MISSION STATEMENTUNESCO Victoria World Heritage Project Terms of Reference
Recognition of the Camosack/Victoria as a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Investigate the feasibility of nominating a cultural landscape focusing of the the region’s historic harbour and its foreshores for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing Camosack/Victoria as a historic sea-port, Indo-Pacific trading entrepot and administrative centre active over 10,000 years.
Government of Canada call for nominations: January 2027.
SUMMARY STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
At this confluence of the Pacific Ocean and the Salish Sea, lands stretching back from the entrance to the Gorge Waterway contained within the territories of the Lekwungen speaking Peoples, constitute a cultural landscape that demonstrates evidence of the interaction of geography, environment and people over time. Patterns of Indigenous habitation and use have survived, imbedded in and prompting the evolution of the urban landscape we see today.
From earliest times before the founding of Fort Victoria and the Songhees Village on the shores at the harbour entrance, and on through its growth as a capital city, lines of communications and trade throughout the Pacific Northwest and the Indo Pacific have underpinned a deposit of rich cultural history. Today this narrative is commemorated by over 50 sites of National significance, 25 sites of Provincial significance, and over 1000 listed heritage buildings. These mark everything from Lekwungen coastal villages, pre and post contact defensive networks, places of spiritual significance, and the evolution of the built environment as represented by the historic harbour, Old Town, Chinatown and the ‘garden-city’ suburbs.
Finally, and overlaying this, we can also witness a multi-hued intangible heritage ranging from the songs, language, place-names and artistic traditions of First Nations to the customs, practices and beliefs of the settlers who followed.
GLOBAL COMMEMORATIVE SIGNIFICANCE
The development of the region shares a classic pattern with other historic ports on the Indo-Pacific as geography, environment and peoples intersected over time and where the evidence of their interconnected networks fueled by travel, commerce, trade, territorial ambition, political hegemony, cultural exchange and population migrations survives to the present day.
Inscription on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites will articulate the cultural landscape of the region over the arc of history as a living document. The region’s natural habitat evolved in response to the earliest resource harvesting of the Lekwungen speaking people through colonization to nation building. Controversial aspects of the narrative will form part of the commemoration: displacement of Indigenous peoples, anti-Black, anti-Asian and gender-based discriminatory practices underpinned the settlement era. Environmental impacts from resource exploitation are another inheritance. The continuity of First Peoples’ own rich history and culture and survival against regimes marked by economic, social and political marginalization will form part of the evidentiary preparation and documentation.
These themes also will remain core to the recognition program. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s “Call to Action #79” calls for “a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage commemoration.” Project outcomes will be set within this framework that also prioritizes the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs adopted in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Also important will be adherence to the new national Framework for History and Commemoration (Parks Canada, 2019). A major objective of the nomination process will be, therefore, to support national and local reconciliation and sustainability objectives.