World Heritage Sites

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UNESCO and the World Heritage List

Adopted by UNESCO in 1972, the World Heritage Convention established the World Heritage List to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. The World Heritage List is a means of acknowledging that these sites are of sufficient importance to be recognized by the international community as a whole. Membership on the List is the most significant global designation any site can achieve. The UNESCO World Heritage Centre assures the day-to-day management of the World Heritage Convention.  

With the addition of the new sites inscribed by the 36th session of the World Heritage Committee, the World Heritage List now numbers 962 properties including 745 cultural, 188 natural and 29 mixed properties. Sixteen of these sites are in Canada.

UNESCO's World Heritage Committee is the decision-making body of the Convention. Individual countries bring their nominations to the Committee which makes its selections based on specific selection criteria:

  • a cultural property: could be a masterpiece of creative genius; have exerted great architectural influence; be associated with ideas or beliefs of universal significance; or it may be an outstanding example of a traditional way of life that represents a certain culture.
  • a natural property: may exemplify major stages of the earth's history; represent significant ongoing ecological and biological processes; contain the natural habitats of threatened species; or it may be a setting of exceptional beauty.

Three non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations advise the Committee in its work: the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) for cultural properties; and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) for natural properties. The Committee  also works with other bodies such as the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM). 

The Committee also administers other aspects of the World Heritage Convention, including monitoring of the condition of sites. A Global Strategy for a balanced and representative World Heritage List was adopted by the World Heritage Committee in 1994. Its aim is to ensure that the List reflects the world's cultural and natural diversity of outstanding universal value.

Canada's World Heritage Sites

In Canada, Parks Canada is the lead agency for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention.

The 17 sites which have been designated in this country are a combination of national and provincial parks and historic settings which the World Heritage Committee numbers among the most significant sites on Earth. They are:

  • Nahanni National Park (1978)
  • L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site (1978)
  • Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek (1979, 1992, 1994)
    -- a transboundary site between Canada and the United States.
  • Dinosaur Provincial Park (1979)
  • SG ang Gwaay(Anthony Island) (1981)
  • Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (1981)
  • Wood Buffalo National Park (1983)
  • Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks (1984, 1990)
  • Historic District of Old Québec (1985)
  • Gros Morne National Park (1987)
  • Old Town Lunenburg (1995)
  • Miguasha National Park (1999)
  • Waterton Glacier International Peace Park (1995) -- a transboundary site between Canada and the United States.
  • Rideau Canal (2007)
  • Joggins Fossil Cliffs (2008)
  • The Landscape of Grand Pre in Nova Scotia (2012)
  • Red Bay Basque Whaling Station in Newfoundland and Labrador (2013)

For more information on Canada's World Heritage Sites please visit the WHC Map page on this web site.

Canada's Current Tentative List

In order to help the Committee in evaluating potential sites within the widest possible context, countries must submit a Tentative List of proposals likely to be put forward over a five to ten year period. 

Updating Canada's Tentative List has given the Parks Canada, acting as Canada's State representative to the Convention, in cooperation with other levels of government, Aboriginal groups and relevant stakeholders, an opportunity to identify sites of outstanding value for consideration. The nine proposed sites on Canada's Tentative List meet UNESCO criteria and are believed to have the best potential over the next decade to be inscribed on the World Heritage List as sites of outstanding universal value.

For more information on Canada's Tentative World Heritage Site list please visit the World Heritage page on the  Parks Canada web site.