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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (HLPA)?
The Government of Canada has stated that "... lighthouses form an integral part of Canada’s identity, culture and heritage, and are of historic and aesthetic interest and significance to our communities and our nation..."
The HLPA is designed to protect federally-owned lighthouses by providing a means for their designation as heritage lighthouses. The Act requires that designated heritage lighthouses be maintained and altered in a manner consistent with established conservation standards. Under certain circumstances, a heritage lighthouse may be sold or transferred to another order of government, a community group or a person to facilitate an on-going use and purpose for the building.
The HLPA does not protect lighthouses that are currently owned by a Province or Municipality, nor does it protect privately owned lighthouses.

What qualifies as a Lighthouse under the HLPA?

A lighthouse is defined as a tower or other structure (including its fixtures), owned by the Government of Canada, that was built to contain, contains, or once contained a beacon light or other signal to warn or guide marine vessels, whether or not it is now in use as an aid to navigation.

How will the legislation be implemented?

The Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency (Minister of the Environment), is responsible for administering the HLPA. Given its expertise in heritage conservation, Parks Canada was assigned responsibility for the implementation of the Act.
There will be a two-year period following the coming into force of the Act during which public petitions proposing designations can be submitted. The Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency must consider all petitions received and determine, taking into account the designation criteria and consultations with an advisory committee, which lighthouses are to be designated.

What are the important dates to be aware of?
On May 29, 2010, the Act came into force and the two-year petitioning period began. The two-year petitioning period ends on May 29, 2012. All petitions must have been evaluated and any resulting designation made by the Minister no later than 3 years after the petition deadline. Results of the program must be published in the Canada Gazette by August 27, 2015.

Who decides which lighthouses are designated as Heritage Lighthouses?

The Minister appointed the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (the Board) to be his Advisory Committee on issues relating to heritage lighthouses. The Board advises and assists the Minister on the designation and protection of heritage lighthouses, and the establishment of criteria for their alteration and maintenance.

What is the process for petitioning a specific lighthouse for heritage designation?

Residents of Canada can seek heritage designations for lighthouses by addressing a petition to the Minister no later than May 29, 2012. Petitions must specify the lighthouse being nominated and be signed by at least 25 persons who are resident in Canada and who are 18 years of age or older.

How many lighthouses does the federal government own?

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
currently has 241 major lightstation sites and approximately 500 minor fixed aids to navigation that the public may generally perceive as lighthouses and that are representative of the types of buildings and structures that communities have expressed interest in protecting.

Parks Canada
, which is responsible for protecting and presenting nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage, currently owns several lighthouses, five of which are commemorated as national historic sites. Other Parks Canada lighthouses will NOT automatically be designated as heritage lighthouses. They are eligible for designation under the Act but must be nominated and the required Petition must be submitted before May 29, 2012.

Environment Canada
is also responsible for some National Wildlife Areas that include lighthouses. Again, these lighthouses are eligible for designation under the Act but must be nominated and the required Petition must be submitted before May 29, 2012.
Other federal departments may also have properties containing lighthouses. Search the Government of Canada's DFRP database for your area.
All of these lighthouses are eligible for designation under the HLPA. None of these lighthouses will be designated unless a petition is received by Parks Canada no later than May 29, 2012.

What is a “surplus” lighthouse? Can a surplus lighthouse be designated?

A surplus lighthouse is one that is surplus to federal operational requirements. It may or may not contain an active aid to navigation.
A surplus lighthouse may be nominated, but it can only be designated if it meets the designation criteria and a person or body submits a written commitment to buy or otherwise acquire the lighthouse and to protect its heritage character. The written commitment does not need to accompany the initial petition, but will be required in order for the lighthouse to be designated.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has declared hundreds of lighthouses surplus so that they do not have to take responsibility for conserving them as heritage structures. See the DFO website for a complete list.
None of Parks Canada’s lighthouses are considered surplus to its operational requirements. These lighthouses must still be nominated for designation by submitting a Petition.
No other Federal Government departments have declared any lighthouses as surplus.

Why has Fisheries and Oceans declared so many lighthouses to be surplus?

The Canadian Coast Guard undertook a detailed assessment of all the lighthouses it operates. The structures identified to be surplus under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act were those where Canadian Coast Guard officials have determined that they could be replaced with simpler structures whose operation and maintenance would be more cost-effective. Other former lighthouses that are no longer part of Canada’s aids to navigation system have also been identified as surplus, consistent with the Act’s requirement. Under Treasury Board policy, custodial departments are required to divest themselves of surplus properties.
It should be clear that while still active lighthouse structures can be transferred to the public, the actual navigational light will not be transferred and will remain the property of the Department with the Canadian Coast Guard ensuring its continued operation.

Are any of the surplus lighthouses staffed by lightkeepers?

No. The lighthouses that are staffed have not been declared surplus and are not candidates for transfer under the Act at this time. The Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is conducting a review of staffed lighthouses. The results of this will be released when the study is complete.

Where are the lighthouses that are being declared surplus located?

Lists of all lighthouses, by province, which have been declared surplus is available on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website, or just click this link for a comprehensive list of DFO Surplus Lighthouses. Many surplus lighthouses are located close to populated areas.

Where can information be obtained about particular lighthouses that have been declared surplus?

The list of surplus lighthouses includes, where possible, the associated Identification Number on the Directory of Federal Real Property (DFRP).  The DFRP may be accessed at It contains baseline information for most properties as well as information about departmental resource persons who can respond to more detailed inquiries.

Will Fisheries and Oceans Canada be doing any needed repairs prior to transferring surplus lighthouses to private organizations or providing any funds to such organizations for required repairs?

There is no source of supplementary funding identified in the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act to restore the condition of designated lighthouses.  The Department may consider applications on a case-by-case basis for minor site and building improvements during the transfer process for surplus lighthouses.

How can individuals or groups maintain lighthouses that have been designated as heritage properties?

Complementary uses such as for a restaurant or a museum could be permitted at lighthouse sites in order to generate revenue to cover maintenance costs.  There are also several private and public organizations with mandates for heritage preservation, tourism or economic development that may have programs that could assist potential owners.

What kind of assistance will Fisheries and Oceans Canada provide to individuals and organizations that are interested in submitting petitions for designation of heritage status and for acquisition of surplus lighthouses?

The Department will identify a contact person in each of its six regions to assist petitioning groups during the evaluation process.  A generic business case template has been developed to assist those groups proposing to acquire ownership of surplus lighthouse sites.  The business case template may be accessed on the Department’s website at

If a surplus lighthouse is declared to be a heritage property and there is no private organization that is able to take it over, what will happen to the property?

Under with the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, a surplus lighthouse can not be designated a heritage property without a written commitment to acquire ownership.  If such a commitment is not received, the lighthouse will not be designated under the Act and it will remain in Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s real estate holdings. It is possible that DFO will remove many of these non-designated lighthouses from the list of surplus lighthouses. If a lighthouse is still surplus to DFO's operational requirements then, according toTreasury Board policy, they are required to divest themselves of the surplus properties.

If a group petitions for the designation of a surplus lighthouse, are they also obligated to acquire the lighthouse?

No. A group of petitioners may choose to acquire a surplus lighthouse that has been recommended for designation, or it may be another person or body that assumes ownership. That being said, a surplus lighthouse cannot be designated until a person or body submits a commitment to acquire the lighthouse and to protect its heritage character.

Can an individual or an organization acquire ownership of a surplus lighthouse under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, without submitting a petition for it to be designated as a heritage property?

No. Under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, an individual, a municipality or a community-based non-profit group can not acquire ownership of a surplus lighthouse without submitting a petition for it to be designated as a heritage property.
However, the regular lighthouse divestiture program is still an option for those wishing to acquire a surplus lighthouse outside of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. Currently, and for the past 15 years, this program has focused on transfers to community-based interests for heritage preservation purposes.

Can an individual, a municipality or a community-based non-profit group make use of a surplus lighthouse without owning it?

Yes.  DFO can enter into leases or licensing agreements with individuals, municipalities or community-based non-profit groups, which would permit a lighthouse site to be used for, alternate purposes.  However, given that Treasury Board policy requires that custodial departments divest themselves of surplus properties, such an agreement could be terminated by an eventual transfer of ownership, if a property were to be declared surplus.

What are the ongoing responsibilities for a group after taking ownership of a heritage lighthouse designated under the HLPA?

The HLPA requires that any sale or transfer of a heritage lighthouse provide for the protection of its heritage character. There are a variety of heritage conservation legal tools at the government’s disposal. Examples of the type of protection measures that can be used range from protection under provincial heritage laws through designation or statutory easements, other types of legal easements, servitudes or covenants, and contractual undertakings as part of the sale or transfer. The type of protection will vary depending upon the location of the lighthouse property and the provisions of the associated provincial laws that would be available upon the transfer out of federal jurisdiction. All non-federal owners of heritage lighthouses will be encouraged to adopt the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada (PDF, 27MB) to guide their conservation efforts.
Should the lighthouse contain an aid to navigation that will remain operational, the new owner would be required to enter into an agreement with the Canadian Coast Guard in order to provide for the maintenance and operation of the aid or to permit access to the site for such purposes.