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ICOMOS Report for the Rideau Canal

This is an archived page (no longer updated)
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As part of the Rideau's World Heritage Site nomination process, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) did a technical evaluation of the the nominated property (the Rideau Canal and the Kingston fortifications). This technical evaluation report made several observations and recommendations.

Visual Values Identification and Protection

Within the report, a deficiency of the site, given the narrow 30 metre buffer zone, was inappropriate development taking place outside the buffer zone, within the visual setting of the canal. The report stated that "ICOMOS considers that the visual setting of the canal needs clearer identification and where appropriate tighter controls to protect identified vistas and the background to key features of the canal, which needs protection. The current arrangement which allow development only if it does not cause environmental damage could be strengthened to include constraints against development that might cause damage to the visual setting of the canal."

They conclude the report with the statement: "ICOMOS further recommends that following the completion of the study of the visual setting of the canal, consideration is given to strengthening its visual protection outside the buffer zone, in order to ensure the visual values of the setting are protected alongside environmental values."

In the above statements, the soft language of ICOMOS saying "consideration should be given" means "you should do it." UNESCO in recent years has been giving more emphasis on the visual setting of World Heritage sites and the issues that can disrupt the visual setting. To address these requests in the 2006 ICOMOS report, Parks Canada, in 2009, inititated their Rideau Corridor Landscape Strategy.

The Rideau Corridor Landscape Strategy is supposed to have two components. The first is to identify the "visual values" of the Rideau Canal. That study was done by a contractor and was completed in the fall of 2012. The study itself is badly flawed, it provides no concrete planning tools and the landscape character maps it produced (and supporting GIS database) are full of errors, rendering that information useless for any planning excercise (see the Rideau Corridor Landscape Strategy page). It doesn't offer any protection since by "protection," ICOMOS means legislation or other legally binding methods. So the next stage of the process is to implement protection of the visual values of the Rideau Canal. It's taken Parks Canada five years to complete the visual values study, we'll see how they do regarding the protection recommendation.

Management Structure

Quoting from the ICOMOS report "Parks Canada staff together present a wide array of expertise covering all the elements of then nominated site – archaeologists, planners, engineers, ecologists, etc and receive good continuing professional development." Parks Canada in recent years, and now much more extremely, has been cutting this expertise. See the Dumbing Down of Parks Canada for details. The heritage expertise that ICOMOS saw as being sufficient, is now for the most part gone. So the heritage management of the site is now clearly at risk.

Criteria For Selection

The Rideau was nominated under three criteria of which ICOMOS accepted two. The first criterion included the statement "It is the only canal dating from the great North American canal-building era of the early 19th century that remains operational [emphasis mine] along its original line with most of its original structures intact." Key in that statement given current operating season reduction proposals by Parks Canada is "remains operational." While there are compelling economic reasons to maintain the operating season, the World Heritage designation of the Rideau is as an operating canal. See the "Heritage Value of an Operating Canal" on the Parks Canada page for more information.

2006 ICOMOS Report on the Rideau Canal (PDF)
(the technical evaluation of the Rideau's nomination)


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© 2012- Ken W. Watson