Joining the likes of Stonehenge in the United Kingdom, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, the Rideau Canal will now "belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located, " according to UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
The purpose of World Heritage sites is to encourage countries to sign the World Heritage Convention and to ensure the protection of their natural and cultural heritage.
"I am proud that the Rideau Canal joins a select group of exceptional cultural and natural icons from Canada and across the world, " announced John Baird, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada. "As a lifelong resident of Ottawa, I am especially pleased that this is Ontario's first site to achieve such a distinction. "
The Rideau Canal was one of 36 natural and cultural sites that were reviewed for inclusion on the World Heritage List this year. The list now numbers 848 properties (656 cultural, 167 natural and 25 mixed) in 184 states. Canada now has 14 on the list.
The Rideau Canal World Heritage Site includes the Rideau Canal, Fort Henry and the Kingston Fortifications. The Canal extends 202 kilometres from Ottawa in the north to Kingston Harbour on Lake Ontario in the south. The canal is also celebrating its 175th anniversary of construction throughout 2007.
Built largely by Irish immigrants and supervised by Lieutenant-Colonel John By between 1826 and 1832, the Rideau Canal provided a safe supply line for the British colony of Upper Canada at a time when Great Britain and the United States vied for control of the region.
The Rideau Canal was originally designated as a Canadian national historic site in 1924, and it is the only canal dating from the great North American canal-building era of the early 19th century that remains operational along its original line and with most of its original structures intact, according to Parks Canada.