Government of Canada Response to the Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans: Report on the Implementation of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act

Recommendation 1:

The Committee recommends that, given their economic, heritage, cultural and historical value, the Government of Canada adopt as a general national policy goal the preservation of a reasonable proportion of Canada’s lighthouses for future generations of Canadians.

Response:

The Government supports this recommendation. By enacting the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act on May 29, 2008, the Government of Canada has recognized that measures must be taken to ensure the preservation of heritage lighthouses. The purpose of the Act is to conserve and protect federally owned heritage lighthouses by: providing for the selection and designation of heritage lighthouses; preventing the unauthorized alteration and disposition of heritage lighthouses; requiring that heritage lighthouses be reasonably maintained; and facilitating sales or transfers of heritage lighthouses in order to ensure the lighthouses’ public purpose. 

Recommendation 2:

The Committee recommends that all lighthouses passed on to community groups be maintained in a good state of repair and in a condition that will allow economical ongoing maintenance.  All environmental issues should be addressed prior to the transfer of any such lighthouses.

Response:

The Government supports this recommendation.  For those lighthouses that will be transferred to community groups, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to maintain operational lighthouse properties to a standard that permits safe access to operationally required equipment by departmental staff until the responsibility for future maintenance and repair is assumed by community groups.  The Department currently maintains an annual budget of approximately $1,000,000 to improve the condition of surplus properties prior to divestiture.  Community groups assuming ownership of surplus lighthouse properties would be eligible to apply for funding which could reduce the costs associated with their future maintenance of the property.  The Department has recently established a Grants and Contributions Program aimed at facilitating the transfer of surplus lighthouse properties.  Such funding requests would be considered on a case-by-case basis and are subject to the availability of funding.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada will ensure that environmental liabilities associated with surplus lighthouse properties are assessed and addressed to the appropriate federal use standard as a condition of transfer.  All relevant environmental reports will be disclosed to potential ownership groups in order to better inform their decision making process.

Recommendation 3:

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada provide the Heritage Canada Foundation (HCF) with seed funding to help launch a comprehensive campaign dedicated to raising funds for the restoration and preservation of Canada’s remaining historic lighthouses.

Response:

The Government does not support this recommendation.  Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) would provide information on lighthouse properties to support a fund-raising campaign by the Heritage Canada Foundation to restore and maintain historic lighthouses.  There was no source of funding attached to the Act during its passage through Parliament and, as such, the Government of Canada is not in a position to make a financial contribution to such a campaign.

Recommendation 4:

The Committee recommends the establishment of an independent Lighthouse Advisory Panel comprising representatives of key lighthouse organizations, Parks Canada, and knowledgeable people from the provinces where there are lighthouses:

a) to identify, consistent with the objectives of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (HLPA), from among the federally owned lighthouses, a “heritage pool” of lights that will most likely generate interest for restoration and preservation; and

b) to prioritize and evaluate the lighthouses in the heritage pool in order to determine, from among the qualified recipients, those groups who should receive funding from the monies generated by the HCF fund-raising campaign.

Response:

The Government does not support this recommendation.

With respect to the first component of the recommendation (a), the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act is structured in a manner that allows for Canadians to decide which federally owned lighthouses should be considered for heritage protection under the Act.  The establishment of an independent advisory panel to identify which lighthouses are most worthy of heritage protection would not be consistent with this approach.

The Minister of the Environment, as the Minister responsible for Parks Canada, has already appointed two advisory groups related to the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act: the Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada and a consultative group of lighthouse advocates.  It is unclear to whom this proposed independent Lighthouse Advisory Panel would report or what would be its relationship to the Government of Canada.

Expert advice related to the potential designation of heritage lighthouses, following the submission of public petitions, is obtained from both the Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada and the lighthouse consultative group created to assist this Board.

With respect to the second component of the recommendation (b), the Heritage Canada Foundation would have the authority to direct funds that are generated through its fund-raising efforts to facilitate the preservation of those lighthouses that it deems most qualified, in consultation with an advisory panel of its own creation, if desired.

Recommendation 5:

The Committee recommends that, for lighthouses for which no petitions have been submitted before the May 29, 2012 deadline, but which have been identified for the “heritage pool” and for which there is reasonable potential for interest from communities, groups, or other interested parties, DFO remove such lights from its surplus list.

Response:

The Government does not support this recommendation.  In accordance with the provisions of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to maintain and make public its list of surplus lighthouses until May 29, 2012.  Although it is no longer required to publish such a list after that date, the surplus designation for a property is related to operational program needs and as such, lighthouses on the current surplus list that remain within the Department’s portfolio after May 29, 2012 will continue to be designated as surplus.  After May 29, 2012, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to consider alternate ownership proposals from community-based interests who are interested in preserving their local lighthouses.  For those surplus lighthouses where no interest is expressed at the community level, alternate strategies could be considered such as open market sales or replacement with simple structures.  When transferring ownership of surplus lighthouse properties, the conveyance will include all associated lands and infrastructure where possible.

Recommendation 6:

The Committee recommends that all surplus lightstations that leave the federal inventory, either through the HLPA process or through the process governing the disposal of surplus real property, be afforded protection by a heritage easement or covenant in the sale agreement.

Response:

The Government supports this recommendation.  Under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, the Minister of the Environment, as the Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is required to establish criteria for maintenance of heritage lighthouses that are in keeping with national and international standards for the conservation of heritage properties.  For heritage lighthouses that are transferred to outside interests through the divestiture provisions of the Act, ongoing protection could be afforded in different ways including the registration of a heritage easement against the title of a property or the creation of contractual obligations by virtue of clauses in the sale agreement.  The appropriate mechanism for each property would be assessed on a site-by-site basis.

For surplus lighthouses over 40 years of age being transferred through the regular disposal process, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will ensure completion of a heritage assessment through the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office.  If the lighthouse is designated as a federal heritage building through this process, a Heritage Character Statement will be developed.  A clause will be inserted into the sale agreement which references the heritage character of the lighthouse.  Recipient groups will be asked to respect the heritage defining elements of the lighthouse in their future maintenance of the property and will be encouraged to make an application for designation under a municipal or provincial heritage protection program in the jurisdiction where the lighthouse is located.

Recommendation 7:

The Committee recommends that DFO carefully assess the security implications of transferring surplus lightstations.  Any lightstation that fails to meet public safety concerns set out in the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Guide to the Management of Real Property should be immediately removed from the Department’s list of surplus lighthouses.

Response:

The Government partially supports this recommendation.  As part of the pre-disposal due diligence process, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will assess surplus lighthouse properties for concerns related to public safety or security.  In the event that public safety or security concerns exist, it may be possible to alter or modify the structures in a manner which addresses these concerns before the sale of the property is permitted to proceed.

Recommendation 8:

The Committee recommends that DFO and Parks Canada make available on their respective websites a list of all “non-surplus” lighthouses, including DFO’s 51 staffed lightstations, given that the public may petition such lights for heritage designation under the HLPA.

Response:

The Government supports this recommendation.  The Canadian Coast Guard currently administers approximately 4000 “non-surplus” aids to navigation that are compliant with the definition of “lighthouse” under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act.  Most non-surplus “lighthouses” are modern, simple structures that are of limited interest from the standpoint of heritage preservation.  Although the publication of such a list may not have the intended effect of facilitating the Act’s public petitioning process, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will publish a list of all of the department’s non-surplus “lighthouses” on the departmental website.

Parks Canada will make available on its website a list of all lighthouses for which it is responsible.  None of these lighthouses are surplus to requirements.

Recommendation 9:

The Committee recommends that Parks Canada and DFO work together in the creation of a document that sets out and identifies for the public:

a) innovative ideas regarding the re-use of lighthouses, including references to successful examples in Canada and elsewhere, and any information that already exists on the subject;

b) financial support that may be available to community lighthouse groups at the federal and provincial level; and

c) key contacts.

Response:

The Government supports this recommendation.

With respect to the first component of the recommendation (a), Fisheries and Oceans Canada has commissioned an independent study which examines potential alternate uses for surplus lighthouse properties.  The study places additional emphasis on the conditions under which an alternate use that permits public access to the site is most likely to be successful.  The study has been published on the departmental website in order to inform potential ownership groups that are developing alternate use proposals.

With respect to the second component of the recommendation (b), Fisheries and Oceans Canada currently maintains an annual budget of approximately $1,000,000 to improve the condition of surplus properties prior to divestiture.  The Department has recently established a Grants and Contributions Program aimed at facilitating the transfer of surplus lighthouse properties.  Such funding requests would be considered on a case-by-case basis and are subject to the availability of funding.

Community lighthouse groups will be encouraged to seek additional funding opportunities from other federal, provincial and municipal sources in addition to private heritage foundations.  Given that these opportunities will vary widely depending on the jurisdiction in which a lighthouses is located, no comprehensive document will be created for this purpose.

With respect to the third component of the recommendation (c), Fisheries and Oceans Canada has published contact information on the departmental website for program representatives in each of the Department’s six regions in addition to a national representative in Ottawa.

Parks Canada is managing its obligations under the Act on a national basis.  Contact information for the Manager, Heritage Lighthouse Program is featured on the Parks Canada website.

Recommendation 10:

The Committee recommends that Parks Canada and DFO work together in the creation of a guidebook on the care and maintenance of lighthouse buildings and equipment, and on archiving and the preservation of historical artifacts, to assist prospective new owners before they acquire a lighthouse.

Response:

The Government supports this recommendation. In accordance with the provisions of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, the Minister of the Environment, as the Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency, has formally adopted the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada as the official maintenance criteria for lighthouses and related buildings that are designated under the Act.  A copy of the document is readily available on the Parks Canada website.