February 15, 2004
by Canadian Architect
Heritage sites under federal control will be lost to future generations unless action to protect them is undertaken soon, according to Sheila Fraser, Auditor General of Canada, in her Report tabled on February 10th in the House of Commons.
“We must act now. Our cultural heritage is disappearing,” said Ms. Fraser. “More than two-thirds of national historic sites managed by Parks Canada and federal heritage buildings are in poor to fair condition. More than 90 percent of the collections of the National Library of Canada are housed in buildings that do not meet current standards for temperature and humidity.”
The National Archives is having difficulty identifying and collecting documents of historic value and departments give scant attention to record management. A number of national historic sites will require preservation work within two years to prevent the loss of their historic features, or else face being closed to the public. Water leaks that damage the National Library’s collections occur regularly.
“Once a piece of our history is lost, it’s lost forever,” said Ms. Fraser. “And the situation is not improving. Our cultural heritage is continually growing, and what we’ve got is already threatened,” says Ms. Fraser.
According to the Auditor General, current heritage protection regimes have reached their limits. The federal government along with its public and private sector partners needs to re-think its approach to protecting cultural heritage. This review must take into account the current condition of heritage, its continual growth, the resources available, and the increased public interest in heritage issues. The government should also look for ways to make all federal parties that play a role in the protection of cultural heritage accountable.
Parliament does not receive adequate information on the state of cultural heritage protection. The government needs to provide better information on the extent and the long-term implications of conservation problems and their meaning for Canadians. Moreover, it also needs to provide specific information on expected conservation results, their costs, and the results achieved.
The chapter entitled “Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Federal Government” can be found on the Auditor General of Canada’s Web site (www.oag-bvg.gc.ca).