Despite calls to protect lighthouses as public assets and as part of Canada’s cultural heritage, the federal government is washing its hands of this responsibility. Almost a thousand of Canada’s lighthouses are at risk, including beloved Peggy’s Cove, in Nova Scotia. Canadians have been encouraged to nominate lighthouses under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act but the deadline is approaching fast with important lighthouses left off the list.
“In my riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, there are at least two important lighthouses that will be affected, at Porlier Pass and Portlock Point. We have been working with citizens who want to see these structures preserved,” said Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament and Leader of the Green Party of Canada.
The two most affected lighthouses in Saanich-Gulf Islands are:
- Porlier Pass Rear Range on Galiano Island which is an “active” status lighthouse that has not yet been nominated for heritage status.
- Portlock Point Lightstation which is a “surplus” status lighthouse not yet nominated for heritage status.
Other affected lighthouses in the riding have been nominated for heritage status, including Active Pass Lightstation and East Point (Saturna Island) Lightstation.
The Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, passed in 2008, provided a process whereby citizens could nominate any federally-owned lighthouse for designation as a heritage property. Other lighthouses will be sold off.
“The Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act was a bit of a misnomer and it is really a way for the government to divest itself of lighthouses,” said May.
Under the Act, community groups could apply for ownership of the lighthouses, however there is no associated funding for maintaining the buildings.
“Lighthouses are a source of pride for coastal communities and the tourism benefits alone justify their maintenance and indeed, their enhancement,” said May.