Manitoba History: News and Reports: Historic Conservation Policy

Manitoba History, Number 2, 1981

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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The Manitoba Historical Society has long been concerned with the preservation of properties within the province that are of historical or architectural significance. In the late spring of 1980, the Society drafted a policy proposal setting forth tentative guidelines for the identification, ranking, and preservation of heritage properties, and for appropriate actions to be encouraged by the MHS in regard to the protection and interpretation of those properties. On 24 June, the Executive Council of the Society endorsed the policy statement.

The Society’s policy defines heritage properties in broad terms. “Environments both natural and man-made, sites of historic importance (e.g., landscapes and streetscapes), buildings, contents of buildings (ornaments, furniture, paraphernalia), and equipment” are deemed worthy of consideration as heritage properties. Archaeological sites and entire rural and urban settlements are also included in the policy statement. Both unique and typical properties will be considered for preservation by an advisory committee “composed of members [of the Society] knowledgeable in the appropriate fields of history, architecture, archaeology, natural history, city planning, and history of design, along with citizen representatives.” The major task of the committee will be preparation of lists of potential heritage properties in accordance with established criteria. These lists will be forwarded to the appropriate governmental officials, whether legislators, city or town councils, reeves, or local government district officers, who will then make the final decision about designation as a heritage property.

Once a particular property becomes a heritage property, the Society hopes it will be assured legal protection against destruction or deterioration, and against alteration or addition that would be unsympathetic to the property’s original use, character or scale. Ideally, according to the policy statement, grants in aid of conservation would be made in the forms of direct grants, tax concessions or loans, and compensation would be provided in those cases where satisfying the conditions of designation leaves the property owner financially aggrieved.

The policy goes on to suggest that governments and other authorities should provide laws, procedures, agencies and funds for the following purposes:

  1. to conduct surveys and list heritage properties;
  2. to prepare reports on properties to be considered for designation including the necessary historical, architectural and environmental research and investigation;
  3. to provide for heritage property designation;
  4. to provide for area conservation;
  5. to provide for design control;
  6. to provide for grants and compensation to owners and tenants;
  7. to provide for the maintenance of heritage properties;
  8. to provide for the de-designation of heritage properties;
  9. to provide for appeal procedures to designation, de-designation and design control; and
  10. to provide for penalties for non-compliance.

To ensure that the Manitoba Historical Society is in a position to contribute to the administration of this policy, it is recommended there be Society representatives on the Historic Sites Advisory Board of Manitoba, the City of Winnipeg Historic Buildings Advisory Committee, local heritage property conservation advisory agencies, and other existing designation authorities like ARC (Canada-Manitoba Agreement for Recreation and Culture). It is also planned that the Society will be represented in any design control agencies that may be formed at the local and provincial government levels. Close contact will be maintained with organizations such as Heritage Winnipeg and Heritage Canada, too.

Within the Society, certain activities will be encouraged to aid in the preservation of heritage properties. These include conducting historic research, disseminating information about heritage properties to the membership and the public, providing material concerning the best means of preserving such properties, and owning and operating heritage properties. Dalnavert, or Macdonald House, is already a splendid example of the sort of heritage property preservation that the Society is capable of undertaking. The policy statement provides a variety of funding methods that may be employed in conjunction with these activities.

Although the policy has been in effect for little more than half a year, the Manitoba Historical Society has already, made significant progress in implementing some of its objectives. William P. Thompson, President of the MHS, and Shirlee Smith of the Executive Council, recently met with provincial authorities to recommend the establishment of a Heritage Council within the Department of Culture that would serve as a liaison between the government and heritage property owners. It is hoped that such a Council might elicit greater co-operation from heritage property owners and tenants in the work of preservation and design control. Thompson and Smith have also encouraged the government to create a model policy for the conservation of heritage properties in rural Manitoba, an area that has received relatively little consideration in this respect. The provincial authorities are now considering these proposals. The Society has also contacted Great-West Life Assurance and Canadian National Railways in order to revive preservation plans for the Empire Hotel and to foster greater co-operation between the private sector and the provincial government in carrying out this vital work. Although these talks are still in the preliminary stage, it is anticipated that preservation of the Empire may be considered within the terms of the ARC agreement which deals with the interpretation of the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers as a place of historical significance.

Page revised: 16 February 2024