Gord Brown requests minister redevelop Interpretation program on the Rideau Canal


Brockville – Gord Brown, Member of Parliament for Leeds-Grenville – Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, recently requested that the federal environment minister redevelop a plan for interpretation on the Rideau Canal.

“One of the next steps in my continuing plan for the Rideau was a re-development of Interpretation for the canal,” he wrote to minister Catherine McKenna. “There is a great deal of history and a number of stories to be told along the Rideau. From engineering, to construction, to cultural heritage and the colourful personalities that have manned the lock stations, there are hundreds of tales to tell.”

At one time, the Rideau had an extensive Interpretation program that peaked during the 150th Anniversary of the canal. It included costumed interpreters, films, artifact displays, a newsletter, school programs and research.

The Rideau is, first and foremost, an engineering marvel; but, following a close second, it is a people place, with a vast warehouse of informative history about our nation, he wrote. “It is unlikely that the Rideau will ever again have a large seasonal staff to undertake interpretation,” says Gord. “However, modern technology can make interpretation available to interested people whether they visit the canal in person or in-line.”

During the past few years he has investigated how an interpretation could work and suggested to the minister that Parks Canada adopt a similar program to what has been used successfully in the United States.

“At historic sites there, you can see a small story board but there are links to short presentations that are available as audio and/or video. You can download these to a portable device so you get the whole story as you view the site.”

This could work on the Rideau in conjunction with volunteers such as Historical Societies and Friends of the Rideau that are already present on the canal, he suggests. The Rideau Canal is part of the early history of our nation and, as we approach the 150th anniversary of Canada, this would be a tremendous legacy project for the canal, says Gord


  1. The following is a Letter to the Editor regarding the below article:

    RE: Gordon Brown Requests Minister Redevelop Interpretation on the Rideau Canal

    In last week’s edition of the North Grenville Times, the article “Gord Brown requests minister redevelop Interpretation program on the Rideau Canal” – highlights the letter written by Gord Brown to the Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna asking the Minister to ‘redevelop a plan for the interpretation on the Rideau Canal’. Mr. Brown is quoted as saying: ‘One of the next steps in my continuing plan was a re-development of interpretation for the canal.’

    The article references the “peaking of programs for the 150th celebration of the Rideau Canal”- perhaps that is because of the track record of the past conservative government and their cuts to Parks Canada and to Rideau Canal funding. In 2012 alone, the Harper Government cut the operating budget of Parks Canada by 5% and cut Rideau Canal’s operating budget by over 20%.

    Perhaps it is a rhetorical question – but I ask Mr. Brown, under whose government did the vast bulk of that erosion of programs and facilities take place? Under what government did the extinction of the interpreters happen? Under what government, infamous for micro management and top down decision making, did the Canal reach the current state? Mr. Brown need only look in the mirror for the answer. He was either part of it, or at best, he acquiesced.

    On May 10th, Catherine McKenna announced infrastructure funding in the amount of $57 million was granted to the Rideau Canal, the largest investment of its kind in the 184-year history of the Rideau Canal. The funding taps have started to flow once again for Canal infrastructure, countering the safety and preservation issues caused by years of Conservative neglect. Definitely a step in the right direction.

    Parks Canada also announced it would be reviewing its Management Plan which includes the Rideau Canal. That review will not be ‘top down’ or micro managed, but rather a consultative process with community members and all Canadians. It is clear that Minister McKenna and Parks Canada will work with partners and communities to help the Rideau Canal be a premier tourism destination, to foster recreation and support economic development. All this was initiated well before Mr. Brown issued a release about his letter to Minister McKenna.

    Mr. Brown seems determined to portray himself as the Champion of the Rideau Canal. One has to wonder why he didn’t take up that torch during the 10 years he was part of the Harper government that made such significant cuts to Parks Canada and to the Rideau Canal in particular.

    Norman Lee



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