An example would be the 2010 revisions to Ontario's Provincial Policy Statement. Parks Canada (quite rightly) attempted to get the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site as a special designation - but it didn't alert public heritage groups and attempt to get their support.
15.0 WORLD HERITAGE SITE PUBLIC AWARENESS
Site awareness of the Rideau Canal as a World Heritage Site is lacking. There is limited signage (you can drive from Highway 401 at Kingston to Smiths Falls with no indication that the Rideau Canal is a World Heritage Site), no brochures, no signage at lockstation, etc. See the World Heritage At Risk page for more details.
16.0 USE OF DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES
Parks Canada is not making full use of digital technologies to promote heritage awareness of the Rideau Canal. I'll admit that I'm a bit of computer nerd so I'm a bit biased in my opinion, but the world is going digital and Parks Canada has been very slow to keep up with this.
The original document ran to 11 pages detailing all these issues. As I noted to the Superintendent, I really don't expect all of these issues to be fixed, but they are all valid issues affecting the heritage of the Rideau Canal.
It boils down to the need for Parks Canada to put heritage first in their decision making and to create public awareness of the heritage value of the Rideau Canal so that it can remain something that is both valued as part of our Canadian identity and cherished into the future.
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