On the Hunt for Canada’s next World Heritage Site

By George Green

Vice-President, Indigenous Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Parks Canada
Head of the Canadian Delegation to the World Heritage Committee

Earlier this summer, at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, I had the pleasure of witnessing something truly incredible – the inscription of Mistaken Point on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula as a World Heritage Site.

Mistaken Point is now part of the heritage for all of humanity.  It joins 17 other spectacular natural and cultural sites in Canada that have similarly received the most significant international recognition for a heritage property.  Bravo!

The fossils found at Mistaken Point represent a pivotal event in the evolution of life on Earth, “when life got big” some 580 to 560 million years ago with the first appearance of large, complex, multicellular, animal-like organisms.

Although Mistaken Point has now completed its journey towards inscription as a World Heritage Site, other amazing natural and cultural heritage properties in Canada are beginning their quest towards possible inscription on the World Heritage List.

On August 8th, for the first time in over a decade, the Minister responsible for Parks Canada, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, launched a process to update Canada’s Tentative List for World Heritage Sites – a list of properties that Canada intends to nominate for inscription on the World Heritage List.

A public process is being used to update Canada’s Tentative List.  We are inviting Canadians from coast to coast to coast to submit applications for our country’s most exceptional places.  Applications are due by January 27, 2017 and will need to demonstrate how the property meets the high standards of a World Heritage Site and enjoys the support of the local community and stakeholders.

A Ministerial Advisory Committee of natural and cultural heritage experts will be established to review applications and recommend up to ten new properties for the Minister to include on Canada’s Tentative List.  The Minister will announce Canada’s updated Tentative List in December 2017 as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

Canada has a lot to offer to make the World Heritage List fully representative of humanity’s tapestry, including outstanding and breathtaking places that relate to Indigenous, Arctic and marine heritage.  Canadians are passionate about their heritage, and so we expect to see strong interest.  We are reminding everyone to focus on sites that are truly exceptional at the global scale.

For properties that make it onto the Tentative List, it is just the beginning of their journey towards possibly becoming a World Heritage Site.  This journey is not for the faint of heart!  Several years of dedicated effort and considerable resources are required to prepare a full World Heritage nomination.  The nomination is then submitted for a thorough review process by the IUCN and/or ICOMOS, the advisory bodies to the World Heritage Committee, before being brought forward for consideration by the Committee itself.

An inscription on the World Heritage list is not the end goal but rather the beginning of a new adventure. Managers of World Heritage Sites commit to protecting and showcasing the site’s values for the benefit of all humanity. They can take great pride in knowing that they are caretakers of some of the world’s most outstanding achievements and nature’s most inspiring creations.

I invite members of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage community to consider whether there are properties that they believe may meet World Heritage standards, and to consider what role they might play in supporting the preparation of an application for Canada’s Tentative List.  Information about the update of Canada’s Tentative List for World Heritage Sites can be found at: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/progs/spm-whs/sec06/f.aspx

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