Introduction to the Ontario Heritage Act

The Ontario Heritage Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.18 was first enacted on 5 March 1975.  It provides a legislative framework for cultural heritage conservation in the Province.

In 2005, the Ontario Heritage Amendment Act, 2005 (Bill 60), introduced major amendments to the Ontario Heritage Act.  The comprehensive set of reforms introduced through Bill 60 came into force on 28 April 2005 and strengthened the powers of the Province and the municipalities to identify and protect properties of cultural heritage value or interest.

The following is a summary of some of the key changes made through Bill 60.

Bill 60 amended Part III of the Ontario Heritage Act to give the Conservation Review Board certain additional procedural powers.  The Bill also introduced a new Part III.1 to give the Minister the power to prepare heritage standards and guidelines for the identification and preservation of property that is owned or occupied by the Government of Ontario and that has cultural heritage value or interest.  These guidelines require the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

Bill 60 made significant amendments to Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.  Amended Part IV provides that the register of properties maintained by a municipality under section 27 may include properties that have not been designated under Part IV, if the council of the municipality believes that the properties are nonetheless of cultural heritage value or interest.  Section 34 of the Act was amended to give municipalities the power to prohibit the demolition of property designated by the municipality.  Part IV was also amended to give the Minister the power to designate any property under Part IV and to allow the Minister to issue stop orders to prevent the alteration, demolition or removal of any property in the Province if the Minister believes that the property has cultural heritage value or interest.

With respect to Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act, Bill 60 added sections 41.1 and 41.2 to the Act requiring municipalities to adopt by by-law a heritage conservation district plan when designating a heritage conservation district, and strengthened the powers of a municipality to prevent the demolition or removal of buildings or structures on property in designated heritage conservation districts.

Bill 60 amended Part VI of the Ontario Heritage Act by adding a regulation-making power to prescribe certain marine archaeological sites.  Sections 51.1 to 51.3 were also added to provide for the inspection of archaeological sites and other specified places to ensure that persons who are licensed to carry out archaeological fieldwork are complying with the Act, the regulations and their licence.

On 3 April 2018, Bill 139 (Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017, S.O. 2017, c. 23) came into effect.  Bill 139 introduced sweeping changes to the land use planning approvals process in Ontario, including replacing the Ontario Municipal Board with a new body called the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.  Through Bill 139, references to the Ontario Municipal Board in the Ontario Heritage Act have been amended or repealed and replaced by references to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. 

Material on the Wood Bull website is intended as general information and commentary. In order to make the Ontario Heritage Act: A Sourcebook a useful resource, we welcome any comments and suggestions.  Please email us.
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