The government’s role in heritage is governed by the Department of Canadian Heritage Act (1995), the Museums Act (1990) which declares the heritage of Canada and all its peoples is an important part of world heritage and must be preserved for present and future generations, the Library and Archives of Canada Act (2004), the Cultural Property Export and Import Act (1977), and the Canada Travelling Exhibitions Indemnification Act (1999). The Act to Amend the Museums Act received Royal Assent in 2008 and formally established Canada’s latest national museum, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to be located in Winnipeg. The new museum will explore the theme of human rights to enhance public understanding, promote respect for others, and encourage reflection and dialogue. It will be built with support from other levels of government, the private sector, and non-governmental organisations.
In 2004, some laws, which apply to cultural heritage, were transferred to the Minister of the Environment. Bill C-7, an Act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other Acts replaces section 4(1) of the Parks Canada Agency Act with a new subsection listing the various matters now placed under the authority of the Agency. Briefly, all “built heritage” matters – canals, railway stations, buildings, and historic sites – are the responsibility of the Agency, which reports to the Minister of the Environment. Responsibility for national cultural heritage institutions, movable cultural property protection and the National Battlefields Commission remains with the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Portfolio.
The following laws apply to cultural heritage:
- Cultural Property Export and Import Act (1977): an Act respecting the export from Canada of cultural property and the import of cultural property into Canada illegally exported from foreign states – the Department of Canadian Heritage is currently reviewing this legislation to ensure that it remains as effective as possible in the protection of Canadian and international heritage (see chapter 4.2.2);
- Income Tax Act (1985): provides for an exemption from the payment of capital gains taxes on certified cultural property donated or sold to designated institutions or public authorities in Canada; gifts of certified cultural property are also eligible for a tax credit;
- Canada Travelling Exhibitions Indemnification Act (1999): an Act to establish an indemnification programme for travelling exhibitions;
- Canada National Parks Act (2000): an Act respecting the national parks of Canada;
- Parks Canada Agency Act (1998):provides a new operational framework for Parks Canada and establishes Parks Canada as an agency of the federal government;
- Historic Sites and Monuments Act (1985): an Act to establish the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada;
- Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act (1985): the authority of the Minister of the Environment is required to destroy or alter designated heritage railways stations under this Act;
- Department of Transport Act (1985): Historic Canal Regulations under this Act deal with historic canal preservation;
- Canada Shipping Act (2001): Heritage Wreck Regulations currently being developed under this Act will protect heritage wrecks. No federal archaeology legislation exists;
- Laurier House Act (1952): an Act respecting the custody and care of Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier’s historic home in Ottawa;
- National Battlefields at Quebec Act (1908): an Act to acquire and preserve the great historic battlefields (Plains of Abraham) at Quebec; and
- Criminal Code: along with the Cultural Property Export and Import Act (1977), the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act (2000), and the National Defence Act (1985), the Criminal Code (1985) plays a role in implementing Canada’s obligations under the Protocols to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict by prohibiting certain acts against significant cultural heritage outside Canada.