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e-3034 (Culture and heritage)

Initiated by Daniel Travers from Port McNicoll, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • The SS Keewatin is the only remaining passenger steam vessel of the RMS Titanic era still floating and available for public tours, interpretation and witnessing, in-person, the grandeur and relevance of her story;
  • The Canadian Pacific Railway operated SS Keewatin as part of their Great Lakes Steamship fleet between Port McNicoll and Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay), Ontario, from 1912 to 1965;
  • The vessel’s current owner purchased and brought it back to Port McNicoll in 2012 to become a village destination and attraction, prompting hundreds of volunteers under the direction of The R.J. and Diane Peterson Keewatin Foundation (the Foundation) to spend the last eight years staffing the vessel, restoring her interior and conducting tens of thousands of public tours; and
  • The owner has recently announced the vessel will be moved to Kingston, Ontario.
We, the undersigned, Residents of Simcoe County, call upon the Government of Canada to reject the application by the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston and Skyline Investments Inc. that would remove the SS Keewatin from her rightful place in Port McNicoll, and instead, work with the volunteers and the Foundation to ensure she remains in Port McNicoll to tell her story and that of the immense role she and her sister steamships played in the settlement of Canada in the late 19th and early 20th century and in the passenger steamship era on the Great Lakes.

Response by the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Julie Dabrusin

The Government would like to thank the petitioners of Simcoe County for expressing their concern regarding the preservation of the 1907 steamship, the S.S. Keewatin, in Port McNicoll. It appreciates the work accomplished by the numerous local volunteers to conserve the vessel and offer public tours of the steamship.

It is the Government’s understanding that the S.S. Keewatin was originally owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway and operated between Port McNicoll and what is now Thunder Bay; that the ship was decommissioned in 1965 and sold to a private individual and moved to the United States; and that it was purchased in 2012 by a private entity and returned to Canada, where it now resides in Port McNicoll. 

As you are aware, the Minister of Canadian Heritage administers the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. Through tax incentives, this legislation supports the transfer of significant cultural property from private hands to public institutions that are designated. Designation allows organizations to apply for these incentives on behalf of the donor or seller. Under the Act, the Minister may designate organizations that demonstrate the capacity to preserve and make heritage objects accessible to all Canadians, but the Act does not allow the Minister to direct a private entity to donate or sell their property to a specific institution.

Applications for designation related to the potential donation of a specific object or a collection are submitted to the Department of Canadian Heritage with the support of the donor.  The purpose of this review is to ensure that the objects are preserved by professionally run organizations and are made accessible to Canadians for generations to come.  The application for designation presented by the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston and Skyline Investments Inc. is deemed eligible and, as such, the Government of Canada does not have any grounds to reject its review and must render a decision based on the technical and financial assessment process in place.

In closing, while the Government recognizes that the decision surrounding the donation belongs to the owner of the S.S. Keewatin, we remain hopeful that it will be donated to a heritage organization in Canada so that its story can continue to be told.

Open for signature
December 10, 2020, at 3:23 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
April 9, 2021, at 3:23 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North)
April 14, 2021 (Petition No. 432-00788)
Government response tabled
May 28, 2021
Photo - Bruce Stanton
Simcoe North
Conservative Caucus
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