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Commemorative Integrity


The Parks Canada Agency Act states that "it is in the national interest ... to ensure the commemorative integrity of national historic sites" and "to maintain ecological and commemorative integrity as a prerequisite to the use of national parks and national historic sites" and "to manage visitor use and tourism to ensure both the maintenance of ecological and commemorative integrity" and that the management plan for the site must ensure "commemorative and ecological integrity" So what is this mysterious "Commemorative Integrity"?

The word ‘commemorative' refers to why the Rideau Canal is a national historic site. ‘Integrity' refers to the health, wholeness and honesty of those commemorative elements.

The Rideau Canal was designated a national historic site of Canada on May 15, 1925 because of the significance of:
  • the construction of the canal system,
  • the survival of a high number of original canal structures including locks, blockhouses, dams, weirs and original lockmasters’ houses plus the integrity of most lockstations,
  • the unique historical environment of the canal system.
You can see the full information about its National Historic Site of Canada designation here: Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada

For the Rideau, the two main character defining elements are its built heritage and its heritage landscapes - these carry equal value when it comes to Commemorative Integrity.

A national historic site possesses commemorative integrity when:
  • the resources directly related to the reasons for designation as a national historic site are not impaired or under threat,
  • the reasons for designation as a national historic site are effectively communicated to the public, and
  • the site's heritage values (including those not related to the reasons for designation as a national historic site) are respected in all decisions and actions affecting the site.
This reveals the third component, public education, to ensure that "the reasons for designation as a national historic site are effectively communicated to the public." This means that it is a Parks Canada responsibility to educate the public about the construction of the canal, about the design and use of each of the canal structures and to communicate the history of the canal, particularly as it has shaped the history of the Rideau corridor.

Bottom line is that for the Rideau Canal to be in a state of Commemorative Integrity, its built heritage must be preserved and presented, its heritage landscapes must be preserved and presented and all the reasons why it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada must be effectively communicated to the public.

Currently the Rideau Canal is not in a state of Commemorative Integrity - this can be seen from the rankings of the three main components:

Built Heritage - Score of B - infrastructure funding announced in 2015 and 2016 has raised this from an F to a B+ but problems remain since not all required work is being done, commemorative integrity protocols are not being followed in several instances, and there is still no sustainable capital funding to maintain these structures. Downgraded to B after meeting with CRM staff where it was apparent the proper CRM policies are not being applied to the infrastructure work.

Heritage Landscapes - Score of C- - these are not being paid attention to, Parks Canada does not have a system for the proper evaluation of these. The heritage character of the landscapes are being eroded by things such as excessive vegetation growth (impacting on heritage viewscapes), the use of modern materials in repairs that degrade the heritage character of the landscapes and inappropriate development in heritage landscape areas, including by Parks Canada itself (i.e. oTENTiks, red chairs).

Public Education - Score of F - very little is being done when it comes to public education - there is no one in the management structure directly tasked with heritage communication, no school programs, very limited live interpretation, what signage exists is good but woefully short of what is needed, there is essentialy no history/heritage on their website - the reasons why the Rideau Canal is a National Historic Site simply are not being communicated. Bottom line is that Parks Canada has abandoned the public education component of their own Commemorative Integrity protocols.






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©2012- Ken W. Watson