Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's, CPC)
moved that Bill S-220, An Act to protect heritage lighthouses, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-220, seconded by the member for St. John's East.
I would be remiss in my introduction if I did not recognize the hard work done in the other place by Senator Carney to get the bill into the House of Commons. I certainly want to recognize her work.
I also recognize that the bill will occupy a fair amount of time not just from the government side, but from the opposition members, because there is a fair amount of work to do on Bill S-220 in its present form.
In any coastal community lighthouses are an integral part of the landscape. They are part of our culture, our history as a nation, our folklore, our songs and our stories.
The close association of our country to our oceans and our lighthouses is a fundamental part of our Canadian identity. Whether it is the east coast, the west coast, the Arctic, the Great Lakes, the inland waterways, Canadians from all parts of Canada understand the critical role that lighthouses have played in the very development of this nation. Without these majestic towers and the brave and selfless people who ensured that their lights kept burning, our status as a beacon of hope and safety would never have been possible.
In fact, our very role as a trading nation would not have come to be if lighthouses did not mark the way for safe passage for people, commerce and opportunity. Lighthouses have for centuries offered mariners from around the world safe passage and hope. They are part of the core technologies that supported expanded trade and commerce within and between nations.
Increasingly today they are playing a new and important role in the development of our coastal economies. The historic significance of these light towers to the communities of which they are so much a part is irreplaceable, and steps must be taken to preserve and protect Canadian heritage for present and future generations.
Lighthouses are monuments to the Canadian way of life and to the fact that as a country, we depend upon maritime transportation. It would be a great loss if heritage lighthouses were not saved. They are invaluable heritage resources and once gone, so too are the opportunities they represent.
I am truly honoured today to rise in support of this bill that was brought forward originally by my colleague, the late hon. Michael Forrestall, a senator from my province of Nova Scotia who first championed this initiative back in April 2000 and tirelessly worked to ensure its passage. Senator Forrestall said it well several years ago when he stated:
|| I ask all honourable senators familiar with Nova Scotia and the beautiful tourist trails throughout my home province to imagine the Lighthouse Trail without one lighthouse or its outlying structures. Imagine no more Peggy's Cove; imagine no more Grand Manan Island; imagine no more Gannet Rock Lighthouse. Forget about West Point Lighthouse in P.E.I. or Cape Spear Lighthouse in Newfoundland; forget about Langara Point Lighthouse in British Columbia, probably one of the most beautiful, remote and historically important lighthouses in our structure.
|| Lighthouses have been sources of salvation to sailors in littoral waters for hundreds of years and have served as the centres of our coastal communities....They are symbols of man's conquests of the high seas and oceans, and in the past have captured the hearts and souls of people world round, as they were the first sight of land upon return to the homeland. No question exists of their place in the human heart or of their simplistic beauty set against the rugged, dark seas. One does not have to hail from the shores of the Atlantic or the Pacific to be attracted to lighthouses.
As sponsor of this bill to protect heritage lighthouses and also as a native of the Lighthouse Route, I am glad to have this opportunity to talk about a subject that is so dear to my heart.
The bill is aligned with the Fisheries and Oceans lighthouse divestiture program which strives to transfer surplus lighthouses to local communities for continued public purposes.
There is no denying that lighthouses have played a key role in the development of Canada as a nation. Indeed, the establishment of many coastal communities across the country was intrinsically linked to the building of their lighthouses and to the harbours to which they guided travellers.
Lighthouses are great symbols of Canadian heritage. There are more than 20 lighthouses along the Lighthouse Route in my riding of South Shore--St. Margaret's.
I am not alone in my love of this symbol of marine heritage. Canadians and people around the world are familiar with the beauty of one of our country's most famous lighthouses at Peggy's Cove, which again is situated in my own riding of South Shore--St. Margaret's, and whose pictures have graced calendars and tourism posters for many years. It is as Canadian as the sight of a grain elevator in a prairie field of golden wheat, or polar bears on a northern ice floe.
Such Canadian symbolism is enshrined in Bill S-220. It is based on the recognition of the cultural and historic significance of lighthouses as part of our maritime and national heritage. Because of their importance as community sentinels, the bill seeks to provide national protection and processes for disposal to communities for public purposes and alternate use.
Specifically, the bill would protect heritage lighthouses in three ways: by providing for their designation as a heritage lighthouse; by providing for public consultation in this designation process and before the removal, alteration, destruction, sale or other disposition of a designated lighthouse; and by providing that designated heritage lighthouses be reasonably maintained.
Such provisions, indeed the key objectives of Bill S-220, are definitely in keeping with the federal government's efforts to build a culture of heritage conservation in Canada. However, one also has to recognize that there are competing demands for resources from the Government of Canada. The objectives of this bill are not at issue. There are, however, challenges which relate to implementation and particularly in eventual funding requirements.
The bill as currently worded would see Parks Canada, under the direction of the Minister of the Environment, managing the heritage designation process. It would have to task or to establish a new organization to administer the provisions of the bill, including development of criteria for designating, maintaining or altering heritage lighthouses, or carry out research or consult with the public in response to petitions to designate, and applications to alter or demolish heritage lighthouses. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as custodian for most of Canada's lighthouses, would then be tasked with ensuring compliance with these provisions and securing the funding to support these new obligations.
The reality is that new marine technologies, such as satellite based navigation, offer today's mariner modern efficiencies that lighthouses never could, and these new systems are steadily replacing the need for lights. It is true that many lighthouses are starting to deteriorate, and after allocating resources based on program priorities, DFO does not have the financial resources to invest in assets that are or will no longer be required for program purposes.
However, the bill would create statutory maintenance obligations that could not be met through current operational budgets. The bill raises difficult issues that require choices among competing public priorities. The safety and security of mariners remain primary requirements for DFO. The application of any heritage considerations must respect the department's financial reality and its ability to make operational decisions related to current and future uses of lighthouse properties and facilities.
We must ask ourselves if it is a higher priority for taxpayers to invest in replacing the Coast Guard's aging fleet, or carrying out ocean and aquatic research, or the impacts of climate change. These are difficult challenges and we need to make reasonable, responsible choices that balance the interests of all Canadians. The passage of this bill would leave both Parks Canada and DFO at a loss to carry out the new responsibilities under the new act without considerable investment.
At present, there are as many as 750 lighthouse light structures in Canada. Bill S-220 would provide statutory protection to many of them. This would in fact provide even greater protection than most of Canada's historic landmarks have, including the parliamentary precinct where we meet today.
About 95% of the cost to preserve these lighthouses would come under the responsibility of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Without additional funding Fisheries and Oceans Canada would be forced to reallocate funds from existing programs and services. From search and rescue missions provided on a 24-7 basis, to development and investments in small craft harbours, to promoting the sustainable development of our oceans, to supporting a $4 billion seafood export industry, what gets cut when a country's security, environment and the economy are at stake?
Let us take a look at the scope of what Fisheries and Oceans Canada has to deal with on an ongoing basis by painting the big picture of Canada as a maritime nation.
Three of the world's oceans border on our coastline, the longest in the world at about 244,000 kilometres. Our oceans regions total almost six million square kilometres. Eight out of 10 provinces border oceans, as do the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon. The oceans provide recreational, environmental, employment, income and cultural staples to more than seven million Canadians who live in coastal communities.
Specifically, the Atlantic fishing industry employs more than 84,000 people and the Pacific fisheries provide jobs for some 14,000 people and plant workers. Canadian sport fishing injects about $7 billion each year into local economies throughout the country.
In 2006 the export of fish and seafood products to 128 countries totalled $4.1 billion as its contribution to the Canadian economy. British Columbia is our largest exporting province at $987 million, with Nova Scotia coming in second at $974 million, then Newfoundland with $798 million, followed by New Brunswick at $795 million, Quebec at $203 million, and Prince Edward Island is sixth with $194 million.
In addition, Canada boasts the largest freshwater system in the world with our two million lakes and rivers covering 7.6% of our land mass and the world's longest inland waterway at 3,700 kilometres from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Lake Superior.
To support the many and varied users of our coasts and inland waterways, the department is also responsible for maintaining and operating a national network of small craft harbours. We have to take a long, hard, very serious and reasonable look at our ability to maintain the lights the way Bill S-220 would have us do it.
Unfortunately, I am running short of time. This is a bill that is important to Canadians. It is certainly important to Senator Carney. Again, I recognize her hard work in the other place.
I would like to again recognize my former colleague, the late Michael Forrestall, for his work in bringing this issue forward starting in 2000, and also the contributions made by many of the interested groups, including the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, that are eager to take over many of these lights.
I think that members get the picture. This is a challenge. In order to keep these magnificent heritage structures and be able to afford to do it and to be able to run daily operations at DFO, we are finding ourselves in a very unusual situation. We have to find a way to allow the public process to take place, to allow divestiture to take place, to give priority to communities, especially adjacent communities, to give priority to the lights that have a larger and greater heritage component versus ones that may be newer. We have to find a way to do this within the budget before us.
At the fisheries and oceans committee we have a good group. We are all very interested in trying to find a solution to this very difficult problem. I expect that when the bill gets to the committee, with some reasonable amendments we will be able to find that way to preserve these lights for Canadians for perpetuity.
Mr. Scott Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, this is such a great issue not just for coastal Newfoundland and Labrador but for coastal Canada.
We have some of the greatest heritage celebrated in the world when it comes to certainly lighthouses and a perspective of history. I would also like to point out what a lot of people overlook. In tourism brochures and all over the place across western and eastern Canada, we have a tremendous heritage in central parts of Canada as well.
As my hon. colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound is certainly aware of, I think he has about eight lighthouses in his riding. Indeed, that tells us what kind of history we have with lighthouses, not only in east, west and north but also to the centre of this country.
At this point I would like to congratulate Senator Carney on her work on Bill S-220, an act to protect heritage lighthouses, introduced in December 2006. British Columbia Senator Pat Carney's bill will prevent heritage lighthouses that fall under federal jurisdiction from being altered, sold or destroyed without public consultation. Therein lies a fantastic idea, something that I do believe is long overdue.
I would like to point out and commend the work that has been done by the late Senator Forrestall who also did some tremendous work on this.
I would also like to take this time, since I am in a very complimentary mood, to share the compliments and share the hard work that has been done by all my colleagues, especially the ones from Nova Scotia. My colleague from Cape Breton—Canso has done a tremendous amount of work. My NDP colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore has done quite a bit on this file. I would be remiss if I left out my friend and colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's who has long been a champion for this. I commend him for it. Of course, my friend from Îles-de-la-Madeleine, how can I forget the east coast of Quebec where this is necessary.
In the spirit of all this congeniality, I would like to say that indeed we are supporting Bill S-220 for many reasons. I think some of it can be summarized in the hard work that people have done over the years to protect their heritage. Around Newfoundland and Labrador we have lighthouses dating back to being the focal point of coastal communities in the mid-1800s. Lighthouses go back to becoming the focal point of communities for sealers and fishermen all over the eastern parts of the country.
Of course, being from Newfoundland and Labrador, the oldest colony in North America, lighthouses have indeed been an intrinsic part of our past and will continue to be.
“Going Towards the Lights in Atlantic Canada” is a document by the Canadian Register of Historic Places written by Darin MacKinnon. He is the registrar of heritage places with Prince Edward Island and he makes some very good observations. First of all, he says, “Lighthouses stand out”. He says, “Those lonely sentinels are iconic”.
He goes on to say and this is my favourite quote from him and it is very true. He says, “They are beacons from our past”. Indeed they are beacons from our past and something that we should preserve for the future, not only for our children but also for generations to come, many years, 100, 200 years. We should take notice of this.
In 2004 Parks Canada with provincial and territorial partners launched the Canadian Register of Historic Places. It is a searchable online source of information for anybody who is interested in finding out in their nearest vicinity if indeed they do have lighthouses and where they can go and see them.
For those who have an interest in lighthouses and the deep history associated with them, I do not suppose any of my Saskatchewan colleagues would find too much online, but nonetheless we get the idea, whether it be from the Great Lakes to the Arctic.
There are light stations to dwell on. Two recent examples from CRHP listings from Newfoundland and Labrador highlight other buildings associated with lighthouses. I would be remiss if I did not mention one in my own riding which is the Long Point Light Station at Crow Head. It was recently designated in December 2006.
I would also like to point out something that my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso mentioned when he talked about the available funds. I do think and I would compel the government and governments to come, no matter what stripe or colour, to look into a designated fund for our lighthouses as historical pieces.
I understand the limitations. I certainly understand the challenges in doing this for in excess of 500 lighthouses, but as my honourable colleague from the Conservatives pointed out, there has to be something done to preserve the lighthouses that serve to be our beacons from the past.
Also, I will talk about Cape Bonavista, another one that goes way back to the early 1800s and how it has evolved over the years. Through time, it has become a major beacon on the northeast coast. It is not of federal jurisdiction; it is provincial. However, when it comes to lighthouses and protecting our culture, when did jurisdiction ever matter? This is an important issue. It is one that is necessary for each and every colleague in the House.
In the process for Bill S-220, both the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada asserted that there were 750 lighthouses in Canada which would require funding pursuant to the provisions of the bill. The figure has presumably been applied to the cost analysis conducted by these departments. However, on December 7, 2006, during the hearing of Bill S-220 by the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, they pointed out that only 3% of our lighthouses across the nation had genuine heritage protection and only 12% even had partial protection. That exists for 583 of these lighthouses. These are statistics that we should keep in mind as we vote on the bill. I hope we get the support of all our colleagues in the House.
Why is this needed to protect heritage lighthouses? It is for the Government of Canada to examine, recognize, protect and maintain a highly significant group of heritage structures, something with which I cannot see anybody in this legislature or other legislatures across the country disagreeing.
Today, for an example, we also have a great bit of money and attention given to railway stations across the country for their heritage impact. We actually have more lighthouses designated than we do railway stations. Decades ago, the government decided to have a policy where it would recognize and support railway stations for heritage purposes. Today 166 heritage railway stations have been designated by the federal government.
Let us contrast and compare. Lighthouses are beacons of the past and we could say the same for trains and railway stations. Something along that magnitude is indeed required in this situation.
Other examples that we could use are Cape Sable lighthouse, Nova Scotia, Sambro Island gas house in Nova Scotia and Estevan Point in British Columbia. It is a fantastic place for many people along the coastline to see, to get a glimpse of the history and culture of which they do celebrate. I congratulate each and every participant who is involved in that.
Bill S-220 is needed too. There are three major points I will bring out, which is the main reason why we are here today to support the bill. First is to give the public a voice in protecting heritage lighthouses. Second is to provide a systematic and legally binding mechanism for the recognition and protection of lighthouses that are presently owned and operated by the federal government. That is why we are here today. Third, we should provide an opportunity for public consultation before authorization is given for the removal, alteration, destruction, sale, transfer or other disposition of a heritage lighthouse. That is a very necessary component.
Bill S-220 is a very important first step for this incentive. The funding needs to be addressed. In fact, I suggest that maybe the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans could probably look at something along this magnitude if it has not done it before. Perhaps my hon. colleague can point it out. He has more experience on the committee than I do.
I do appreciate the comments in here today. I appreciate Senator Carney and the work that she has done. Indeed, this is something that we can easily support, and we do it with a great amount of enthusiasm.
Mr. Raynald Blais (Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, after that fine speech I would not want to stop us all from getting along. I can see why in the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans we work in a collegial manner for the betterment of those we defend. It is in that spirit that I will speak today on the matter of heritage lighthouses.
However, I will go against what I have heard so far because the Bloc does not intend to support Bill S-220, for various reasons I will explain in the next few minutes.
As I was saying when I asked the question earlier, it is hard to believe that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, finally, in all its wisdom, has come up with an alternative to neglecting the lighthouses and the difficult situation in these areas.
The department thought that a bill like this would allow it to randomly, perhaps after some form of public consultation, determine that a lighthouse at a certain location would be protected. If this desire to cooperate on this does not manifest itself, the lighthouse in question might simply disappear and be dismantled, for lack of funding, as I heard the Conservative member say loud and clear.
I am well aware that we are currently in a situation where small craft harbours are not being maintained as they should be. You know as well as I do how much money is needed not to refurbish, but to renew all the wharves that are deemed essential. If we properly assessed the situation, we would see that there are wharves deemed essential by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and there are other general wharves. The number of general wharves largely outweighs the number of essential ones.
The latest figures show that $470 million is needed to restore the wharves. I get the feeling that the real amount is much higher, since that figure dates back to 2005 or 2006, if I am not mistaken. We are now in 2007. You know as well as I do that with every storm, or every time there are a few more waves, the wharf deteriorates just a little more. As soon as a wharf starts deteriorating, it does not take long before it is run down. Accordingly, the amount of money that should be recommitted to this file increases exponentially.
The small craft harbours file is in a serious situation, and this is a federal responsibility.
The solution every time, for want of money, is to turn to volunteers who work under the harbour authorities. The other solution is to simply put up a fence around these wharves. It is completely irresponsible for any government to do so.
There is a risk associated with the bill tabled today. We are told right up front, and quite openly, that there will be no more money in the budget for heritage lighthouses. However, a committee will be set up to undertake public consultations, but with no guarantees as to the outcome. The minister will reserve the right to decide whether or not a certain lighthouse, considered significant and a heritage property by one community, will be designated, whereas another may not necessarily be given that status. We are promised that there will be money later, as if by magic, to maintain these heritage lighthouses.
I am prepared to have some faith, but not to that point. I do not wish to be blind.
I wish to be responsible and rigorous. Which means that a bill will not solve the problem of the responsibilities of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with respect to heritage lighthouses. It is not that type of bill.
What is really needed is more money for facilities such as lighthouses, small craft harbours and wharves. I have the impression, given that the past can be an indication of what the future holds, that the purpose of the bill is to mask the sad reality and possibly provide a way out for the department. Furthermore, this is all being done under the pretext of designating cultural assets. In this regard, I would have liked to have seen this work carried out in cooperation with the Government of Quebec. The fact that the government is a majority or a minority is not at issue. The Government of Quebec should be consulted where properties—namely lighthouses—could become cultural assets. What will happen to these lighthouses after that?
As soon as a community develops an interest in a lighthouse, does that community have to make a huge financial effort to find the money to refurbish the lighthouse in question? In the end, even though there is a bill, there is no money behind it. As a result, volunteers who want to protect a cultural asset and who are interested in doing something with a heritage lighthouse will be asked to put in a superhuman effort.
In the end, it will turn out that for want of money and real political will, these people will be left to their own devices. This situation is a federal responsibility. This is not about lighthouses in other jurisdictions. These lighthouses belong to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. In terms of protecting jurisdiction, the responsibility falls entirely under Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Also worth emphasizing is the fact that eventually, we may find ourselves with a lighthouse that has to be decontaminated. It might just be the lighthouse, but it could also be the buildings nearby.
We know that mercury was used a lot. Extensive use of mercury has led to the contamination of some lighthouse sites. What will be done about that? Does this mean that volunteers and the community will be asked to do even more to ensure that the so-called federal responsibility to maintain a so-called heritage site is honoured? The problem is being offloaded to volunteers and coastal communities. Because of their attachment to the heritage lighthouse, they will do anything to protect it. Site decontamination could cost $600,000, $1 million, $1.5 million or even $2 million. That is the kind of situation that could arise.
That is why I do not think that the bill before us today meets our expectations. It is not completely contrary to our expectations, but we have to be rigorous and responsible. I do not claim to have the solution, but I think that unfortunately, with respect to the heritage lighthouse issue, given how the department is managing the other file in its portfolio, small craft harbours, we can hardly trust it with respect to its responsibility to adequately maintain the facilities it owns. That is why we will vote against this bill.
Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Eastern Shore, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from South Shore--St. Margaret's, as well as the hon. Senator Pat Carney and the late hon. Senator Forrestall for the tremendous work they did on this file for many years in trying to bring this issue to the forefront.
Bill S-220 is a compilation of some bills that have been introduced not only in the House but in the Senate. My colleague from South Shore--St. Margaret's has a private member's bill on this, as do I. Senator Carney did yeomen's work trying to get the bill through the Senate and then to the House for this discussion.
I can appreciate some of the concerns my colleague from the Bloc Québécois had but I can assure him that the bill would do quite a lot of good, not only for Quebec heritage but for the rest of the country as well.
Are there a couple of concerns? Every bill has some concerns. As the chair of our committee so rightly said, if we can get this bill to committee we can discuss those concerns in a rather pragmatic fashion and we can bring in people from around the country. We can bring in departmental officials, people from the provinces and, quite possibly, those heritage groups that have insisted on taking over responsibility of these lighthouses. We think that in many ways this is a win-win situation.
The federal government does what it wishes to do through automation now. However, with the technology we have these days many lighthouses have become redundant but their structures have historical significance, not just to us in Atlantic Canada but to people right across the country. Every time one of those lighthouses comes down, either through an act of God or through deliberate attempts by us to remove it, we lose a piece of our history.
I have had the benefit of living on both coasts of this great country and I have seen many lighthouses. It is an absolute joy to picnic near a lighthouse and imagine what it was like 100 or 200 years ago when seafarers plied their trade and used the beacon of hope to direct them into a safe harbour.
We have many folklores and stories about lighthouses. Although we may be romanticizing this particular debate, we believe this issue is of significant importance. Just like other historical aspects within Canada, like grain elevators on the prairies or train stations and other things, lighthouses played a significant role for our ancestors.
We are not asking that every lighthouse be protected. We are not asking that every one of them be designated under a heritage aspect. That would be fiscally unwise and fiscally irresponsible. We are asking that those lighthouses of significant historical importance to the country be protected. People in the Dominion Institute and many others can identify those particular lighthouses.
We know that people within the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada, the Coast Guard, et cetera, have expertise on this subject. They could identify the lighthouses that deserve special protection of this nature. We believe that in the end it would actually be fiscally responsible. We also know that many of these lighthouses suffer from environmental contamination and they need to be cleaned up.
As my colleague, who has the honour of living in South Shore--St. Margaret's on the lighthouse route, it is incredible to see the number of tourists from around the world who go to areas like Peggy's Cove, Cape Forchu, Cape Spear in Newfoundland and Langara Island on the west coast and have their pictures taken near what we sometimes call the candy pole or the barbershop pole. Many of the them are in salt and pepper designs as well. These lighthouses are absolutely fantastic. It is absolutely fantastic to explore them, to witness them and to read about their history. When we speak to volunteer groups in the communities that are attached to those lighthouses, we hear their desire to keep those lighthouses.
The love for these lighthouses and their historical significance is something we as politicians should understand more fully. We should also try to assist the volunteer groups in trying to maintain these lighthouses in perpetuity.
The goal of the bill is to eventually get those lighthouses into a state where they can be transferred over to non-profit groups, hopefully within the communities of interest, so that the integrity and the history of these lighthouses can be preserved for many generations to come.
Every time we lose a particular piece of heritage, it is a loss for all of us. I know my hon. colleague from Halifax is very supportive of the bill. I would like to tell my colleague, who is also the chair of our committee, that we in the federal New Democratic Party, as well as the provincial parties across the country, support this initiative.
On some of the concerns that he has outlined that we need to discuss, I am sure we can discuss them in a very pragmatic fashion within our committee.
I would remind the House, as has been mentioned before, that although the members of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans do not necessarily agree on everything, the reality is that I have been on that committee since 1997 and we have done many reports on all aspects of the fishery, and I believe we can work in a collegial fashion to move this issue fairly quickly.
This would really honour a true friend of Nova Scotia and a long time member, not just of the service, but also of the Senate, of the House and of Canada, the late Senator Mike Forrestall. He was a very decent human being. He had a love for this particular issue. We believe that it would be very fitting, in his honour and in his memory, to move a particular issue of this nature forward.
We believe this would be fiscally responsible. We believe that eventually the finances will be in upcoming budgets for this particular initiative. We believe the House of Commons can, once and for all, actually put its stamp on a heritage lighthouse act so that groups, like the Dominion Institute and groups throughout the provinces, the territories and the country, will be able to honestly say that we worked in a manner befitting this Parliament to move this issue forward in, hopefully, a unanimous way one day.
I am sure the Bloc member's concerns can be addressed in our committee as well. I look forward to that day.
Mr. Mark Warawa (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, the sense of wonder and reverence we feel as we learn about the past human activities that laid the foundation of our country stimulate a profound desire to ensure the preservation of historic places, artifacts and structures. It encourages us to want to share these experiences with our families and ensure that future generations can also benefit from them. It motivates us to ensure the protection of natural areas and commemoration of historic places, which is a national priority.
These areas and sites symbolize our national identity. They characterize the way we see ourselves and how others see us as a nation. Through our efforts, we demonstrate to the world a thoughtful, caring attitude toward the national and international treasures of nature and culture so richly bestowed upon Canadians.
Such is the spirit of Bill C-220. It reflects what many Canadians feel when they walk toward a shore and look at a lighthouse. Lighthouses are part of Canada's history. They have ensured safe navigation and docking for tens of thousands of fishermen, ship crew members and passengers and immigrants. The inspiration and knowledge we derive from these special heritage places more than justify our efforts to protect and commemorate them.
Canada has a world-class system of heritage areas and programs designed for the preservation of the most outstanding of our country's treasures. This includes national historic sites, national parks, heritage rivers, historic canals, marine conservation areas, heritage railway stations and heritage buildings, including lighthouses. These special places provide Canadians with outstanding opportunities to learn about and personally experience their rich heritage. These sites are an integral part of what we are, not simply what we were.
The historic sites component of Parks Canada is responsible for Canada's program of historical commemoration which recognizes nationally significant places, persons and events.
The Minister of the Environment designates national historic sites on the advice of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and federal heritage buildings evaluated by the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office and an interdepartmental advisory committee.
More than 100 lighthouses have been designated as national historic sites or as classified or recognized federal heritage buildings. There are other types of heritage buildings, such as old post offices and armouries. I will give a few examples of these precious landmarks of Canadian history.
The first lighthouse on the St. Lawrence and the third oldest in Canada today was erected on Île Verte facing the Saguenay Fjord. The Île Verte light was first lit in 1809. It remained the sole light on the mighty St. Lawrence for the next 21 years.
Today, the private owner keeper's house has been transformed into a bed and breakfast. Every year thousands of visitors from across Canada, North America and Europe have the opportunity to spend some time at this legendary site and learn more about Canada's history.
Gibraltar Point erected in 1808 is the oldest existing lighthouse on the Canadian Great Lakes. The tower, built of limestone, originally stood some 67 feet in height. A 15 foot extension was added in 1832. The lighthouse is no longer in service but he city of Toronto has preserved it as a historic site.
Located on Lake Huron, Point Clark Lighthouse was built between 1855 and 1859. It commemorates the vital role of lighthouses in navigation on the Great Lakes. The 87 foot limestone tower, topped by a 12 sided lantern framed in cast iron, is typical of the six Imperial towers built in the region, a lighthouse style rarely seen elsewhere in Canada. Point Clark Lighthouse is one of Canada's national historic sites. The township of Huron has an agreement with Parks Canada to operate the light keeper's house as a local museum.
Fisgard Lighthouse is a circular brick tower, 56 feet high with an attached dwelling. It was built in 1860 at the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour. Along with Race Rock light, it inaugurated the fixed navigation aids on the Pacific coast of Canada. Even though the lighthouse is still in service, Parks Canada maintains it as a historic site. The former keeper's house now contains exhibits and a video station.
There is no doubt that lighthouses are important to Canadians. They stand against winds, tides and storms. They are a symbol of strength, resilience and Canadian courage and resourcefulness.
But they are not the only type of heritage buildings worth protecting. National historic sites represent thousands of years of human history and hundreds of years of nation building. They have been representative of the diversity of Canada's historic heritage.
National historic sites are located all across Canada. Each national historic site tells its own unique story, part of the greater story of Canada, contributing a sense of time, identity and place to our understanding of Canada as a whole. Each national historic site is part of a system that spans the country, telling the story of Canada's development as a nation.
In her November 2003 report, “Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Federal Government”, the Auditor General questioned the protection of many examples of the same building type, citing lighthouses specifically. In a follow-up report released in February 2007, the Auditor General reiterated some important recommendations, including the need to strengthen the conservation regime for built heritage.
Under the Parks Canada Agency Act, Parks Canada has the responsibility for built heritage programs and historic places in Canada. The agency's objectives include ensuring the commemorative integrity of national historic sites and respect for and conservation of the heritage character of federal heritage buildings.
The processes adopted by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board for the selection of national historic sites and by the Federal Heritage Building Review Office for the evaluation of federal heritage sites are based on recognized selection criteria and in-depth research. They are intended to protect the most outstanding examples of Canadian cultural heritage in all categories of built heritage, not one single type.
In conclusion, protecting our built heritage is about making choices. Which historic places will we choose to protect? What means will we put into play? How will these activities be funded?
As we heard earlier today, not all old buildings can be preserved. The choices are never easy to make, but they have become critically important to the development of protection strategies. We need to make judicious choices in designating heritage buildings and to have appropriate means to ensure their conservation on behalf of all Canadians now and in the future.
We want to examine Bill S-220 carefully. I commend Senator Carney in the other place and the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's for bringing the matter forward in the House to stimulate this important debate. I encourage all members to engage in a fulsome debate on this issue.