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Save Our Rideau
Heritage Awareness of the Rideau Canal

Heritage awareness is something that has to be worked at. With the Rideau Canal, heritage awareness is low, for most people their knowledge of the Rideau is of the skateway in Ottawa (since that is very well publicized) or perhaps some vague notion of it as a waterway catering to rich people in large boats. The heritage value of the Rideau Canal, as a significant part of the early development of Canada, and as a marvel of 19th century engineering, is poorly understood. When I say "most people," that would include most politicians, people responsible for allocating our tax dollars. It even included me prior to moving to this area in 1995.

It is a responsibility of Parks Canada to foster heritage awareness of the Rideau Canal - something that is being poorly done these days. Parks Canada's role in fostering heritage awareness should include such things as site interpretation (see examples for Jones Falls or my list of heritage issues), communication with shoreline landowners (their role in the stewardship of the heritage site), school education programs/opportunities, support for third-party efforts to create awareness of Rideau heritage, and more (simply read the rest of this website).

The proof is in the pudding as they say - two tangible results of this lack of awareness are the current government cuts to funding and even internally within Parks Canada, the fact that the Rideau Canal is taking a bigger hit than other parts of the organization. Heritage voices within the organization have been lost (see my comments about Heritage Management)

This isn't new - I've noted many examples where Parks Canada has lost focus on promoting heritage awareness. In 2003, the Auditor General of Canada criticized Parks Canada for similar issues. In that report, the auditor general noted that "Cultural heritage is increasingly considered not only an asset to be protected and valued but also a means of promoting and reinforcing the cultural identity and cohesion of society." The report dealt mostly with built heritage and it was quite critical of how Parks Canada was managing its cultural assets. It was also critical of the federal government of the day for how it funds the preservation of cultural assets. But the root of the issues brought up by the Auditor General is heritage awareness. People have to be educated in the value of the Rideau Canal and its role in developing our Canadian identity.

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