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Archaeological Management Plans

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InfoSheet, Spring 2017

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Ministry of Tourism Culture and Sport

Overview and Context

The Ontario Heritage Act is administered by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. The act authorizes the establishment of provincial policies, priorities and programs for conserving Ontario’s archaeological heritage, built heritage and cultural heritage landscapes.

Archaeological Management Plans (AMPs) support the implementation of municipal policies and procedures for identifying and conserving archaeological resources, as well as the cultural heritage and archaeological policies of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 (PPS, 2014) issued under the Planning Act.

What is an Archaeological Management Plan?

An AMP should include:

  • maps of the municipality that identify:
    • known archaeological sites 
    • sites with archaeological potential
    • archaeologically sensitive areas where known significant or culturally-sensitive archaeological sites are present and where the probability of finding another site is high
  • processes and procedures for identifying and managing archaeological resources within a municipality
  • a protocol for the engagement of Indigenous communities in the identification of known or potential archaeological sites

Goals of an Archaeological Management Plan

The two goals of an AMP are to:

  • compile an inventory and map significant archaeological resources to guide archaeological assessments in development or project proposals 
  • provide policies and procedures for the appropriate assessment and protection of known or potential archaeological sites.

Creating a geographic information system (GIS)-based planning tool or using maps to identify known or potential archaeological sites lets municipal staff screen development or proposals and identify when an archaeological assessment by a licensed archaeologist is required. 

Including policies and procedures for identifying and conserving known or potential archaeological sites in the municipal land use decision-making process, the municipal official plan and other strategic municipal documents streamlines questions like how Indigenous communities should be engaged during the land use planning process when archaeological resources may be encountered, or how to address unanticipated archaeological discoveries.

Relevant Policies from the PPS, 2014​*

2.6.2 Development and site alteration shall not be permitted on lands containing archaeological resources or areas of archaeological potential unless significant archaeological resources have been conserved.

2.6.4 Planning authorities should consider and promote archaeological management plans and cultural plans in conserving cultural heritage and archaeological resources.

2.6.5 Planning authorities shall consider the interests of Aboriginal communities in conserving cultural heritage and archaeological resources. 

*Terms in italics are defined in the PPS, 2014.

Benefits of having an AMP

An Archaeological Management Plan can benefit a municipality by:  

  • ensuring archaeological resources are identified, assessed, and protected
  • identifying, protecting and integrating archaeological resources in land use planning
  • providing clear and consistent direction to development proponents
  • providing an effective tool for screening development
  • providing a forum for Indigenous engagement
  • allowing for cultural heritage educational opportunities
  • linking to other strategic municipal initiatives such as municipal cultural plans
  • guiding site management plans for the long-term conservation of sites in situ.

Who develops an AMP?

A municipality (or consultant on behalf of a municipality) can develop an AMP for all or part of the lands under its jurisdiction. Typically, the mapping of archaeological resources included in an AMP is based on an archaeological potential model developed by a licensed archaeologist. The development of archaeological management plans and their integration into land use planning documents and processes is the responsibility of the municipality.

Developing an AMP

The format of an AMP can be tailored to the land use planning needs of a municipality. We encourage locally-developed policies and procedures that can be easily implemented by municipal staff.

Flowchart showing typical AMP process 

Six steps in designing an AMP:

  1. Compile a detailed inventory of archaeological sites, either registered or unregistered, within the municipality. Through a ministry-municipal data sharing agreement, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport will share archaeological site data with the municipality for land use planning purposes. 
  2. Collect local input and knowledge from Indigenous communities, the public, municipal heritage committees and local heritage stakeholders. 
  3. Prepare an overview of the community’s pre-contact and historical settlement history in relation to potential locations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous archaeological sites and resources.
  4. Develop an archaeological site potential model (see page 4 for more detail) identifying specific cultural, environmental and topographical factors that have influenced human land use and settlement patterns over time. 
  5. Establish comprehensive guidelines, policies and procedures to integrate the AMP into the municipality’s planning policy framework (e.g., official plan), including but not limited to contingency plans for unanticipated archaeological discoveries, Indigenous community engagement strategies, site management plans, and archaeological review procedures.
  6. Implement the AMP by integrating it into day-to-day operations across the municipality’s jurisdiction. The AMP should be re-evaluated every three to five years to incorporate changes made to legislation or provincial criteria, include updated procedures or protocols, and to remove previously-assessed areas, as applicable. 

Constructing an archaeological site potential model

A key step in developing an AMP is the construction of an archaeological site potential model, which identifies the specific cultural, environmental, and topographical factors that have influenced human land use and settlement patterns over time. 

Archaeological site potential models are usually developed by a licensed archaeologist and should include the following data layers:

  • geology, including information on soils, drainage, and topography 
  • proximity to water 
  • degree of recent ground disturbances 
  • known land and marine archaeological site locations 
  • historic transportation routes and settlement patterns 
  • sites associated with significant events, individuals or groups, which may be evidenced by commemorative plaques or monuments. 
These factors collectively result in a model where evidence of historical patterns of land use and settlement emerge. By applying these patterns to the landscape, the model identifies areas of greater and lesser archaeological potential to help determine locations within a municipality requiring archaeological assessment(s). 

Example of Archaeological Site Potential Model Mapping

Image of a base-mapping layer for a section of the Rideau Canal  corridor in the City of Ottawa.  

Base-mapping for a section of the Rideau Canal corridor in the City of Ottawa

Image of a mapping layer of the same corridor overlain in red marking areas of archaeological potential, Courtesy of the City of Ottawa. 

Mapping of the same corridor overlain in red marking areas of archaeological potential, Courtesy of the City of Ottawa

Integrating an AMP into municipal planning policies and processes

The creation of an AMP and related policies can greatly enhance the conservation of archaeological resources while expediting the development plan review processes. A municipality can integrate its AMP into its planning policies and processes by:

a) Incorporating archaeological policies into the municipal official plan 

Official plan policies can outline long-term protection policies and related tools, such as zoning, heritage conservation easement agreements and archaeological site management plans. The official plan can identify where archaeological assessments are required. 
Areas of archaeological potential can be mapped in the official plan and made available on the municipality’s website. 

b) Reviewing development proposals and municipal projects

Ontario Regulation 544/06 requires that an archaeological assessment be submitted as part of a complete application for a plan of subdivision in lands that contain known archaeological resources or any areas of archaeological potential. By mapping areas of archaeological potential ahead of time, the AMP can be used to screen subdivision applications during the pre-consultation stage to determine whether an archaeological assessment is required. 

Conditions for the conservation of archaeological sites in situ may also be incorporated into draft plans of subdivision or condominium at the request of the proponent or approval authority. The AMP can also support Environmental Assessment Act requirements for infrastructure-related projects such as road, water/wastewater or bridge projects.

Municipal approvals and projects that may be subject to archaeological assessment include:

  • plans of subdivision and condominium 
  • site-specific official plan and zoning amendments 
  • small-scale applications, such as consents to sever land 
  • municipal infrastructure projects involving the construction, erection or placement of a building or structure, such as road construction and widening, and sewage and water projects
  • site alteration activities like site grading, excavation, removal of topsoil/peat, placing and dumping of fill, and drainage works
  • demolition or relocation of buildings or structures on heritage properties.

Developing an AMP implementation and review procedure for municipal staff

An archaeological review procedure can determine if a proposed planning application or other site alteration activities require an archaeological field assessment. The review procedure should also outline the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport's review process for the archaeological assessment report and clarify the timing for that ministry’s review.

Critical to ensuring the protection of archaeological resources from the beginning of a project is to determine who should consult an AMP and when in the planning and development process this should occur. Establishing and implementing a municipal archaeological review procedure requires close co-operation between many different groups. 

These include municipal staff (e.g., those who maintain the AMP GIS potential data layers, municipal planning and engineering staff, public works staff, etc.), archaeological review officers and heritage planners at the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, as well as Indigenous communities, archaeological stakeholders and the broader land development industry.

Engaging Indigenous communities, local communities and heritage groups

The design, implementation and review of Archaeological Management Plans should be undertaken with the participation of Indigenous communities, local communities, and stakeholders, such as local heritage groups.  Involvement of Indigenous communities in the development of an AMP is important in light of policy 2.6.5 of the PPS, 2014.  

Engagement methods can include municipal AMP steering committees, public meetings, educational programs and opportunities to involve the public in archaeological activities. 

The Standards and Guidelines for Consultant Archaeologists also provide guidance on Engaging Aboriginal Communities in Archaeology (PDF)
Local heritage groups that may have an interest in the conservation of archaeological resources include:

  • professionally licensed, academic and vocational archaeologists 
  • chapters and members of the Ontario Archaeology Society (OAS)
  • researchers or students from colleges or universities and historical societies
  • municipal heritage committees 

For More Information:

Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport
Culture Division 
Archaeology Program Unit
(416) 212-8886

The archaeology section of the ministry’s website includes a list of licensed consultant archaeologists. 

Ministry of Municipal Affairs
Provincial Planning Policy Branch
(416) 585-6014

Municipal Services Offices 
Central (Toronto) 
(416) 585-6226 
Toll Free: 800-668-0230

Western (London)
(519) 873-4020
Toll Free: 800-265-4736

Eastern (Kingston)
(613) 545-2100
Toll Free: 800-267-9438

Northeastern (Sudbury) 
(705) 564-0120
Toll Free: 800-461-1193

Northwestern (Thunder Bay)
(807) 475-1651
Toll Free: 800-465-5027

Note to User:

This InfoSheet provides a summary of complex matters and reflects legislation, policies and practices that are subject to change.  It should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialized legal or professional advice in connection with any particular matter and should not be construed as legal advice by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs or the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.  The user is solely responsible for any use or the application of this information.  As such, these ministries do not accept any legal responsibility for the contents of this InfoSheet or for any consequences, including direct or indirect liability, arising from its use.

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