Please note that the Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation and the Kingston Archaeology Centre have closed. This site is still available for historical and informational reasons, but none of the services or products described here are available anymore.


Provincial and territorial governments have all created laws that deal directly or indirectly with archaeological resources under their jurisdiction. These laws require both governments and the private sector to plan for archaeology and to protect archaeological resources, whether they are discovered accidentally or as part of purposeful research.

In Ontario, archaeology is an activity licensed by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, whose officials review and comment on the work of licence holders. This has been the practice since the proclamation of the Ontario Heritage Act in 1974. Other pieces of legislation that inform the practice of archaeology include the Environmental Assessment Act, Planning Act and the Cemeteries Act.

The Ontario Heritage Act governs the general practice of archaeology in the province. To maintain a professional standard of archaeological research, consultation and curation, licences are issued to qualified individuals by the Minister. Without an Ontario archaeological licence, all archaeological activities involving exploration, survey or field work, as well as any activities that result in alteration of an archaeological site, are illegal. This in effect offers automatic protection to all archaeological sites. The penalty for altering a site without a permit is up to $1,000,000.00.

The Environmental Assessment Act applies to public sector projects and designated private sector infrastructure projects (roads, hydro generation and transmission, sewage, water, landfills, etc.). During an environmental assessment any cultural heritage resources that might be impacted must be identified. Archaeological sites that might be impacted must be properly identified and conserved.

The Planning Act has allowed the provincial government to institute a number of mechanisms that have resulted in requirements for archaeological assessments in advance of most major industrial and housing subdivisions and infrastructure projects. This means that cultural heritage must be given proper consideration in the planning process. And that significant archaeological resources must be conserved by removal and documentation, or by preservation on site.

The Cemeteries Act also addresses the need to protect human burials, both marked and unmarked, which are yet another valuable link to the past. Burial locations uncovered on archaeological sites constitute “unregistered cemeteries” that are, in essence, in violation of the Cemeteries Act. The discovery of such burials will require further investigation in order to define the extent and number of interments, and either the registration of the burial location as a cemetery, or the removal of the remains for re-interment in an established cemetery. The actual workings of this process are complex and vary depending upon whether the burial(s) are an isolated occurrence, or part of a more formal cemetery, and whether the remains in question are Aboriginal or Euro-Canadian.