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Protecting Archaeological Heritage

The Ville de Montréal, like most large urban centres around the world, has acknowledged the importance of preserving its heritage. For over 20 years, the City has been planning and intensifying its actions to protect, manage and enhance the archaeological heritage on its territory.

The protection of archaeological heritage, however, remains a mandatory government requirement established primarily by Québec’s Loi sur les biens culturels (Cultural Property Act). Thus, under the Act:

em>"Whoever, during excavation or construction work undertaken for other than archaeological purposes, discovers an archaeological property or site must inform the Minister of it without delay. The latter may, to permit the examination of the place by experts, order the suspension, for a period not exceeding fifteen days, of any excavation or construction that might compromise the integrity of the property or site discovered." (s. 41).

Over the years, the application of this provision to accidental archaeological discoveries during construction projects has resulted in work stoppages, lost time during archaeological appraisals as well as delays and costs associated with managing these unexpected events.

To minimize these adverse effects and in the interest of both archaeological heritage conservation and urban development, the Master Plan recommends the development of administrative information and coordination mechanisms to enable:

  • Prior identification of areas likely to harbour archaeological remains (see Map 2.6.2);
  • Sharing, with the developers and owners of the sites concerned, the costs associated with any characterization studies that may be required under the existing subsidy programs.
Protect and enhance Montréal’s archaeological heritage

Like its built heritage, Montréal’s archaeological heritage reflects the history of the City and constitutes a collective asset worth documenting, preserving and enhancing.

A number of boroughs have major archaeological potential, having been occupied successively from the time of the First Nations to the earliest stages of Montréal’s urbanization and industrialization. The protection and enhancement of Montréal’s archaeological heritage can already count on practices and accomplishments that are exemplary in many respects. Thus the work done to date has made it possible to document the archaeological potential of numerous sites through inventories and searches. Given their importance, some archaeological remains have also been enhanced in urban development projects or through the creation of museums.

At present, the territory of Montréal counts 191 sites listed in Québec’s inventory of archaeological sites. A number of archaeological properties and sites are also classified under Québec’s Loi sur les biens culturels (Cultural Property Act). Similarly, many archaeological sites are located in Montréal’s various national historic sites, historic or natural districts and heritage sites.

The City recognizes the importance of these assets and supports the protection given to these archaeological resources. The City also intends to inform and educate public stakeholders and Montrealers about their archaeological heritage. Thus the Master Plan emphasizes the importance of assessing archaeological potential and protecting the archaeological remains of interest found in the areas shown in Map 2.6.2.

Implementation measures

  • Take the required measures to assess archaeological potential and, if appropriate, to protect archaeological remains during public and private excavation work done in the following areas, shown in Map 2.6.2:
    • Large properties under protection and cultural properties;
    • Listed archaeological sites;
    • Areas of strong potential archaeological interest.
  • In the areas of archaeological interest shown in Map 2.6.2, inform those responsible for excavation work of the possible presence of archaeological remains and the measures to take in the event of a discovery.
  • Promote consideration of remains of high archaeological value in designing and undertaking construction projects, notably by adapting the project or incorporating the remains.
  • Provide funding for archaeological searches in Montréal by expanding the territory eligible for the Programme de soutien financier aux fouilles archéologiques (Archaeological Search Financial Aid Program).