This research examines metal detecting in the Canadian heritage landscape by placing it in a global framework. It considers the varying types governments and heritage agencies and their attempt to manage this hobby and what outcomes have resulted. In order to assess if Canada, and specifically Ontario Canada can benefit from a collaborative scheme, this research examines countries who have chosen to adopt restriction, permissive or balanced approaches to detecting. By examining these countries and the outcomes of their legislation, this research is able to observe patterns in public reaction, questions of ethics, the types of punishments and their effectiveness and the ability to sustain the legislation outlined (if any).

The participation of the public in archaeology is often seen as problematic and this research considers many of the by-products of it including ethics, questions on ownership and participation. This research examines attitudes surrounding metal detectorists and many of the problems associated with working with this group, and considers their place within heritage management and their role as spectator and actor.

As Canada has found itself in a precarious position in recent years in how they engage with metal detectorists, members of the Indigenous community and non-professional members of the public this research is timely. Canada’s governments have various abilities within heritage and although sites may be within a province they may fall under any of the three governments; federal, provincial and municipal-each may choose to allow or deny metal detecting on these properties. This research further considers Indigenous stakeholders and added concerns that are not seen in European collaborative approaches on metal detecting.

This research is essential to begin to create a collaborative (and legal) framework on which detectorists and heritage professionals can begin to work towards an approach that would benefit all parties. As very little has been examined within this field in the Canadian context, this research is necessary to understand the importance ostracized members of the public play and the role they play. This research will not advocate for a transplantation of other collaborative approaches but examines the needs of Ontario, Canada and the detectorists who carry out their hobbies.

This research will answer the questions of if Canada, and specifically Ontario, has the ability to create a collaborative approach legally and within their current heritage model. By examining the legislation and reactions to it, it considers the feasibility of such an endeavor and whether both the greater public, heritage professionals or governments would (or could) support it. By exploring the types of attitudes and legislation found globally it can help identity trends in behaviours, reactions and real-world outcomes of restrictive and permissive approaches to detecting. By identifying if moveable heritage is ‘safer’ in countries with restrictive approaches, this research hopes to understand and illustrate what types of approaches have found successes in artifact protection. By utilizing an international approach, it will allow me to offer suggestions on types of approaches that may work within this multi-tiered province and offer to officials and heritage professionals what types of successes or concerns could arise from the adoption of specific types of legislation.

PhD student: Kiara Beaulieu
Promotor: Suzie Thomas