Follow up from the 2000 Report

The case of Mount Royal, Montréal
Founded in 1642, Montreal owes its name to Mont Royal, a hill called ‘the mountain’, around which the city has grown and which now constitutes an exceptional ensemble of historical, landscape, natural, architectural and archaeological significance. Mount Royal Park, created by Frederick Law Olmsted and celebrating its 125th birthday in 2001, is one of the main components, along with vast 19th-century cemeteries, university campuses, pilgrimages and monasteries, hospitals, waterworks and residential neighbourhoods. This ensemble’s value rests on its multiple dimensions, its cultural and heritage diversity and, as such, it is at the same time rich and complex. Its protection is uneven and generally agreed to be insufficient, as the essential nature of such a site challenges the concept underlying current legislation. At the same time, it challenges public authorities to act in a consistent and committed manner to protect and enhance this unique emblem.

In 2000, the ICOMOS First World Report on Heritage at Risk published a notice on the current state of threat and inconsistent protection of this cultural landscape. This was highlighted by the careless sale to private developers by the Federal Government of a piece of land it owned that was part of the historic seigniorial estate of the Sulpician Fathers - without effective heritage impact assessments, thus contradicting some of its own well-renown policies. In addition, there have been a number of cases that illustrate provincial and municipal negligence in terms of the authorisation of insensitive projects.

The Heritage at Risk publication, and its presentation to Quebec and Municipal authorities, resulted in the Ministers of Culture and of Municipal and Metropolitan Affairs putting efforts into developing an appropriate status and protection regime for this unique urban landscape. In the Canadian Confederation, provinces like Quebec have the constitutional powers to protect cultural heritage. The government even made this a priority. Yet, the work is slow and could be hampered, or even shelved, by changes in ministers and high ranking officials, and foreseen elections. Nevertheless, the fact remains that there is now a work agenda that is well known and public scrutiny is actively seeing to it that it be achieved.

Religious Heritage in Québec
The 2000 Report on Heritage at Risk presented the case of the initiative developed in Quebec to set up a programme and a foundation to deal with the vast religious heritage of the province. The model was developed to ensure co-operation and a concerted effort between the Quebec Government and the various communities, working through a special Foundation with representatives of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish traditions and openness to other faiths. In 2001, the growing challenge of re-use of church buildings has become more and more apparent, especially in the case of Montreal where it concerns a great number of significant buildings, which also act as major landmarks in neighbourhoods and ethnic communities.

Cases like the closing down of St-Jean de la Croix and St. Augustine of Canterbury parishes in Montreal, and the sale of the buildings, stained-glass windows, bells and other objects raised a growing concern in the wider public. Although the Roman Catholic Diocese of Montreal had proven to be a national leader for decades in caring for heritage buildings, helping parishes to take better care of their churches, it appears the pressure is now building for the merger of parishes and the sale of their properties as the number of practising Catholics decreases. This has called for a more preventive heritage approach, rather than the business-type approach that appears to be underlying many decisions.

This situation is not unique to Montreal or to Catholic heritage. In Quebec City, an agreement has been passed between the Diocese, the City and the Ministry of Culture to ensure some churches are kept, while a majority are sold or even demolished. The case of religious heritage is also amplified by the worrying situation of all religious congregations that have created a huge heritage of buildings, estates and archives, which is closely knit into the Quebec French-speaking society and culture, but now represents a burden on congregations with less and aging membership. These buildings and estates, such as the Villa Maria ensemble, are also often placed in privileged settings - with an important land value - participating in larger urban or rural landscapes.

Hope for Built Cultural Heritage

According to a Department of Canadian Heritage / Parks Canada report, Canada has lost or destroyed 21% of its built heritage in the last 30 years. Recognising this, and as part of the federal government’s effort to foster Canadian culture, the Canadian Heritage Minister, the Honorable Sheila Copps, announced the ‘Historic Places Initiative’ last May. This is a major investment by the Government of Canada, providing the means to protect built cultural heritage. It includes a proposal for financial tax incentives to assist owners of cultural heritage properties. The $24 million initiative involves three parts:

    1. Creating a national registry for historic places.
    The national registry (which will be available on the internet) will be designed to maintain a database and to develop awareness of historically significant cultural heritage/structures in Canada.

    2. Establishing conservation standards and guidelines.
    To promote responsible conservation practices that help to protect Canada’s irreplaceable cultural resources.

    3. Developing new legislation to protect Classified Federal Heritage Buildings and federally owned National Historic Sites of Canada.
    In addition, financial incentives are under consideration for owners of heritage buildings listed on the national register, providing they follow the Standards for Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.

The Government changes involve a commitment to engage partners from other levels of government (provincial, territorial and municipal), non-governmental organisations such as ICOMOS Canada, and the private and voluntary sectors. This will create the tools to help Canadians play an active role in preserving historic places.
ICOMOS Canada was and still is involved with the development of conservation standards and guidelines. The following excerpt from the draft provides a contextual environment.

The ‘Standards for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada’ are intended to be applied to all historic/cultural resource types included in the Canadian Register of Historic Places. These places can range from battlefields to shipwrecks and other archaeological sites; from urban parks to Aboriginal sacred sites and other cultural landscape; from individual houses and other buildings to entire urban districts; and from bridges to mining headframes and other engineering works. The Standards are neither technical nor case-specific, but rather intended to promote responsible conservation practices that help to protect Canada’s irreplaceable cultural resources. The general standards will cover four aspects: 1) the character/historic place heritage value; 2) the use; 3) the interventions on built cultural heritage; 4) new addition relating to rehabilitation.

Conservation in the context of these Standards is based on safeguarding the character defining elements of a place. These include: spatial configurations, forms, materials, uses, and cultural association or meanings of a historic place, which together comprise the heritage value of a historic place. Conservation may, according to circumstance, include doing nothing to a historic place, maintaining it ‘as-is’; preserving it by stabilising, protecting, maintaining, and/or retaining its character-defining elements; rehabilitating it for a continuing or compatible contemporary use; or restoring it to its state at a particular period in time. In any given project, conservation will frequently include a combination of these activities. The Standards will also include sections to meet ecological and accessibility objectives/requirements for challenged people.

The Guidelines for preserving, rehabilitating, and restoring archaeological sites, landscapes, buildings, and engineering works have been developed to provide direction on the interpretation and application of the Standards for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada. They are intended for owners, managers, and developers of historic places, conservation practitioners, and contractors. They are also intended for project reviewers prior to and after treatment, if compliance with the Standards and Guidelines has been mandated. The format is based on ‘Recommended’ and ‘Not recommended’ activities that are consistent with the Standards and presented in a sequence of lesser to greater intervention on character defining elements / heritage values of a cultural resource.

Heritage at Risk

The historic places initiative from the Government of Canada is a significant first step to create a climate of heritage conservation across Canada and to create mechanisms to reduce Canadian built heritage at risk.

The situation with the waterfront development pressure at Quebec City (World Heritage City), Quebec, is but one notable problem. The following examples of heritage at risk show that many Canadian sites, archaeological and cultural resources, or historic structures are still under imminent threat from environmental impacts, negligence, physical condition, financial support or political decisions.

Eaton’s Store, Winnipeg, Manitoba
This early-1900 commercial building is currently threatened by a proposal for demolition, to make way for the construction of a new arena located in the middle of the downtown area. Should this go ahead, there will be the loss of a downtown landmark infused with civic memories. As of June 2001, the Government of the Province of Manitoba had not yet made a final determination on whether to grant a provincial heritage status to the Eaton’s building, a decision that would have positive consequences by providing protection similar to a municipal designation under the Heritage Buildings Bylaw. In other words, the Eaton’s building would be granted some measure of protection from demolition and be eligible for a wide range of heritage tax credits as well as federal/provincial infrastructure funding.

Effects of shoreline erosion on Archaeological Sites in Canada
Canada is a large country with a very long marine coastline (Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans) and a myriad of shorelines along the edges of lakes and rivers. For more than 10,000 years, people have traveled on Canada’s waters, fished and gathered its marine resources for food, traded and lived beside it, drank it, washed in it, defended their territory and buried their dead near it. Canada’s combined cultural and geological history and climate have resulted in many situations where archaeological resources are under intermittent or constant threat from the damaging effects of shoreline erosion. Any combination of the following forces may be at work: wave action and driftwood, storm surge, flooding, changing water levels due to both natural and human causes, ice damming, melting permafrost, and changing currents and watercourses. These effects can occur on the seacoast, in estuaries and deltas, along rivers and streams and lakeshores, as well as in previously unaffected areas when large areas are flooded to create hydro-electric projects. These effects can occur either suddenly or cumulatively over a long period of time. The result is a loss of the record of human history in these areas.

Archaeological sites and features are often at risk from shoreline erosion, long before structures become threatened. Because they are often buried, or only subtly visible on the surface, their existence is not always documented or even noticed until they are partially destroyed. In fact many archaeological sites are discovered only when they begin to erode from a shoreline, coastline or riverbank. In theoretical terms, archaeological sites that have been inventoried or documented can be assessed for risks or threats and monitored and/or salvaged. However, the inventory of archaeological sites in Canada is not at an advanced stage. In Canada, archaeological sites found on provincial crown-land or private land are protected to varying degrees by provincial statutes. Archaeological sites found on federal land are protected by policy and are the responsibility of the particular federal government department on whose land they are found. All jurisdictions have inventories of one sort or another of known archaeological sites. However, given the size of Canada, the nature of its terrain and the nature of archaeological sites, it is not surprising that the proportion of known to unknown archaeological sites is very small and that large areas have not been surveyed. In fact most survey work is opportunistically generated by environmental assessment.

At both the federal and provincial levels, government departments responsible for heritage attempt to monitor identified sites known to be at risk, and where possible try to mitigate these risks as financial resources permit. The risks include those detailed in the Archaeology section of the Heritage at Risk Report 2000. This update focuses specifically on archaeological sites threatened by coastal or shoreline erosion.

  • Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, Cape Breton Island, Province of Nova Scotia. Features entirely or partially lost or at risk: 18th-century fortifications related to the French occupation of Louisbourg.

  • Kouchibougouac National Park, Province of New Brunswick. Features entirely or partially lost or at risk: archaeological resources associated with a pre-contact Aboriginal occupation of the area.

  • Navy Island National Historic Site, Niagara River, Province of Ontario. Features entirely or partially lost or at risk: camp sites, lithic workshops and human burials related to a pre-contact Aboriginal occupation of the region, and a myriad of Euro-Canadian sites, including late-18th and early 19th-century Naval period sites and 1837 Rebel sites.

  • York Factory National Historic Site, Hayes River mouth where it enters Hudson’s Bay, Province of Manitoba. Features entirely or partially lost or at risk: remains of 18th and 19th-century entrepot and outbuildings of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

  • North Slope, Ivvavik National Park, Yukon Territory. Features entirely or partially lost or at risk: features associated with historic period Inuit occupation of the coast of the Beaufort Sea.

  • Petroglyphs in Kejimkujik National Park, Province of Ontario. Features entirely or partially lost or at risk: 18th and 19th-century petroglyphs carved into soft rock that lies just above lake level.

Approaches / solutions
As with many threats to heritage resources, the first step to finding a solution is identifying the threat and the second is monitoring the resource to determine the source, rate and nature of the loss or damage. In the examples listed above, monitoring programmes have included the following steps. The state and condition of the archaeological resource at a particular point in time is recorded through mapping, measuring and photography. Benchmarks are established, by which any change can be measured. The resource is then monitored on a regular basis to try to determine trends and rates of loss. In several cases, engineering solutions have been examined or tried - such as sandbagging or shoring up the edges of the bank or shoreline, or creating breakwaters or log booms to reduce wave action. However, generally speaking, these are only short-term solutions. In many of the cases mentioned, because of the inexorable forces of nature, the effects of the erosion may be mitigated, but cannot be stopped. The last resort is often the recording and/or salvaging of archaeological features, stratigraphy and artefacts before they are washed away.

The former Pickering Airport in Toronto
The former Pickering Airport lands are presently being considered for potential creation of a regional airport. In preparation, the federal agency responsible for Toronto area airports is considering the demolition of over 30 buildings, many dating from the last half of the 19th century. For more than 25 years these buildings have been leased to the federal government by some of the original owners. A significant lost of tangible values would result if they were demolished.

Vacant Heritage Properties at Risk in the Province of Ontario: Two protection approaches
The ACO (Architectural Conservancy of Ontario), an advocate for the protection and conservation of Ontario’s architectural and landscape heritage, has created H.A.L.P. - Historic Architecture Linking Program - Referral System for Vacant Heritage Properties at Risk. Designed to publicise the availability of vacant historic buildings threatened with neglect, demolition or inappropriate alteration, HALP aims to refer interested buyers in the real estate market to heritage properties at risk and is available on the ACO website.
The Trillium Foundation, an Agency of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Cultural and Recreation, is providing financial assistance to the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, the Ontario Heritage Foundation, Community Heritage Ontario and the University of Waterloo who have joined in an effort to ascertain the extent to which Ontario has been losing historically significant buildings over the past 15 years. The research project will commence in September 2001. To learn more about the study, queries can be addressed by email to:

The military site of Ile Ste-Hélène, Habitat 67 and Cité du Havre, Montreal
The City of Montreal owes its existence to the presence of the St. Lawrence River, a mighty waterway whose course was interrupted by a series of rapids that prevented navigation upstream. The first Rapid coming from the Atlantic is the Rapides de Lachine, formerly known as Sault St-Louis, the presence of which forced the establishment of what was to become Montreal. Due to major projects like the St. Lawrence Seaway inaugurated in 1959, most of these rapids were eliminated and the Rapides de Lachine are the last set remaining. The archipelago of Montreal or Hochelaga comprises some 325 islands, the largest one being Montreal’s Island. Facing the older part of the city is Île Ste-Hélène (St. Helen’s Island). St. Helen’s Island has a diverse history that includes the presence of the Indigenous people, agriculture under the French Regime, a military base under British rule, the city’s first major public park (inaugurated in 1874) and a major component of Expo 67, the World Fair that coincided with the Centennial of the Canadian Confederation in 1967. It is also the place where the French burnt their flags in 1760, rather than surrender them to the British.

For most people, the history of St. Helen’s Island is recent, being mostly associated with Expo 67 which transformed the island and its setting by expanding it and creating next to it the Île Notre-Dame. But, from 1818 to 1870, the island was a centre point of the military defence system for Canada, developed after 1812. The system aimed at protecting the vast territory of British North America from an American invasion. The island was an integral part of a well thought-out network of fortified places, including the Citadel in Quebec City, Fort Lennox in the middle of the Richelieu River, Fort Henry in Kingston as well as the Lachine Canal in Montreal and the Rideau Canal in what was to become Ottawa.

In 2001, this military history is represented by a group of heritage buildings on the island. The military site of St. Helen’s Island includes a number of buildings that were strategically placed, taking into account the qualities of the site and its natural setting in terms of topography, geology, vegetation and natural setting. The buildings were created using the special stone of this island. In addition, archaeological resources provide precious information on the different occupations of the site and on landscape features that help understand and trace the history of the place.

Despite this comprehensive cultural heritage, the evolving functions of the site - from military base and arsenal to a recreational park to a world fair site - have reduced the presence and recognition of the military heritage, which is slowly being forgotten. This lack of attention has translated into neglect of the buildings, some of which enjoy a museum function while others - such as the wooden blockhaus - have suffered from vandalism and arson. In addition, St. Helen’s Island is about to live a new phase of its history as the City of Montreal recently sold the fun fair built for Expo 67 to Six Flags, a giant corporation specialising in developing fun fairs and theme parks across North America. This sale included very few clauses to ensure protection of the cultural heritage on the site, including an ancient Belgian Carrousel and modern artwork commissioned for Expo 67. Another risk factor is the selection of Montreal to host the 2005 World Swimming Championship on the island, which will involve alteration and/or demolition of the current basins, pools and bathers pavilion, built in 1930-50s. In the context of such pressures, particular attention will be needed to ensure the preservation of the military and civic heritage of St. Helen’s Island, as well as the more recent components - such as those created for Expo 67.

Located between Old Montreal and St. Helen’s Island is the Pointe de la Cité du Havre. This narrow strip of land extending in the river was created gradually from the end of the 19th century, to prevent the ice pack from impacting the harbour, piers and buildings of the city and to control flooding. Originally called the Mackay Jetty, it was renamed at the time of Expo 67 when it was expanded to host a number of pavilions, many of which still exist although they have found different uses over the years.

Habitat 67, designed by architect Moshe Safdie, is a residential ensemble and one of the most renowned landmarks of Expo 67; it has been acclaimed as a masterpiece of modern architecture. Docomomo recognised it and included it in its World Register. The buildings, with their pure setting and relation to the river and the city, are an emblem of the visionary feast of architecture and planning of the 1967 World Fair, under the theme of ‘Man and his World / Terre des Hommes’.

Although the building is carefully managed by the owners’ association that is now in charge, Habitat 67 - as well as the greater landscape it fits in - is currently at threat in its setting and relationship to the surrounding green spaces, cityscape and water basins. Indeed, the Federal Government, in an action not dissimilar to the one it took when it sold part of the mountain to private developers, has transferred the park land of the Pointe de la Cité du Havre next to Habitat 67 to a governmental corporation mandated to sell it to generate benefits. Newspapers have released the information confirming the interest of the Quebec Pension Funds and some British Developers to built a residential tower on that site and waved the name of international design star Philippe Starck in relation to the project. Because it is not built, this green space, partly landscaped, is essential to the definition of the views linking the old city, St. Helen’s Island and the River. Habitat 67 is an integral part of that landscape and its presence as a landmark would be greatly reduced if the project of a tower is realised on that site, instead of maintaining the existing park.

Fire Destroys 247 Year Old Church in World Heritage Town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

St. John’s Anglican Church, built under Royal Charter in 1754, was a Provincial Heritage Site, a National Historic Site and an integral feature of the Town of Lunenburg, a World Heritage Site. It was the second oldest Anglican church in North America - St. Paul’s in Halifax, Nova Scotia, being four years older.

Originally constructed as a modest New England style meeting house, St. John’s was transformed during the late-19th century into a more flamboyant Gothic Revival landmark. Alterations in the 1870s and 1890s demonstrated the high degree of craftsmanship exhibited by local carpenters at a time when Lunenburg was a respected shipbuilding centre for wooden sailing vessels.

For two and a half centuries, St. John’s Anglican Church was a prominent occupant of Lunenburg’s central public square. It witnessed many important personal and community events, daily punctuating life on the Lunenburg townscape with the ringing of its bells.
The disastrous fire was set around midnight on 31 October 2001, one of many prank fires set on this Halloween night. Although the church was fitted with sprinklers and fire alarms - and the response from firefighters was prompt - the blaze proved impossible to check. An investigation now underway suggests that a copper roof, not an original design feature, added considerably to the difficulty of firefighting. The fire travelled under the metal roof, beyond the reach of the sprinklers, where the firefighters were not able to access it. St. John’s burned well into the following day, and left only parts of exterior walls standing. Fortunately, many interior and exterior building details, as well as church artefacts, have been found in the debris.

Church officials are considering rebuilding St. John’s, and are looking at the nearby example of St. George’s Church, Halifax. A round, wooden church, built in 1800, St. George’s was the target of arson in 1994. Although over 30% of the building fabric was destroyed, St. George’s has now been rebuilt to its original design in a $4.6 million restoration project.

Lunenburg At Risk
The Town of Lunenburg was formally recognised as a World Heritage Site in 1994. The designation cited the continuity of the fishing industry over 225 years, and the existence of some 400 early wooden buildings - residential, public, commercial and industrial - all largely intact, as important defining aspects of the site. Also noted was the formal town plan, expressed by a particular pattern and scale of architecture. The traditional and continuing use of wood as a primary building material is also an important aspect of Lunenburg’s heritage value.

To conserve this World Heritage Site, specific fire fighting plans should be developed for all buildings, most of which are in private ownership. An ongoing program of public awareness would contribute to the larger conservation approach, serving as a positive first step to engage building owners in working with civic officials and the fire department, in the process of developing more specific plans. As the St. John’s fire indicates, specific fire fighting plans should exist for all buildings within this site.



Dernière mise à jour: 30/06/2003 - Web map - Web design -