The 2023 Heritage “Naughty or Nice” List
While every year feels consequential , 2023 seemed to pack a lot of change, good efforts, and bad outcomes into a fast and furious package. And so, as the year lurches to a close, the National Trust staff can’t help tallying up who, from a heritage perspective, has been naughty or who has been nice. Who should receive a nice gift of thanks, this holiday season, and who a lump of heritage coal?
What follows is a non-exhaustive list of some of the highlights and lowlights from the past year. Naughty or nice thoughts of your own? We would love to hear them. Please send them to us here and put “Naughty or Nice List” in the subject line!
Heritage Montreal (Montréal, QC) – In the heritage feel good story of the year, Heritage Montreal has risen from the ashes after a major fire devastated its Monastère du Bon-Pasteur headquarters on May 23. The irrepressible organization continues its work in a new space, and work continues to recover its exceptional heritage conservation archive.
Federal Bill C-23 – Feels gratifying for federal heritage to finally get that attention it deserves, but a bit naughty that after the last debate at 2nd Reading in the House of Commons on March 21 it appears stalled. The House can start 2024 right by passing the Bill on to the Environment Committee for discussion. Please consider sending a message over the holidays to your Member of Parliament, telling them that this legislation is important. Take action here.
Tr’ondëk-Klondike World Heritage Site (Yukon) – Located within the homeland of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, the archaeological and historic sources of Canada’s newest World Heritage site reflects Indigenous people’s adaptation to unprecedented changes caused by the Klondike Gold Rush at the end of the 19th century.
Chinatown Reimagined Forum (Montréal, QC) – Spearheaded by Montreal’s JIA Foundation, this major international gathering helped reimagine a future for Chinatowns across North America as they experience an onslaught of new development threats. Coming out on the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act, this feels especially “nice.”
Stephen Avenue Mall (Calgary, AB) – A mega-project that would have seen three tall towers built on an iconic downtown block of the Stephen Avenue National Historic Site was withdrawn after the Provincial Government flexed on concerns about impacts to heritage buildings.
This list features a bevy of bad news Bills:
Ontario Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act – While enacted in late 2022, the full impact of this Act – including gutting out heritage register (inventory) provisions – continues to reverberate through Ontario, setting heritage protections back decades. The 2023 Provincial Policy Statement continues the theme of undermining heritage.
Four British Columbia Housing Bills – These end of year legislative zingers bring blanket up-zoning that neutralizes BC’s very successful heritage revitalization agreement process where extra density was the carrot for protecting heritage. Advocates fear a tornado of demolition applications for heritage homes in the New Year.
Québec Bill 31 – An Act to Amend Various Legislative Provisions with Respect to Housing – Advocates were alarmed by a new Ontario-style Bill indiscriminately accelerating housing and allowing projects to leap around existing municipal cultural and natural heritage protection bylaws. While now withdrawn by the Québec government after considerable debate and public protest, advocates expect it to return in the New Year.
Making a List, Checking it Twice
Some folks are working hard to maintain their places on the National Trust Endangered Places List and are top of mind for Canada’s heritage organizations.
Ontario Science Centre (Toronto, ON) – In April, the Ontario government plans to demolish the Ontario Science Centre, a spectacular Centennial project and international brutalist icon. Grinchy Ontario definitely has “a heart three sizes too small” to push demolishing the Science Centre the year its celebrated architect Raymond Moriyama passed away.
800 Granville Street Project (Vancouver, BC)– A juggernaut project proposing a 16-storey glass commercial/office building over the Commodore Ballroom and Granville Street’s “Theatre Row,” continues to gather political support and inevitability.
Église Sainte-Marie (Church Point, NS) – The largest wooden church in North America is now one step closer to the wrecking ball, and the local Acadian community gut-punched, after an anonymous donor withdrew their $10 million rehab donation.