Advocacy has long been at the core of Heritage BC’s work, although we have seen significant changes to the approaches and messages that form our efforts.
Advocacy for arts, culture, and heritage can be tricky as there is little that can be considered strictly “right or wrong” or “black and white”, and it often relies on emotional, and therefore subjective, responses. That certainly has a place in advocacy, but more and more we have tried to focus on well-researched and analyzed evidence-based arguments made with well-crafted messages that take into account the recipients’ needs and point-of-views.
There is nothing quick about advocacy but, with the advantage of hindsight, we see good results ranging from investments in the Heritage Legacy Fund to a $20M grant program. We are also establishing better relationships and improved awareness, which, in turn, is creating stronger position for heritage in the bigger context.
The best example of this is the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP), the importance of which cannot be over-emphasized. In designing the program, the Province placed heritage alongside other sectors that are, without question, recognized and supported for economic and employment impact. This was a rare time when heritage stood as an equal to tourism.
To learn more about our approaches and aims to advocacy, please refer to our policy framework. Following are examples of our advocacy activities from 2019 to 2021. We hope this information will inspire you in your advocacy work and help you in crafting your messages.
Building and Standards Safety Branch
This Branch is not typically a focus of the heritage sector but, in fact, it exerts considerable influence on conservation, particularly through the BC Building Code. When the Branch announced it would review codes for existing buildings, we saw a golden opportunity to highlight the unique needs of heritage conservation and to advocate for specific improvements to the code.
By coincidence, Codes Canada also undertook a review of codes related to existing buildings at the same time. We provided similar recommendations to Codes Canada and emphasized the importance of aligning the national code with the provincial codes.
Building and Safety Standards Branch (Ministry of Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing) and the Built Environment Branch (Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation)
The Building and Safety Standards Branch and Built Environment Branch held a consultation in the fall of 2021 to support the Province’s “Roadmap to 2030 which will be the Province’s response to the challenge of reducing our emissions further to meet our targets.”
This offered another extraordinary opportunity to place heritage conservation in the ‘bigger picture’ – as a viable means to achieve climate change action with proven results. We recognized that our submission had to be unequivocal in making a case for heritage conservation, and so we contracted Mark Thompson Brandt and MTBA Associates, Canada’s leading experts in the field of heritage conservation and climate action.
Ministery of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
It probably will surprise no one that we make annual formal submission to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. In our letters and meetings, we always emphasize the values and contributions of the sector (which are very impressive) and, of course, we include requests for new investments to the Heritage Legacy Fund. We also underscore the important relationship with the Heritage Branch and the alignment of our priorities.
Results are rarely linked to one letter or a single meeting – more typically, they come from cumulative efforts that occur over many years. But, the results are there in abundance – from recent investments to the Heritage Legacy Fund to the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) that provided fully-funded provincial grants to support heritage infrastructure projects.
Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services
For at least five years, we have advocated for increased awareness and improved funding opportunities to the Province of BC through this Committee’s annual public consultation process. The Committee’s 2018 report noted the presentations by BC Museums Association and Heritage BC:
Representatives from Heritage BC and the BC Museums Association stressed the importance of continued funding for the heritage sector, including museums and cultural centres. Presenters noted the importance of preserving BC’s rich cultural history, and explained that these institutions can add value to communities by acting as teaching centres that contribute to reconciliation initiatives.
Over the years we have developed a unified and consistent message with our sector colleagues and, in fact, the submissions are often submitted jointly by BC Heritage Fairs, BC Historical Federation, and BCMA.
Annual submissions to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services is only one piece of the puzzle, but a clear, consistent, and unified message is critical if we are to gain the needed awareness. We are in it for the long game.
Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture
The pandemic has been cause for numerous advocacy efforts, ensuring our sector is included in the Province’s many recovery initiatives.
In this letter to the minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture (May, 2021), BCMA and Heritage BC ask that heritage be included in the eligibility criteria for the Major Anchor Attractions Program, a $120M fund that was included in the 2021 budget.
Small and medium museums and heritage sites are often the economic engines of their local communities and contribute to ensuring that communities large and small have a diverse and vibrant tourism sector. From providing seasonal jobs for youth, to building a shared sense of community, to working with local businesses to put communities on the map, to attracting cultural tourism from across the world, museums and heritage organizations are an integral part of BC’s tourism ecosystem. If any one part of a healthy ecosystem is left to wither, it threatens the health of the whole.
Federal Pre-Budget Consultations 2021
It is not common for Heritage BC to advocate the federal government, but more and more we realize the importance of working in solidarity with our colleagues in BC and across Canada by delivering supporting and unified messages.
In this case, we worked closely with the National Trust for Canada to strengthen their submission for the 2021 Federal Pre-Budget Consultation. We also worked with BCMA to echo their message.
The key points included:
2021 submission download
Premier of British Columbia and Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier
COVID-19 recovery was all-consuming in 2020 and 2021 and a considerable effort went into the collection of data and information so that we could make the very strongest case to the Province of BC.
This is clearly evidenced in this submission that advocates for funding. The result was the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) that provided fully-funded provincial grants to support heritage infrastructure projects.
Other Examples of our Advocacy
There are many ways to advocate – here is a sample of some of our other efforts.
In 2021, the Heritage BC Board of Directors unanimously agreed to sign onto the Climate Heritage Network Memorandum of Understanding.
By signing onto the MOU, Heritage BC indicates its commitment to address climate change and support communities in achieving the decarbonization goals and other ambitions of the Paris Agreement. We also emphasize that culture and heritage (including sites and landscapes, institutions and collections as well as creativity, intangible heritage, traditional ways of knowing and practices) are both impacted by climate change and an asset for climate action; and that culture and heritage constitute an invaluable resource to help communities reduce GhG emissions and strengthen adaptive capacity. You can read the Memorandum of Understanding here and you can learn more about the Climate Heritage Action Network here.
In 2019. the Heritage BC board unanimously endorsed Recognizing and Including Indigenous Cultural Heritage in BC, a policy paper prepared by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and containing 10 recommendations. In a letter to Honourable Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development, Honourable Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, and Honourable Scott Fraser, Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, we stated:
“Heritage is the active recognition of the human story.” Participants [of the State of Heritage provincial roundtables] agreed that Indigenous culture has been appropriated, dismissed, or excluded, and that work must be done to acknowledge past wrongs and to strive for true inclusive. The message was clear: we, British Columbians, must advance our efforts in building bridges with Indigenous people and communities.
The First Peoples’ Cultural Council has shown leadership in producing the policy paper and we recognize that this message is consistent with what we heard during the provincial roundtables.
The practice and understanding of heritage have greatly changed in recent years. Recognizing the past helps everyone to build a better future. Recognition of the unique and irreplaceable heritage and culture of B.C.’s Indigenous communities is key to reconciliation and this is why we endorse the recommendations presented by First Peoples’ Cultural Council.
Signing on the Heritage and Reconciliation Pledge is another form of advocacy: of course, to demonstrate a commitment to this important work, but also show leadership by setting an example.