New plans for Bellevue house tabled in Parliament

July 21, 2023

An historic Canadian property in Kingston is expected to see some strategic changes after a new ten year Management Plan was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.

The Bellevue House, the former home of Canada's first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald for parts of the 1940s, has a new proposed management plan that seeks to adopt an "evolving understanding" of Sir John. A's legacy alongside the site's restoration, and to increase the involvement of the site in community events.

Acting Superintendent for National Historic Sites in Eastern and Central Ontario Valerie Martin says Bellevue House formerly had a significant focus on the achievements of Canada's first Prime Minister, while the new management plan seeks to explore different perspectives on Macdonald's complex legacy and paint a more complete picture.

"The former management plan really spoke to raising awareness about the achievements of Sir John. A Macdonald," Martin said.

"This one really seeks to engage the complexities of Sir John A. Macdonald's legacy and to present that story from multiple viewpoints."

A news release from Parks Canada outlines that the new management plan is focused primarily on three key strategies:

-An evolving understanding of Sir John A. Macdonald’s legacy: commitment to leading an open and ongoing dialogue and presenting a range of perspectives surrounding the development of Canada and Macdonald’s role in it. -An active community partner: increasing the site’s involvement in community events and local initiatives to open up opportunities for new partnerships and stronger collaboration. -A renewed heritage experience: continuing to modernize experiences to be more inclusive of all target audiences, and developing new programming, including immersive activities.

The management plan is largely the product of engagement with a Community Advisory Committee and specifically the local urban Indigenous community and Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and Mohawks of Akwesasne.

Martin says the plan aims to make Bellevue House more inclusive to all age groups and to be more intertwined with the local community and Tourism Kingston.

"There's a lot of potential here at Bellevue House to be more active and to be more engaged in the community," Martin said.

"Bellevue House really is a leader in showcasing the story of John A. Macdonald in all its complexity."

The grounds of the Bellevue House reopened for the season officially on May 18, and will remain open to visitors until Thanksgiving, however the interior of the house remains closed as restorations continues.

Part of that restoration will include new installations from Indigenous Artists, with Parks Canada seeking artists in January of this year, expected to be part of the exhibit when the house reopens for the 2024 season.

Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative