Nominating a place for National Historic Site designation is a simple process. Anyone can nominate a site as long as the owner consents to it.
In Canada, there is currently no legal protection of National Historic Sites at the federal level. This program is an honourific designation, better known as a commemoration.
The National Historic Sites Alliance supports creation of a National Historic Sites of Canada Act that legally enshrines protection of designations in federal legislation.
It is the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) that recommends designations to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. They have the authority to designate a National Historic Site, not the HSMBC. Once approved, a bronze plaque is offered to the owner of the site as a commemorative marker. There may be an unveiling ceremony.
To nominate a place, it must meet the following criteria:
- Buildings, ensembles of buildings, and sites that are 40 years of age or older may be considered for designation of national historic significance.
- A place must be in a condition that respects the integrity of its design, materials, workmanship, function and/or setting to be considered for designation of national historic significance, insofar as any of these elements are essential to understand its significance.
- The boundaries of a place must be clearly defined for it to be considered for designation as a national historic site.
- Large-scale movable heritage properties that would not normally be considered suitable for museum display may be considered for designation of national historic significance.
- Any aspect of Canada’s human history may be considered for ministerial designation of national historic significance. To be considered for designation, a place, person or event must have had a nationally significant impact on Canadian history, or must illustrate a nationally important aspect of Canadian human history. Subjects that qualify for national historic significance will meet one or more of the following criteria:
- A place may be designated of national historic significance by virtue of a direct association with a nationally significant aspect of Canadian history. An archaeological site, structure, building, group of buildings, district, or cultural landscape of potential national historic significance will:
- illustrate an exceptional creative achievement in concept and design, technology and/or planning, or a significant stage in the development of Canada; or
- illustrate or symbolize in whole or in part a cultural tradition, a way of life, or ideas important in the development of Canada; or
- be most explicitly and meaningfully associated or identified with persons who are deemed of national historic importance; or
- be most explicitly and meaningfully associated or identified with events that are deemed of national historic importance.
- Uniqueness or rarity are not, in themselves, evidence of national historic significance, but may be considered in connection with the above criteria for national historic significance.
- Firsts, per se, are not considered for national historic significance.
- In general, only one commemoration will be made for each place, person, or event of national historic significance.
The HSMBC and the nomination process is supported by Parks Canada. Information on the process is available here.