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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Fisheries

Issue 10 - Evidence, September 20, 2000


OTTAWA, Wednesday, September 20, 2000

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries, to which was referred Bill S-21, to protect heritage lighthouses, met this day at 5:45 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Gerald J. Comeau (Chairman) in the Chair.

[English]

The Chairman: Honourable senators, we are continuing with our study on Bill S-21. Our first witness joins us by video conference from Halifax.

Mr. Dan Conlin, Curator of Marine History, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic: Honourable senators, I will begin by giving some of my background with lighthouses, some history of Canadian lights and some problems with the existing heritage policies on lighthouses, and then I will turn to the strengths and weaknesses of this proposed legislation. I will suggest some possible changes to the bill.

I am an historian in Nova Scotia at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. My main job is to research and write museum exhibits, but I also answer inquiries from community heritage organizations. In the last five years there has been a great surge in the preservation of lighthouses. I call this "the lighthouse movement," and it has kept me quite busy with requests for historical information and advice. I have helped several dozen community organizations find out about their lights and about the policies that exist if they want to save them.

Lighthouses are a powerful heritage symbol across Canada but they are especially sensitive in Nova Scotia. We have the oldest lighthouse in Canada in that province and we have the most lighthouses, about 150 in total. Our province has identified lighthouses as an important potential tourism resource and an important identity symbol.

I attended four regional meetings between the Canadian Coast Guard and community heritage groups on alternate uses for lights. I served on the regional advisory committee on lighthouse alternate use. That committee was set up by the Coast Guard four years ago and then disbanded last year.

On my own time, I belong to the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society. I also advise a new organization called the Atlantic Lighthouse Council. I have given a fair bit of advice and several suggestions to the Lighthouse Protection Act Committee, which has been pushing for legislation.

I am using the definition of "lighthouse" that the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society uses: A lighthouse has an enclosed lantern and an enclosed tower. That definition includes wooden lighthouses and also the more recent concrete and fibreglass lighthouses that follow the traditional lighthouse form of a tapered tower. I will also use the term "light station" at times. That refers to the tower, the land around it and the associated lighthouse buildings, such as lighthouse keepers' houses and foghorn buildings. Those structures are important heritage buildings in their own right in association with the lights and they are the key to alternate use of lighthouse sites by communities.

Turning to Canada's history in this area, our lighthouse system is a unique and remarkable achievement of this country. At Confederation, Canada inherited a small pioneering network of lighthouses from the various colonies of British North America but found itself as a brand new, small nation with one of the longest coastlines in the world. After Confederation, we took a uniquely Canadian approach to building a network of lights. While older lighthouse nations, such as the Europeans and the Americans, concentrated on stone-and-iron towers manned by a uniform core of quasi-military keepers, we built a remarkably successful system of locally built wooden lighthouses operated by keepers, usually families, drawn from adjacent communities.

That economical approach to building a lighthouse system with strong local roots created, in a very short time, one of the largest light networks in the world. That is an achievement we should be proud of and should work hard to preserve. Equally remarkable has been the survival of some of those traditional lighthouses thanks to generations of dedicated care by the keepers and their families. Our Canadian legacy of hundreds of red and white, octagonal or square wooden towers, supplemented in later years by octagonal concrete towers, is a real achievement. It makes our lights distinctive and uniquely Canadian.

These Canadian lighthouses are not found just on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They stand in every single province except Saskatchewan and Alberta. After Nova Scotia, Ontario has the largest number of lighthouses in the country.

At the peak of the Canadian lighthouse system in the 1920s, there were over 800 lighthouses. Automation and an orgy of demolition in the 1970s and 1980s reduced that number to about 580 traditional lighthouses today.

At the moment, navigational changes such as global positioning systems are reducing the need for lights, although lights are not obsolete and large numbers will still be required for hazard avoidance in the next ten years or so. Nevertheless, it is clear that increasing numbers of lighthouses will become surplus, and even with the operational lights, which we still need, many older buildings and associated lands are no longer needed for strictly navigational purposes.

This looming disposal of a large number of lights creates an urgent need for better heritage standards, as disposal brings abandonment, neglect, demolition and commercial development that will diminish and destroy the heritage characteristics of lights. However, a surplus of light stations will also create important opportunities for many coastal communities that wish to preserve structures and to develop sustainable economic activities.

I know of communities that have invested astonishing amounts of human and monetary resources in preserving their local lights. Cape Forchu and Yarmouth have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars putting a new roof on their light, putting in a new sewage system and keeping the lighthouse open to the public. Coffin Island in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, spent $70,000 literally turning back the sea so that a local light would not topple into the ocean because of erosion. A tiny village called Port Greville moved its lighthouse 600 kilometres to return it home after it was kidnapped in the 1970s. These community groups muster tremendous resources, in most cases with no assurance of actually being able to keep the light although they feel it is important to try.

Our greatest hope for preserving lighthouses lies with these community groups, and we should do everything we can to assist them. My colleagues in the United States Parks Service have come to a similar conclusion. They feel that community groups are more effective at preserving lights, far better than the levels of government and the private sector. It is unfortunate that current federal policy really stacks the deck against community groups, declaring their lights in most cases to be non-heritage. Those community groups must also pay top dollar to Ottawa for the privilege of saving light stations that benefit all Canadians.

I will briefly detail the problems with existing lighthouse policy in Canada. Lighthouses face two dangers: a lack of heritage standards and the current federal disposal process. For federal buildings, only federal heritage rules apply, and federal buildings are completely exempt from any heritage protection applied by any provincial or municipal government.

The Department of Canadian Heritage administers two heritage building programs that are crucial to lighthouses. National historic sites are designated by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, and except for a small number of national historic sites that are looked after by Parks Canada, an historic site status is mainly ceremonial. It provides no protection against demolition, development or sale. Of our 580 Canadian lighthouses, 13 have national historic site status.

Federal heritage buildings are protected by a policy administered by the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, widely known by the acronym of FHBRO. Buildings over 40 years old are eligible for FHBRO status, but only if they are nominated by the custodian department, in this case Fisheries and Oceans. They cannot be nominated by other Canadians or by community groups.

The FHBRO uses a point system to judge the heritage value of lights. Two levels of protection exist. The classified level prohibits demolition and sets very strict heritage standards. The recognized level requires reviews before demolition, alteration or disposal and sets much weaker standards, although it does give some measure of protection.

Buildings that do not meet either of these levels, according to the point system, are labelled "not heritage." Administrators in departments such as Fisheries and Oceans and in agencies like the Coast Guard consider those lighthouses to be of no heritage value and so they feel they can do whatever they want with them.

According to 1998 numbers from the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, 19 lighthouses in Canada have classified status, 101 have recognized status and 157 have been designated as non-heritage. About 3 per cent have genuine heritage protection and cannot be torn down. About 17 per cent have the weaker "recognized" status, and the vast majority are being rejected. The total of protected lights in Canada comes to about 20 per cent, which compares extremely unfavourably with the United States, where over 70 per cent of lights have the equivalent protected status in the National Register of Historic Places. That ratio strikes me every time I look at the numbers.

While I am frustrated by the FHBRO system and its lack of protection for lights, I do have some sympathy for the public servants who must administer it. They do not have the resources to expand heritage protection. They have expressed to me embarrassment over their many non-heritage designations. They feel other categories are needed to prevent so many lights and historic structures from simply being written off.

The FHBRO system has a number of flaws that prevent it from protecting more than a token number of lighthouses. First, the FHBRO evaluation system is so closed and private and so dependent on custodial departments that I can only call it secretive. It requires no community consultation. It cannot be initiated by local communities. No local communities that I have encountered have ever been notified that their lighthouse was being evaluated or considered for heritage status. I have received more than a dozen calls from community groups who say they want to nominate their light for federal heritage status. I get to do the research and give the good news that Ottawa looked at their light four years ago and has already rejected any heritage value. That has happened to me over and over again.

Second, the FHBRO system displays a bias against vernacular wooden structures. The FHBRO benchmark, I have been told by historians who work there, is the parliamentary precinct. Those buildings score 100. They are ornate stone buildings at the top of the line. In comparison, traditional wooden buildings score very low. This is a terrible, Eurocentric way of judging heritage buildings. It ignores the great achievement in Canada of our wooden lighthouses and our pioneering use of concrete lighthouses.

A third terrible flaw with the FHBRO status is that it evaporates when the building is no longer owned by the government. Most if not all lighthouses will eventually be disowned by the federal government according to current disposal policies. That creates a catch-22. Lighthouses cannot be protected by provincial or municipal heritage rules because they are federally owned, but as soon as the federal government sells them the federal heritage protection is gone.

Regarding disposal processes, three models currently exist. British lighthouses are administered by Trinity House. Britain is retaining ownership of all lighthouses, even those that are decommissioned, because they are simply too good a legacy to give up. Lease and trustee relationships have been set up with community groups and former keepers to look after lights and towers.

The American model is a mixed system. Almost all the older lights have heritage protection. Some lights are licensed or leased. Some are sold to reduce the federal inventory, but they are first offered free of charge to other levels of government or to community groups, which have equal status as long as they can present good plans for preservation.

Finally, we have the current Canadian model for disposal of lighthouses: to sell off surplus lights at market value to other levels of government or private parties. That places a huge burden on community groups which must raise enormous amounts of money to compete in a coastal real estate market before they can even start investing money in actually restoring and developing a light. This real market value system of disposal, which is enforced by Treasury Board, effectively acts to transfer money from small coastal communities to Ottawa. It is probably the biggest barrier to public lighthouse protection that I can see. I get calls almost every week from Americans who are eagerly anticipating the chance to buy Canadian lighthouses for their private retreats.

Turning to Bill S-21, I welcome this initiative. It is one of the few good lighthouse-related things that I have seen come out of Ottawa in the last few years. I would emphasize the following strengths. The bill applies to both public and private lighthouses, be they federally owned or not. Unlike the current FHBRO heritage standards, which evaporate as soon as the lighthouse is sold or transferred, this heritage protection would stick. The bill speaks strongly against demolition or disfiguring alterations without an onerous approval process, unlike the status of historic site or FHBRO, which offers no protection against demolition. The bill proposes to use the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada process to designate heritage lighthouses. That would offer more opportunities for public participation than the closed and secretive FHBRO system. Another advantage of the bill is the stronger mandate proposed for the Department of Canadian Heritage to care for lighthouses, removing some of the burden currently sitting with the Canadian Coast Guard. The bill singles out lighthouses as a special landmark structure similar to the special status given to heritage railway stations.

A final good feature of this legislation is the inclusion of both lighthouse towers and the category of other structures on site, like keepers' houses and fog alarm buildings. Those are often important heritage buildings, and in almost every case they are key to good community alternate use. They can be used for overnight accommodation, food services, interpretive centres and museums. Often those services do not fit in the tower itself.

I note the following areas where the proposed legislation could be better. First, the designation process outlined in Bill S-21 uses the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which I understand has a substantial backlog of historic site decisions. That board would face great challenges in dealing with a large number of individual lighthouse cases. It would be very unfortunate if this act became law and replaced the inadequate FHBRO system with an equally backlogged and inadequate system.

I suggest two possible solutions. First, add a clause that would allow group designations. This practice is used in the United States and is one reason that they have so many protected lights. It allows, for example, a nomination of 20 pre-Civil War lighthouses in Maine which share the same heritage characteristics and which can all be designated in one go. That allows faster and easier heritage designations. I strongly recommend that group designations be considered. We could look at categories like pre-Confederation lights or pre-World War I lighthouses. The other option is to give special resources to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. If we are asking them to take on this extra responsibility, they will need extra resources to avoid a growing backlog.

Another addition to the bill could be the use of community group leases. I have heard many community groups first request leases when they approach the Coast Guard. Leasing allows the property to remain public and owned by the federal government. Community groups can then put their resources into restoring the site, rather than spending all their money to buy it. Leases also ensure that, should a community group not be successful in its initiative, the light remains publicly owned and is not sold privately. A system of affordable leases that cover simply the administrative costs, backed by heritage standards, could set up a sort of trustee relationship where lights are cared for by communities but remain owned by the people of Canada.

If large numbers of lights are preserved, heritage light stations must be exempted from real-market-value requirements both in leases and in transfers or sales. Using lighthouses to generate revenue by selling them at real market value makes them unattractive for other levels of government and places terrible burdens on community groups that must pay enormous amounts of money to Ottawa before even starting to fix up the lighthouse.

The real-market-value requirement betrays the idea that publicly owned lighthouses can continue just for public function. We should not just send these lights off into the private real estate market world. The requirement to sell federal properties at real market value, which applies to lighthouses, is a Treasury Board requirement and would require a legislative exemption, as I understand the rules.

Finally, the bill should call for a system of heritage standards for lighthouses that goes beyond the inadequate FHBRO system of classified, recognized and then worthless. We must broaden the inclusion of lighthouses beyond the narrow scope considered by FHBRO. Local or regional significance could be considered. Perhaps the regulations attached to the act could set out different categories, such as national, regional, provincial and local landmark status for each lighthouse. A similar approach is used in the United States. The legislation need not spell out the system but simply call for heritage standards to be created in the regulations.

That sums up my interpretation and feedback on this piece of legislation. I am often asked by the folks at the Coast Guard and at Public Works how we can expect to save all 580 lighthouses. My answer is this: Although we will probably lose some, we should try to save as many as we can. We should give every community a fighting chance to save their local lighthouse. We should remember that we have already lost hundreds of lighthouses from all those demolitions in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, we still retain a national network of historic buildings on public land providing precious access to coastal areas. This is a great opportunity for sustainable community growth and cultural identify. If current federal policy continues without some sort of legislative protection, our generation could be the one that dismantles and destroys this legacy. I hope your work with this bill will help avoid that outcome.

Reverend David Curry, Co-Chair, Lighthouse Protection Act Committee, Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society: Thank you for the privilege and the opportunity to speak to you about the need for legislative protection for our Canadian lights. I have had the privilege of being involved in some community development work in restoring a light in Port Bickerton on Nova Scotia's eastern shore. That site is to become the Nova Scotia lighthouse interpretive centre. Today I wish to speak more broadly, more generally, about the need for legislative protection for our Canadian lights.

When Virginia Woolf wrote To the Lighthouse in 1927, she could assume that there was a lighthouse to go to and, moreover, that lighthouses needed no explanation. They were simply there, larger than life, whether in the remote wilds of the Hebrides or along the rugged majesty of our Canadian shores. They were there without apology, both in their navigation function and in their much more complex yet powerfully symbolic iconic significance. Those two aspects belong inescapably together.

Almost three-quarters of a century later, it seems that we cannot make the same assumptions. We cannot assume that there is a light to go to. We cannot simply assume even their function navigationally. Yet their symbolic, iconic significance retains a hold, dare I say, on our souls and on the community of souls that forms a culture and shapes a nation.

The connection between the lights as navigational aids and the lights as cultural signifiers is long-standing and inescapable. This may seem like just so much literary yick-yack talk, far removed from the pressing, practical concerns facing our Canadian fisheries. Yet Canadian poet laureate of the lights Evelyn Richardson would remind us that the lights are not merely lonely sentinels, isolated instances that stand against the fearful darkness of storm and sea: they form a community. She writes about the hour of lighting up on Outer Island or Bon Portage off Nova Scotia's south shore:

I love to watch the beams of near-by lights take their places like friendly stars in the twilight. Though I know only one of the keepers, the lights themselves are old friends. Off there, about twelve miles to the west, is Seal Island's rather irregular beam; to the south-west is nothing but unbroken sea and sky, but eight miles to the south-east is Cape Sable's bright white flash; not so far away and almost due east glows West Head's warm red; while nearest to us, only two miles away, is the twinkling little harbour light of Emerald Isle. Then to the north, snug and protected by the outlying capes and islands, the small fixed light of Wood's Harbour glows redly$ they are the friendly smiles of comrades in the struggle against wind and sea.

Those "friendly smiles" form a community of lights that belongs in turn to the shape of that greater community which we are privileged to call Canada. For Canadians, lighthouses are an icon of our identity. In a vast and uncertain land, shaped by a three-sided sea, where the struggle for survival is constant and relentless, we have need of these icons. They connect us to our past, to our history, to the complex of cultures that belong to who we are. In some sense, the community we call Canada has been shaped by the community of lights that have encircled our shores and illuminated our past. They belong to the seascape of our political and spiritual imaginations, without which we are less than ourselves from sea to sea.

Icons are images of understanding, images through which we understand something of ourselves, our identity and our purpose. Lighthouses, we might say, are icons of the spiritual understanding of our humanity. They convey the wisdom of light shared.

Over and against this stand in our day the forces of economic determinism and technological exuberance, which at once enslave and enthral us but often at the expense of a more profound understanding of ourselves and our communities. It is at the expense of our imagination, our historical imagination and our cultural and spiritual imagination.

Right now, the friendly smile of the community of lights is very much in jeopardy. When we look at the lights along our shores, we may wonder how long before any lights remain at all. The lights you see are in crisis. They are in crisis whether we are speaking locally, nationally or internationally. The extent of the crisis may vary, but the crisis remains for one simple reason: the falling apart or separation of the navigational role of the lights from their iconic, cultural and heritage significance.

The problem with forgetting the iconic and cultural significance of the lights is not simply a problem with the current managers of the lights. In many ways the Canadian Coast Guard, at least in the Maritime region, has shown that it cares deeply about the lights. Yet the Coast Guard must say repeatedly that it has no mandate for culture and heritage, only for navigation and safety. In a way that is correct, of course, for while there was a time when that connection could to some extent be assumed, it can no longer.

The current divorce between the navigational and the cultural means that there are no viable solutions to be found within the regulatory avenues of the current managers under the present laws. Through the initiative and goodwill of the maritime region of the Canadian Coast Guard, those avenues have been thoroughly explored while creative and imaginative possibilities were seriously entertained by those who have a mind and a heart for the larger significance of lights. The Lighthouse Alternative Use Program, of which I was a part with Mr. Conlin and others, was supported by the Coast Guard's corporate sector in Ottawa. I might gently remind you that Ottawa is, of course, lighthouse challenged.

There are two problem areas for which current policy and legislation are inadequate. They are the disposal of lighthouse sites deemed surplus to use and the protection of traditional lighthouse structures on sites that are still operational.

With respect to disposal, the problem is both practical and philosophical. Philosophically, there is the problem of treating the lights as just so much used stuff to be thrown into some gigantic DFO yard sale. There is a failure to recognize that lights are a special kind of property that should remain in the public domain. This is part of the larger question raised by Silver Donald Cameron in The Globe and Mail last year about who owns the lights. Practically, current Treasury Board policies for property disposal provide no place for community groups or communities of interest.

In the disposal process, preference is given in order of priority to other federal departments, provincial governments, municipal governments and then the free market according to fair market value. As Mr. Conlin pointed out, that is a serious problem. Capital-starved community groups do not have a chance of competing with private interests seeking prime and pristine coastal properties. In the disposal process, lights are removed from the public domain. The growing number of community groups with an interest and a commitment to lights have no real chance of being able to keep the lights. Practically, there are no provisions for leases or trusteeship arrangements, yet these are the very things that would better fit the needs and capabilities of those who have the most vested interest in the lights, namely, the communities.

With respect to the protection of traditional lighthouse structures on sites that are still operational, the need for heritage protection is even greater. Budget cuts to the Coast Guard and technological changes to their program delivery service mean the continuing neglect of the traditional structures that are so much a part of the coastal landscape of our seas, rivers and lakes. However, the issue here is more than economic and technological. It is also a question of imagination and cultural awareness about the significance of these sites, the communities they serve and the possibilities of the alternative use of lighthouses while respecting the privacy of their navigational purpose.

To speak of the lights as cultural signifiers is to say that a light is not just a light. Allowing these structures to deteriorate to the point of requiring demolition is wilful neglect in the name of asset reduction and so-called efficiency of program delivery. It ignores the significance of these structures in the lives of communities. The mandate of navigation and safety, narrowly construed and unimaginatively pursued, results in the loss of the heritage of the lights. Surely there is a better way.

The Coast Guard is very much aware of these issues and is to be commended for its efforts to work with community groups to find workable solutions, but it has come up against the regulatory limits of current policy. The result is a pressing need for a legislative remedy. That was named from the very outset at the public consultations initiated by the Coast Guard in 1996, and it has been supported by a growing number of individuals and groups at every beacon conference, and beyond, held since that time. The growing public awareness about the need to protect the lights also means that this issue just will not go away.

The limitations of existing heritage legislation can be simply shown in at least two ways. First, what does heritage protection of sites really mean if FHBRO-recognized lights can be put on the disposal list? Second, the FHBRO tool kit for heritage designation is too restrictive, constrained to isolated instances of architectural or historic interest and unable to encompass the lights collectively. It can only be a consideration of an individual light and not the "community of lights." Yet it is this sensibility about the cultural and iconic significance of the lights that requires a legislative remedy.

In calling for legislation for the heritage protection of Canadian lights, we do not detract from the continuing importance of the lights as navigational aids. Indeed, a proper appreciation of the cultural and heritage significance of the lights only complements the canny awareness of so many of our fishermen and mariners, who are rather leery of relying solely upon electronic navigation. They have too great a respect for the sea and a healthy scepticism about our illusions of control. It belongs to their wisdom. A blip on the screen does not compensate for the comfort of a light in the rough darkness of the night.

A legislative remedy is required to overcome the modern divide between the navigational and the cultural. Without that, we will acquiesce to what will inevitably be a state-sponsored program of vandalism -- an iconoclasm of the lights through disposal to the highest bidder or through demolition because of systematic neglect.

We have called for a lighthouse protection act, and we are grateful for the proposed legislation introduced by Senators Forrestall and Carney. We think that it goes a long way towards addressing "the plight of the lights." It provides a more effective mechanism, perhaps, for the heritage protection of Canadian lights. Just as the impetus for legislation has come from the communities, so the initiative for heritage designation will have to come from the communities. We will suggest some ways in which Bill S-21 might better enable community groups to help protect their lights. These suggestions are to follow upon the suggestions that Mr. Conlin made.

We suggest, if it is not presumptuous for us to do so, that clause 5 of the proposed bill be amended as follows: the existing clause 5 would become clause 5.1, and a new clause 5.2 would read: "A group of lighthouses sharing similar characteristics may be designated together." An additional clause 5.3 would read: "The minister may enter into a lease or a trustee relationship with a community group or a community of interest for the purpose of the act." An additional clause 5.4 would read: "A Light or group of Lights designated by this act shall be subject to heritage standards developed from existing federal heritage guidelines." A final clause 5.5 would read: "The attached schedule provides the categories of heritage designation for Canadian Lights." This is an attempt to capture the desiderata laid out before you by Mr. Conlin.

Two years ago, Nova Scotia caught the world's attention because of the tragedy of Swissair Flight 111, which went down off Peggy's Cove. It was not at the base of a metal pole that the wreaths of the bereaved were placed in memory of loved ones; it was before an eloquently simple, but traditional maritime lighthouse -- an icon of what is at once human and divine in the sharing of grief and sorrows as well as hopes and prayers. The lights their very humanity point us to something more just when there seems to be nothing more to hope for.

That light, perhaps the best known and most photographed light in all of Canada, does not stand alone. It belongs to a community of lights -- to the pattern of lights along the shore. It is the nature of lights to be shared, to reach out, to communicate and to signal a presence. Light that is not shared is darkness and absence. It is this sense of the community of lights that needs to be recalled and remembered, not one light in isolation but light connected to light, community to community -- the community of lights that shape a nation. The lights are, as Evelyn Richardson points out, "the friendly smiles of comrades in the struggle against wind and sea."

Thank you for your patient consideration of this proposed heritage lighthouse act, which will help to protect these "old friends" that are so much a part of our Canadian heritage.

The Chairman: Many lighthouses were mentioned tonight, and one that was mentioned by Mr. Conlin is the Forchu Lighthouse at Yarmouth. I cannot conceive of historic Yarmouth without that lighthouse. It is one of my favourite lighthouses, and every time I go to Yarmouth I drive by to have a close look. Thank you for mentioning those areas.

You have both been passionate supporters of the light stations and you have shown that tonight. I am sure that you have awakened an interest in our members to further pursue the comments that you have made. As well, I thank you for making the concrete suggestions for amendments to improve the bill. Those suggestions will be helpful.

Senator Robertson: Thank you for the excellent presentation. For those of us who live in coastal areas, renewing our understanding is important for reinforcing our commitment to our heritage. I read Mr. Conlin's comments and I look forward to a transcript of your presentation, Reverend Curry, so that I can absorb your comments more fully.

I will address a concern that was expressed last evening by the officials representing Heritage Canada and DFO -- namely cost. I do not know how deeply you have investigated matters relating to cost, but you may know that the only restriction on the Senate is that we do not bring forth legislation that has cost implication.

In your studies, did you ever ask people at DFO what revenue, on average, they receive when they sell these lighthouses? Has that ever tripped you up along the way?

We continue to hear about the cost. We can understand that. Have you discussed costing at all with federal representatives?

Mr. Conlin: Do you mean costs in terms of missed revenue or the costs of maintaining them?

Senator Robertson: I do not mean the cost of maintaining them, but the real value that they put on the buildings for tendering, which, I agree with you, prohibits the participation of many communities because of the expense. What would be the average revenue when they sell these buildings? Have you ever ventured there, Mr. Chairman?

The Chairman: I am not sure I understand the question.

Senator Robertson: I am in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I have 20 lighthouses that I want to dispose of this year so I put them up for sale at real or fair market value, whatever it is. If the federal government or the provincial government is not interested in meeting this cost, or if the community or municipality cannot raise the money, then it probably goes for commercial use. Do they actually make much money on these sales? Are we talking about much money?

Mr. Curry: Some of these properties are in desirable locations. They would garner considerable revenues to the Treasury Board. When we talked to federal officials about the problem of fair market value, they acknowledged that there is a serious limitation for community groups. In many cases we are talking about coastal properties that are extremely desirable, especially for offshore interests. The desirability of obtaining a prime, pristine piece of coastline is strong. We are talking about some significant dollars.

Senator Robertson: I recall negotiating for a church that is no longer used, for instance. Sometimes a church must be disposed of because it cannot be maintained. The church officials are happy to give the church building to a community group under certain conditions per dollar, as long as they are looked after. Some people want such a church because it is almost a heritage building, or should be classified as such.

I understand the position of the church and the position of the Department of Fisheries, or whoever gets the revenue. However, if it is not a whole lot of money, and with the right rules, the properties could be given for one dollar, and get on with it. Then we would have more communities involved in that process.

Mr. Curry: As I understand the current Treasury Board policies, community groups do not have an entry point. They can compete only on the fair market level.

Senator Robertson: I think that that is wrong. Perhaps you could gather more information on this. Perhaps we could have the officials back from Fisheries, because I should like to know more about this.

I am from New Brunswick. Reverend Curry, you mentioned that the Lighthouse Protection Act Committee is a group of committed individuals in Canada. Could you please tell me who the members are in New Brunswick so that I could contact them? If you do not have them all, perhaps the clerk could get them for me.

Mr. Curry: I do not have the list in front of me. We are a fairly loose coalition of interested people who are committed to this particular cause. There are one or two names that I can think of from New Brunswick, and I will see that you receive those.

Mr. Conlin: There is a newly formed lighthouse preservation society in New Brunswick. I met a couple of their members at a conference. I believe that Reverend Kelly has been in favour of the lighthouse protection act. That is a welcome sign.

Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and New Brunswick all have lighthouse preservation societies. There is a spreading movement of folks interested in preserving lighthouses. I need not talk at any great length about the strong constituency for lighthouses in British Columbia, of which you are all aware. They have had a role in stopping automation.

The Chairman: On the other item, last night Ms Beal said that they would provide us with further information that would probably have some of those figures. I will undertake to write a letter to Ms Beal and request that she expand on that detail and include the opportunity cost to Treasury Board that you are referring to.

Senator Perrault: Frequent mention has been made of the cost of these undoubtedly wonderful historical structures. Perhaps you will comment on one idea that was presented. These lighthouses could be used for commercial purposes, to book people on an adventure weekend. The idea of having a lighthouse inn is intriguing and would encourage tourists to stay there. I understand that some cases of restoration are producing revenue. Can you tell me how many lighthouses are possible candidates for this conversion process while maintaining all of their historical value? Obviously there are people prepared to spend money to stay there on a weekend. Can you tell me how that works? How many lighthouses are offering that kind of tourist approach?

Mr. Conlin: Lighthouse accommodation is a huge trend in the United States. The American Coast Guard has been generous in granting licences, et cetera. The Canadian Coast Guard has been much more wary about that.

Senator Perrault: What is their concern?

Mr. Conlin: At the moment, for example, in eastern Canada, West Point Lighthouse Inn in Prince Edward Island has an operational light and people stay overnight there. The inn is tremendously popular and has been a catalyst for economic development there. One must book one year in advance. I know of only one other lighthouse in the Maritimes with overnight accommodations. The problem is that devolution and the lack of standards has put the keepers' dwellings, which are so well suited for overnight accommodation, at tremendous risk. We have lost a lot of those. We are at risk of losing more of them without heritage standards.

Senator Perrault: A program of restoring the standards in some of the choice locations could be a great revenue producer. Has the motion picture industry expressed any interest in filming in that part of Canada? They are great money-makers.

Mr. Curry: These matters are being explored by the Atlantic Lighthouse Council, which is very much aware of the marketing of lights. We see culture and heritage as being, dare I say, good business. I was involved in the restoration at Port Bickerton. That restoration was a catalyst for the economic growth and the increase in tourism in that area and it brought in significant dollars to that community, which is quite remote.

Mr. Conlin: I had one meeting with a feature film company that was scouting lighthouses in Nova Scotia and I met on another occasion with an advertising company looking for the ideal light. That client has no hesitation about the symbolic value of light. You see lights used for television commercials over and over again.

Senator Perrault: I think it is a great idea. Are you receiving good cooperation from the tourism department of your provincial government?

Mr. Conlin: Yes.

Senator Perrault: Are they investing money and seeing the commercial opportunity in this? I think it is a whale of an opportunity for tourism.

Mr. Conlin: I work for the Department of Tourism and Culture in Nova Scotia, so I cannot say enough about the work that they have done with lighthouses. They have helped a lot of communities get started to promote their lights. They show an enlightened sense of economic development of lights.

Senator Perrault: Community support is important. This is a business opportunity that is worth some investment.

The Chairman: Thank you very much. I should have noted that Senator Perrault is the vice-chairman of the committee. He is from British Columbia. He has been with the committee for a number of years and is familiar with a few lighthouses.

Senator Robichaud: Senator Perrault has touched on commercial opportunities of lighthouses in some cases. You would like to preserve the heritage side. How can you bring the two together? Would there be groups in competition with one another? Would some people see a good commercial opportunity to make a few dollars while others would more likely want to keep that same site as a heritage property? Could the two of them go hand in hand?

Mr. Curry: It is a constant struggle, but they can go together. It is a matter of establishing clear standards and working out policies of alternative uses. The Regional Advisory Council on Lighthouse Alternative Use, sponsored by the Canadian Coast Guard, has already undertaken much of that kind of work. The question of how to balance tourism and commercial interests with cultural heritage interests was thoroughly explored.

Yes, this can be a healthy, useful and proper partnership as long as clear guidelines are laid down that determine what is and what is not appropriate. There would also need to be some sort of assessment process for determining the best proposal for a particular use of a lighthouse in areas where there was some competitive interest.

Mr. Conlin: Market research has shown that in the tourism field one of the highest values held by tourists when they travel is authenticity. They want something that is real. They can smell a fake.

If you strip away the original heritage characteristics of a lighthouse, if you rip out the windows and tear off the lantern, people will notice. There are sound financial reasons for having strict heritage standards that preserve the heritage features of lights so that they remain sustainable income-generating sites. I am an historian. I care about those things for their historic value. However, it is clear that, the way tourism is going, those historic characteristics have a monetary and commercial value attached to them as well.

Senator Robichaud: How many of the 580 lighthouses that presently exist do you think could be seen as or classified as heritage sites? How many groups would be interested in taking them over and sponsoring historic sites? Let us take Nova Scotia, for instance.

Mr. Conlin: Depending on how you define "lighthouse," Nova Scotia has about 150 lights. If you asked how many of those are heritage lights, it would depend on what you mean by "heritage light." That is why I suggest different definitions of a heritage light. For example, Sambro, outside Halifax, is the oldest light in Canada. Seal Island is the oldest wooden light in Canada. Those two are of national importance. Other lights are unique in a region or play a special role in regional commerce. They have a lesser but nevertheless important status.

I would say that the majority of those 150 lights have tremendous local value. They are local landmarks to each and every nearby community. They deserve some recognition and preservation for that reason. I have seen some modest lights in Nova Scotia, sometimes just tapered, graceful fibreglass towers. You see them painted on canteens or flat rocks with a "Welcome" sign. These have become landmark symbols for those communities, if not for the rest of the country. They deserve to be preserved on that merit. It is impossible to say for certain, but I would say that of the 150 lights in Nova Scotia easily over 100 deserve some level of heritage protection.

As for how many community groups would be interested, that is hard to estimate. The current policies are so stacked against community groups that it is only the really driven, financially well-endowed and incredibly capably people who manage to get lights. Even with the policy slanted against community groups, in Nova Scotia there are about two dozen active community groups. An equal number have expressed interest but are hesitating because the prospects look so daunting. Many community groups are expressing interest in their lights. Sometimes those communities do not see the heritage lights as huge money-making attractions. Sometimes they are small three-storey lighthouses that communities want to keep painted and shingled because they are community landmarks. The communities are quite willing to invest a few thousand dollars to do that. An enlightened approach would open certain degrees of participation for hundreds of lights across Canada.

Mr. Curry: It is important, too, to keep in mind that the lights are not isolated instances. They do connect one to another. In Nova Scotia the lighthouse route is a significant part of our tourism. One must reflect upon the impact of an increasingly diminished number of lights along the lighthouse route. Only one or two places were given special treatment, yet in a way they all go together; they are connected.

There are different levels of participation. For some lighthouses, it is a simple matter of a coat of paint and allowing people to picnic around them. Heavy investments of capital may not be required, but there must be enabling ways for small community groups to keep those structures as part of their communities and as part of the general ambience of the entire shore that they are a part of.

The Chairman: Senator Mahovlich is our senator from Ontario, the province with the next largest number of lighthouses.

Senator Mahovlich: That is what I heard. Are there any important lighthouses in Ontario?

Senator Forrestall: Every one.

Senator Mahovlich: Every one is important? I know that we have a little lighthouse up at Roslyn Lake, near my cottage. It adds beauty to our place. One thing that seldom is mentioned is that the aesthetics of these lighthouses contribute to the beauty of our country. No one mentions that.

The government spends millions of dollars on art in our museums. Some of that art is questionable. When you mention lighthouses, the accountants get involved and start butchering them. The beauty of the lighthouses should be mentioned more often because the people in Ontario appreciate the lighthouses on their lakes very much. I wish you would mention more often the addition of beauty to our country by these lighthouses.

Senator Perrault: Hear, hear.

The Chairman: How could one disagree with those comments?

Mr. Conlin: For your information, Ontario has 104 traditional lighthouse structures. The Great Lakes are a huge inland waterway system, which required a huge number of lights. Quite a number of those lighthouses are impressive stone structures, as there is a great deal of limestone around the Great Lakes. I will mention one. It is a sad example in Ontario. It is the Point Abino light on Lake Erie. Built in 1917, it is a beautiful Greek revival apparition in poured concrete. The lighthouse is aesthetically beautiful and has both national historic site status and FHBRO recognized status. However, it is currently heading down the disposal track because it has been decommissioned. Under the current rules, it is destined to be sold. The people who want to buy it are wealthy cottagers who own the land around it. Here we have a national historic site, but Canadians are not allowed to visit it. We cannot put a plaque on it, and under the existing rules it will be sold off to people who are not Canadians.

Senator Perrault: That is wrong.

Mr. Curry: That is one of the worst-case scenarios.

Senator Mahovlich: That is shocking news; I am not familiar with the situation. I do not boat on Lake Ontario, and I have never heard of that lighthouse. It sounds rather interesting and unique in that the architecture is different from other lighthouses.

The Chairman: You are both involved with the Nova Scotia groups. Do you know if there is an equivalent group to yours in Ontario that looks after the question of inland lighthouses?

Mr. Curry: There is no a province-wide group or group that claims representation from the whole of the province, but there are a number of smaller groups. There is a group, for instance, at Point Abino that has been struggling to keep that light Canadian. There is also an international -- Canadian and American -- Great Lakes lighthouse association. That would be the closest umbrella-type organization in the central part of the continent.

The Chairman: Thank you. We will keep a close eye on that area as well.

Senator Forrestall: We appreciate your appearing under these circumstances. You may know DFO, through Ms Beal and others, has expressed some broad, general support but also some concern about clause 6, particularly subclause (2), of the bill that I have proposed. Could you comment on that? As we were drafting, we wanted to not tie the hands of the department with respect to maintaining the communication aspects of lighthouses. If something needs doing, the department should have no constraints and no difficulties about that.

DFO suggested that it might lead to lengthy delays if they were caught up in the process that this proposed act suggests, and that, if they had to do something in the face of an emergency, it might take so much time as to present a major obstacle. Would you care to comment on that? We are addressing that issue, and certainly Senator Carney and I did not want in any way to compromise the department. Could you comment on subclause 6(2) with respect to whether or not it might impose difficulties for the department?

Mr. Conlin: In drafting this bill you were wise to include subclause (2), which says that the prohibition does not apply when an alteration is made in response to an emergency. Therefore, if there were a pressing navigational need to alter a lighthouse, those changes, it would seem, would be exempt from this bill. That would take care of that particular Coast Guard concern.

It is much easier to live with a free hand and not have to live with heritage restrictions. I work in a heritage building in a museum; we wanted to put up a big advertising sign but we could not because it was a heritage building. It was annoying but, in the end, worthwhile. That is something you live with when you have heritage property.

Mr. Curry: Subclause 6(2) grants to the department in question the appropriate leeway they would need.

Mr. Conlin: The one addition to the bill that we suggest is that the department be given some ability to lease lighthouses so that they can build relationships with communities that want to maintain the lights for the department.

Senator Forrestall: I thought we were very careful, but that is an excellent point. We wanted the department to have the greatest freedom to exercise its responsibilities that we could possibly give it while at the same time relieving the department of much of cost. In some cases, years ago, 50 years or 80 years or 100 years ago, when land had an entirely different value than it does today, the department said, "Let us get a couple of acres or perhaps 10 acres. While we are at it, there is a 20-acre block; perhaps we should pick that up." In 1920, that was not a large capital investment. In the year 2000, however, that has become a very valuable commodity; measured against the market value, it presents quite a different picture.

We wanted to be careful in the disposals to the community after the consultative process was done that the department would retain some capacity to exercise its responsibilities. For example -- and I reach a bit with this one, but it makes the point -- the outer and inner range harbour light on Kent Island at Pleasant Point is on Mr. Ivan Kent's land. He is in a position to lease the top of the lighthouse to the department, which, in turn, picks up the costs of electricity and maintenance for the light bubble. Mr. Kent then assumes the balance of the responsibility, and is quite delighted to do that because in that way he preserves the light for exactly what it is. That lighthouse has had 3,400 visitors just over the last couple of years. I am sure that other lighthouses around Atlantic Canada have had similar numbers of visitors. The lighthouse on Kent Island is so far off the beaten track that unless you had an excellent piece of literature you would never find it. That was what we had intended. Did we not go far enough? Should we have given the department even greater leeway?

Mr. Curry: I do not think so.

Mr. Conlin: I am not sure. The prohibition clause -- clause 6 -- is one that I found attractive. It is strong and clear, and makes up for the failure of other heritage processes to stop demolition and disposal. I thought that you covered it well with subclause (2). Perhaps the Coast Guard has some specific suggestions about other exclusions that would not undermine the heritage protection role.

Senator Forrestall: Do you see anything in the bill that would unduly delay or prolong a process that the department might perceive as being necessary in order to maintain its purpose and its role with respect to the light as a beacon and a communications tool?

Mr. Curry: I do not see any problem with the bill in those terms.

Mr. Conlin: The only thing that you might want to consider is the phrase "where the alteration is made in response to an emergency." Perhaps that could be expanded to include "emergency or pressing navigational need." That would give the Coast Guard a little more leeway. Lives might not necessarily be at stake, but they might potentially be at stake; or perhaps a centre of navigation might be required. That could open it up for the department. Other than that, I do not see any great restrictions.

Mr. Curry: It might be good to know what concerns they envisioned as being restricted by this subclause. It seems that it gives them adequate opportunity to do what belongs to their mandate.

Senator Forrestall: Mr. Chairman, you indicated that there are a few amendments to be presented. How will they be communicated to us?

The Chairman: We have the transcript, but if the witnesses who indicated the proposed amendments would like to fax them to us, that would be helpful.

Mr. Curry: Certainly, I would be happy to provide them.

Senator Forrestall: I hope that our efforts complement the tremendous efforts of all concerned participants.

Mr. Curry: Yes, they do.

Senator Perrault: Is there a regular and organized program of inspection of all lighthouses to ensure there is no danger to life and limb?

Mr. Curry: The Canadian Coast Guard has several examination and review processes that they are obliged to complete. That was a big issue when they began discussions to increase the number of sites for disposal, and especially there was a great deal of concern about environmental issues. The Canadian Coast Guard currently has a fairly rigorous process in place.

Senator Perrault: What triggers the definition of "obsolescence" as far as the lighthouses are concerned? Is it erosion of the foundations? What physical problems make it necessary to designate lighthouses as obsolete?

Mr. Curry: The disposal is not so much about the structure, because the structure might be solid and in good shape. Rather, the lighthouses become surplus in the delivery of the program; that is, they are no longer needed for navigational purposes.

Senator Perrault: Mention was made that there are classic limestone facilities in the Great Lakes area.

Senator Mahovlich: Yes, they are in the Kingston area.

Senator Perrault: Limestone is soft and can erode quickly.

Senator Mahovlich: Kingston is built on limestone.

Senator Perrault: These lighthouses present great potential for economic activity, not only in the Maritimes, but also on the West Coast.

The Chairman: Mr. Curry and Mr. Conlin, thank you for the comments and suggestions you presented tonight. We appreciate the passionate commitment that you attach to this important subject.

I urge committee members to visit Mr. Conlin's award-winning museum, because it is world-renowned.

Are there additional comments before we adjourn?

Mr. Curry: Thank you for the opportunity to present our concerns about this important national issue.

Mr. Conlin: You have this legislation before you at a critical juncture -- the sale and disposal of lights is just beginning. Our generation will decide what will happen to this system, one way or another.

The committee adjourned.


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