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Glossary of Ontario terms

Approval authority

An entity, such as a municipality, responsible for reviewing and approving development project applications and also identifying and managing areas of archaeological potential and archaeological sites under its jurisdiction. It approves those applications where development proponents have met all local by-laws, other legislated requirements, and public concerns such as whether land to be developed may contain archaeological sites that merit an archaeological assessment.

If an approval authority suspects that a property has archaeological sites, it will advise the development proponent to hire a consultant archaeologist to carry out an archaeological assessment before any soil disturbance occurs. Penalties, including fines and even imprisonment, may be imposed on development proponents who do not address the approval authority’s concerns and then impact an archaeological site while altering or developing the land.
 
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing provides an overview of approval authorities for particular types of development applications under the Planning Act. Identifying the approval authority for a particular development application depends on the geographic location of the proposed development and on the type of application (such as whether it is an approval for an Official Plan amendment, subdivision, condominium, zoning by-law amendment, site plan or consent). The approval authority can be a county, city, town or township, or, in many parts of Ontario, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing itself.

Archaeologists

Archaeologists study past human cultures. They investigate archaeological sites to answer specific research questions and to conserve sites at risk of being affected by human or natural forces.

Here in Ontario, archaeologists explore our land and waterways to give us unique insight into Ontario's past, including who lived here, where we came from and what happened. Ontario's archaeological record extends back approximately 10,000 years to just after the last ice age — when Ontario was arctic tundra inhabited by caribou, giant bison and mastodons.

More than 100 professional archaeologists are currently licensed to work in Ontario. Some act as independent contractors. Others own, operate, or belong to archaeological consulting companies or work in archaeological consulting branches of engineering companies.

Archaeological fieldwork

Any activity carried out on, above or under land or water for the purpose of obtaining and documenting data from archaeological sites, including recovering artifacts. It includes monitoring, assessing, exploring, surveying, recovering and excavating (Ontario Heritage Act Regulation170/04).

Archaeological potential calls
Decisions that approval authorities, ministry Heritage Planners or other non-specialists make to determine whether archaeological sites or resources are on a property to be developed. These tools are available to help people make a potential call:

  • Our ministry's checklist for determining archaeological potential
  • Archaeological management plans

Archaeological resource

An object, material or physical feature that may have cultural heritage value or interest. The term may also refer to artifacts and archaeological sites. While all archaeological resources contribute to our understanding of Ontario's past, only a licensed archaeologist is qualified to analyze a specific resource to determine whether or not it meets the definition of an archaeological site under the Ontario Heritage Act and therefore warrants protection under the Act.

Archaeological sites

Any property that contains an artifact or any other physical evidence of past human use or activity that is of cultural heritage value or interest (Ontario Heritage Act Regulation 170/04).

Areas of archaeological potential

Areas of archaeological potential are areas of a property which may contain archaeological resources. The ministry has established criteria and a checklist for determining areas of archaeological potential. Some municipalities have also chosen to prepare archaeological management plans in which areas of archaeological potential within that municipality are identified and mapped.

Artifact

Any object, material or substance that is made, modified, used, deposited or affected by human action and is of cultural heritage value or interest (Ontario Heritage Act, Regulation 170/04).

Consultant archaeologists

Licensed archaeologists who hold a professional archaeological licence and, under Ontario Heritage Act Regulation 8/06, enter into an agreement with a client to:

  • Carry out or supervise archaeological fieldwork on behalf of the client
  • Produce reports for or on behalf of the client and
  • Provide technical advice to the client.

Development proponents often hire consultant archaeologists to address archaeological considerations as part of a land use development approvals process. Municipalities also hire consultant archaeologists to help them develop their archaeological management plan.

You can find consultant archaeologists and archaeological consulting companies by searching the phone book, the Internet or the Ontario Association of Professional Archaeologists list.

Cultural heritage value

While all archaeological resources contribute to our understanding of Ontario's past, to warrant protection under the Ontario Heritage Act they must meet the Act's definition of artifact or archaeological site. In order to be considered an artifact or archaeological site, the resources must have cultural heritage value. This means one must value them for the important contribution they make to our understanding of the history of a place, an event or a people. The level of cultural heritage value associated with an archaeological resource may influence whether or not it meets the definition of an archaeological site under the Ontario Heritage Act and whether it will be conserved during land development activities. The ministry's criteria for determining the cultural heritage value of archaeological resources include:

  • Information value: The archaeological site contributes to the local, regional, provincial or national archaeological history.
  • Value to a community: The archaeological site has intrinsic value to a particular community (such as an Aboriginal community, cultural or geographic group).
  • Value as a public resource: The archaeological site enhances the public's understanding and appreciation of Ontario's past.

These Aboriginal archaeological sites always have cultural heritage value or interest:

  • Paleo-Indian archaeological sites which represent Ontario's earliest human occupants
  • Large, dense lithic scatters, characterized by very high yields of stone artifacts
  • Woodland-period archaeological sites from approximately 350 to 3,000 years ago
  • Archaeological sites identified as sacred or burial sites.

Development proponent

A person, company or public body planning to alter or develop land. Also known as a developer.

Land use and land development activities

Activities that have the potential to impact important, culturally significant archaeological sites protected under the Ontario Heritage Act. Such activities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Grading
  • Construction
  • Soil removal
  • Shoreline stabilization
  • Alteration to watercourses
  • Extraction of aggregates
  • The clearing or harvesting of forests.

Marine archaeological site

An archaeological site that is fully or partially submerged or that lies below or partially below the high water mark of any body of water. (Ontario Heritage Act, Regulation 170/04). Learn more about marine archaeology.