A spokesperson for federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna confirmed Wednesday that plans to centralize a number of archeological labs across the country to a facility in Gatineau no longer includes the purpose-built Woodside facility, which opened in 2009.
“Parks Canada will continue to lease the Dartmouth facility as it meets the conservation and security standards,” the spokesperson said.
Upon learning Thursday about Park’s Canada’s decision to retain the facility, Millbrook Chief Bob Gloade said he was happy the agency had listened to expressed concerns.
“We’re very pleased with the outcome of keeping the artifacts here in this province as opposed to them going to Gatineau, Quebec,” he said, adding the agency has also agreed to work with the Mi’kmaq on how to have them properly displayed.
The previous Conservative government decided in 2012 to consolidate six Parks Canada labs into one facility and close the others, as they were not meeting standards, putting artifacts at risk of damage or theft. The Liberal government planned to move ahead with the $45-million project beginning in 2018.
But many, including Mi’kmaq and Acadian groups as well as scientists, historians and community leaders, weren’t pleased with the plan to shutter the almost-new Woodside Dartmouth Archaeology Lab and send the region’s material history to Quebec.
“It would be a major concern because these are artifacts that pertain to the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia,” said Gloade earlier, of the thousands of Mi’kmaq artifacts currently housed in Dartmouth.
Gloade said he and others from the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs have emphasized their belief that artifacts pertaining to the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia should not be moved.
“They should be maintained here in our province,” he said, so they can be properly displayed and portrayed.
“And have them on display, as opposed to where they are currently, where they are still stored in a large warehouse.”
Parks Canada is responsible for protecting Canada’s natural and cultural heritage and showcasing significant examples of the country’s heritage nationally. It primarily exhibits the objects under its care at national parks and historic sites in every province and territory.
In an emailed response, spokeswoman Meaghan Bradley said the agency currently manages and operates six collection storage facilities including the Dartmouth site. The others are located in Winnipeg, Cornwall, Ottawa and Quebec City.
With the exception of the purpose-built facility in Dartmouth, however, none of the other storage facilities meet environmental and security standards, Bradley said.Dartmouth Cole Harbour MP Darren Fisher said the Atlantic caucus had been working diligently on the issue since it came to their attention.
“The business case for closing the facility was that centralizing was going to save money, but we have a facility in Dartmouth with a lease to 2029 and the lease has to be paid regardless because it’s a purpose-built facility,” he explained.
“Our argument was there’s no business case for moving this facility to Gatineau when we’ve got a facility that’s in fabulous condition and purpose-built to store these artifacts, which belong to Atlantic Canadians.”
Fisher said once the MPs made their case to McKenna they felt she agreed with their concerns and that a remedy was forthcoming.
“We were happy to see today that Parks Canada has backed off that and Dartmouth is no longer part of the plan for the facility in Gatineau.”
– With Truro Daily News Files