Bermuda > Canada
Interviewee: William Moss
What is the biggest problem facing archaeology in Canada?
Canada is a federated country, similar to Australia. It is thus difficult to give a “Canadian” reply to each of the following questions as the situation varies from one province or territory to the next. There is no federal legislation specifically addressing archaeological questions though the Canadian Environmental Protection Act does include heritage resources in environmental impact assessments coming under its jurisdiction and Parks Canada has developed national guidelines. Canada has no equivalent of the European Charter for the Protection and Management of the Archaeological Heritage (commonly called the Valetta Convention) or the National Historic Preservation Act in the USA. Each province or territory has its own legislation, thus giving a diversity of approaches with varying levels of control, which, on a general level, I would consider as the biggest problem facing archaeology in Canada. On a more personal note, I would consider the lack of formal recognition for archaeologists – similar to that of England’s Chartered Institute for Archaeologists – as an important handicap for professional practice. This, however, is far from being unique to Canada.
What role do archaeologists play in holding those in power accountable?
This is a difficult question. “Those in power” is a very large and loose term! It can refer to political power, economic power, or even cultural hegemony though these are oft-times intertwined. It can also address relations at any scale of social organization from the neighbourhood to the nation. Finally, one has to ask: “Accountable to whom and for what”? Given these caveats, I would like to examine one example, that of the management of archaeological collections by one of the country’s few national bodies that has a heritage remit and that manages territory – and consequently archaeological sites –, Parks Canada Agency. Following the growth of Parks Canada’s network of historic sites and parks in the 1970s and 1980s, a series of regional collections repositories was created to support operations in regional facilities in the Maritime provinces, in Québec, in Ontario, in the West and in Ottawa for central operations such as the underwater archaeology program. Cuts to the Agencies budgets in 2012 forced the immediate closure of some regional facilities and planned on the centralization of all collections in a single repository in the National Capital Region. There was considerable resistance to this, particularly in Québec, from the archaeological community and citizens’ groups (www.saa.org/Portals/0/SAA/GovernmentAffairs/PARKS_CANADA.pdf). Opposition to this project was renewed following the election of a new government in 2015. Archaeologists and First Nations in the Maritime provinces have been particularly alarmed at the impending closure of the state-of-the art collections repositories and laboratories and the subsequent removal of artefacts nearly 1500 km away (www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/parks-canada-archaeology-jonathan-fowler-mi-kmaq-acadian-1.4133423). The provincial legislature in Québec, the Assemblée nationale, voted an extremely rare unanimous motion in February of 2017 (www.ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1018576/motion-transfert-artefacts-quebec-gatineau). Actions by concerned archaeologists at the grass roots level have shown that collections, research and heritage are first and foremost community assets before being considered as national treasures. The final outcome of this situation is yet to be known…
How do archaeologists work with indigenous and minority groups/communities when examining sensitive sites/material culture?
Once again, the differences in provincial legislation lead to differing actions and responses. The only pan-Canadian reply to this lies with the Canadian Archaeological Association’s “Statement of Principles for Ethical Conduct Pertaining to Aboriginal Peoples” (canadianarchaeology.com/caa/bout/ethics/statement-principles-ethical-conduct-pertaining-aboriginal-peoples). Each province or territory has its own approach. For example, in Ontario, individual archaeologists have a legal obligation to consult and involve Indigenous groups having a cultural affiliation with a site under investigation and guidelines have been prepared for consulting archaeologists (www.mtc.gov.on.ca/en/publications/AbEngageBulletin.pdf). In neighbouring Québec, the provincial government determines where and when consultation of Indigenous groups is required and does so on the basis of nation to nation discussions. Some institutions are very proactive. Sustainable Archaeology, at Ontario’s Western University and McMaster University, has an advisory committee comprised of practicing archaeologists and Indigenous representatives who take under advisement all requests for the consultation of collections held in this state-of-the-art repository and research centre. Many First Nations have created their own archaeological programs. In Quebec, the Avataq Cultural Institute – the Inuit cultural organization of Nunavik in Northern Quebec (www.avataq.qc.ca/en/Home) and the Cree Cultural Institute, or Aanischaaukamikw (creeculturalinstitute.ca) – are good examples among many more. Some governments are adopting programs to deal with repatriation issues. British Columbia recently allocated two million dollars to the Royal B.C. Museum to develop a repatriation program with First Nation partners, helping to bring back items that were taken without permission, confiscated from potlatch ceremonies or stolen from graves, as early archaeological programmes sometimes did (www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/first-nations-repatriation-1.3760631).
How does Canada build capacity for minority groups to get involved in archaeology and museums?
The archaeological community is well aware of this need. The CAA created the “Weetaluktuk Student Prize”in 1983 in honour of an early Inuit archaeologist (canadianarchaeology.com/caa/about/awards/daniel-weetaluktuk-award). The Canadian Museum of History has administered since 1993“The RBC Aboriginal Training Program in Museum Practices” which offers professional and technical training for First Nations, Métis and Inuit participants. It is the only program of its kind in Canada and its goal is to develop ways for Aboriginal Nations across Canada to represent their own history and culture in concert with cultural institutions. (www.historymuseum.ca/learn/research/the-rbc-aboriginal-training-program-in-museum-practices). First Nations’ archaeologists, such as Carrie Dan, are cited as role models by British Columbia’s First Nations Education Steering Committee for her exemplary career as field archaeologist and museum curator (www.fnesc.ca/careerjourneys/). A resounding example of First Nations capacity is the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network award-winning series “Wild Archaeology”, co-hosted by Rudy Reimer of Simon Fraser University and Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw, Jenifer Brousseau and Jacob Pratt (aptn.ca/wildarchaeology/).
I have been Chief Archæologist for the City of Québec since 1985. Before that, I worked in England and, in Québec, for Parks Canada and the provincial Culture and Communications Department. A sessional lecturer at Laval University and a regularly-invited lecturer in Québec and abroad, I am active in several learned societies, such as the Society of Antiquaries of London, ICOMOS’s International Committee on Archæological Heritage Management or the Society for American Archæology’s Committee on International Government Affairs. The Society for Historical Archæology presented me the Carol V. Ruppé Distinguished Service Award in 2016. Locally, I have received awards from the tourist industry for organizing international scientific conferences. Laval University awarded mean honorary Ph.D. in 2014 for my contribution to the knowledge of, the protection and the development of Québec City’s archæological heritage.
Questions from Deborah Anne Atwood in Bermuda.
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