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Ontario Heritage Act

Ontario Heritage Act

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS) is charged under Section 2 of the Ontario Heritage Act with the responsibility to “determine policies, priorities and programs for the conservation, protection and preservation of the heritage of Ontario” and so fills the lead provincial government role in terms of direct conservation and protection of cultural resources. The Minister is responsible for determining policies, priorities, and programs for the conservation, protection, and preservation of the heritage of Ontario. These goals are generally accomplished through other legislated processes, such as those required by the Planning Act and Environmental Assessment Act, rather than directly through the Ontario Heritage Act itself.

The Culture Division of the MTCS has the primary administrative responsibility under the Planning Act and Ontario Heritage Act for matters relating to cultural heritage resource conservation including archaeological resource identification and mitigation in advance of land use development, specifically the Archaeology Programs Unit with respect to the latter.

The Ontario Heritage Act governs the general practice of archaeology in the province in order to maintain a professional standard of archaeological research and consultation. The Minister is responsible for issuing licenses to qualified individuals.


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Ontario Heritage Act

Ontario Heritage Act

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS) is charged under Section 2 of the Ontario Heritage Act with the responsibility to “determine policies, priorities and programs for the conservation, protection and preservation of the heritage of Ontario” and so fills the lead provincial government role in terms of direct conservation and protection of cultural resources. The Minister is responsible for determining policies, priorities, and programs for the conservation, protection, and preservation of the heritage of Ontario. These goals are generally accomplished through other legislated processes, such as those required by the Planning Act and Environmental Assessment Act, rather than directly through the Ontario Heritage Act itself.

The Culture Division of the MTCS has the primary administrative responsibility under the Planning Act and Ontario Heritage Act for matters relating to cultural heritage resource conservation including archaeological resource identification and mitigation in advance of land use development, specifically the Archaeology Programs Unit with respect to the latter.

The Ontario Heritage Act governs the general practice of archaeology in the province in order to maintain a professional standard of archaeological research and consultation. The Minister is responsible for issuing licenses to qualified individuals. All consultant archaeologists who undertake Stage 1 to 4 archaeological assessments must be licensed by MTCS. All work conducted by the consultant archaeologist must conform to the standards set forth in the most current Standards and Guidelines for Consulting Archaeologists (2011) authorized by the MTCS and the accompanying bulletins, including “Engaging Aboriginal Communities in Archaeology.”

In changes to the Ontario Heritage Act, outlined in the Government Efficiency Act (2002), it became illegal for any person or agency to alter an archaeological site without a license. This in effect offers automatic protection to all archaeological sites and the City should exercise due diligence in all planning contexts to ensure that archaeological features are protected from disturbance of any nature.

Also, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport’s bulletin entitled Engaging Aboriginal Communities in Archaeology: a Draft Technical Bulletin for Consultant Archaeologists includes standards (Section 1.1) stating that “engagement” must take place:

  • In Stage 3, when assessing the cultural heritage value or interest of an Aboriginal archaeological site that is known to have or appears to have sacred or spiritual importance, or is associated with traditional land uses or geographic features of cultural heritage interest, or is the subject of Aboriginal oral histories. [Section 3.4]
  • At the end of Stage 3, when formulating a strategy to mitigate the impacts on the following types of Indigenous archaeological sites through avoidance and protection or excavation [Sections 3.4 and 3.5]:
  • When investigating rare Indigenous archaeological sites;
  • When dealing with sites identified as sacred or known to contain human remains;
  • When working with Woodland period Indigenous sites;
  • When working with Indigenous archaeological sites where topsoil stripping is contemplated;
  • When working with undisturbed Indigenous sites; and
  • When working with sites previously identified as of interest to an Indigenous community.

It is often assumed that the Indigenous community that is geographically closest to a given project is the most suitable group with whom to consult. However, the complex histories of the Indigenous peoples of London and region, both before and after European contact and colonial settlement, means that such assumptions can be simplistic and detrimental to the success of the entire engagement/consultation process. Under circumstances of this sort there should be an effort to identify all groups that are appropriate (on culture-historical grounds) to act as the designated descendants of those who occupied the region in the past, and who are willing to participate. This identification process is best achieved through negotiation with a variety of communities in order that they may themselves arrive at the final decision. In this way, ancient sites are represented by several communities together. This process should also be followed when an unknown Indigenous burial site is encountered and the landowner is following the process outlined in the Funeral, Burials and Cremation Services Act. The success of the Cemeteries process is dependent upon the co-operation of the landowner, the relevant First Nation(s), and the Cemeteries Registrar.

 

Main Contributor: Dr. Ron Williamson, ASI Heritage

Ontario Heritage Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. 0.18