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Rideau World Heritage Site Management Plan

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The Rideau Canal World Heritage Site Management Plan is the formal commitment by the Government of Canada to the conservation and protection of the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site. It details what Park Canada committed to do to manage the World Heritage Site. We've only been a World Heritage Site for 5 years and already many of those commitments are broken. It's quite clear that Parks Canada misled UNESCO when it submitted this plan, it never intended the fulfill the commitments it made. I'll just do a brief review of some of the commitments made in the management plan.

8.0 Conservation Program for the World Heritage Site.

The first section deals with conservation of the assets. As the Rideau was about to be designated a World Heritage Site in 2007, the hollow quoins (corner supports for the lock gates) at Jones Falls were being re-done in very modern looking cement. This contravenes Parks Canada's Cultural Resource Management Policy. The way Parks Canada got around this was by deeming it a "short term repair" with a promise that the proper long term repair, which would conform to international conservation policies, would be done in 2010/2011. That proper repair has never been done and is not in their capital plan.

We also have the recent example of the 2011 repair to the weir at Jones Falls which was not done in accordance with international conservation principles and practices or Parks Canada's own policies. It also significantly clashes with the visual values of the lockstation.

These are just two example of poor asset management that threatens the authenticity of the site.

Section 8.0 of the Rideau WHS Management Plan also deals with how Parks Canada will ensure that the slackwater sections of the canal are managed and conserved. Several commitments here either aren't being done, or are being poorly done. An example is the regulation of private shoreline works to protect the authenticity of the shoreline of the slackwater canal system as well as its environmental and scenic values. There is no pro-active enforcement, only re-active enforcement. Plus the most effective method to protect the shoreline, education (following the best practice of "education before regulation"), is not being done.

9.0 Presentation of the World Heritage Site

It is noted in this section that Parks Canada Agency’s mandate is to present significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of this heritage. A UNESCO requirement is that Parks Canada communicate the outstanding universal value of the world heritage site. Parks Canada has done an extremely poor job with communication.

Some specific examples include Parks Canada's commitments: To build understanding of the importance of the conservation and protection of the world heritage values of the property and foster stewardship with key decision makers, adjacent property owners, visitors and other interested parties. There has been no communication with property owners and very limited communication to visitors (no World Heritage signage at most lockstation, no brochures). You can drive from the 401 to Smiths Falls and have no clue that the Rideau Canal is a World Heritage site. As an interesting aside, one of the most common questions by the public when I give a Rideau talk is why Parks Canada doesn't promote awareness of the Rideau Canal as a World Heritage Site (and I don't have a good answer for that question).

Another commitment by Parks Canada was to: Establish an outreach and education program to inform communities adjacent to the property of the site’s world heritage values. No such program does or has existed. This is an example of a commitment Parks Canada made which it clearly never intended to fulfill.

Communicating the value of the World Heritage Site to local residents is a core need for the site. One World Heritage Site, the Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany, was de-listed due to inappropriate development. The underlying reason was that the local residents saw no value in it being a World Heritage Site – the value of their World Heritage Site was never properly communicated. Parks Canada shouldn't let the same thing happen to the Rideau.

10.0 Protection of the World Heritage Site

"The policies of the Parks Canada Agency recognize the need for the agency to work with all interested parties to protect the setting of the elements of the nominated property from inappropriate development adjacent to them."

This is a sore point for many people that enjoy the Rideau Canal – we can all cite many examples of inappropriate development taking place along the Rideau. As noted in the section 8.0 discussion, one effective method is education, presenting best practices and educating shoreline owners in their role as stewards of the World Heritage Site. None of that is being done. Parks Canada is "addressing" some of this issue with their Rideau Corridor Landscape Strategy. See the discussion in the ICOMOS section for details.

Parks Canada also committed to "Participate directly in the process for the development of municipal plans, zoning bylaws and the review of development applications." This isn't being done in my township – I doubt it is being done in the 12 other municipalities that border the canal.

11.0 The Involvement of Partners and Stakeholders in Managing the World Heritage Site and its Setting

This section recognises "An extensive network of non-governmental groups is active in cultural resource management, land protection, education and research, and make contributions to the conservation of the property." Parks Canada support for these groups, which was already very weak, has been dwindling – see the Public Engagement section for details.

14.0 Reporting on the State of Conservation of the World Heritage Site

Every six years, the Government of Canada must report on the state of the World Heritage Site. Unfortunately this is self-reporting procedure, Parks Canada will be doing its own evaluation of how it has performed. A copy of that report will presumably be public, we'll see how honest they are and what excuses they provide for not living up to their World Heritage commitments.

2005 Rideau Canal World Heritage Site Management Plan (PDF)
(the plan submitted to UNESCO detailing how Parks Canada would manage the Rideau Canal World Heritage site).


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