Inclusion in Action Case Study: Ermatinger Clergue NHS


Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site

Access 2 All: Programs and Events

 at Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site


Preamble Our Story Learnings Moving Forward
Acknowledgements Contributors Resources Dig Deeper



Owned and operated by the Corporation of the City of Sault Ste. Marie, the Ermatinger ● Clergue National Historic Site (ECNHS) offers a year-round cultural attraction for residents and visitors to Sault Ste. Marie. The ECNHS includes the Nationally Designated Ermatinger Old Stone House, the house of F.H. Clergue (whom was Nationally Designated as an important person), heritage gardens, historically interpreted yard, and the interactive Heritage Discovery Theatre. Visitors enter through the Heritage Discover Theatre where they’re engaged by a multimedia movie which acts as an orientation to our site, at this time they’re also able to visit our 1812 gallery, and “The Post” gift shop. 

The Ermatinger Old Stone House has been restored to depict the domestic and professional life of Charles Oakes Ermatinger (a successful and influential fur trader), and other prominent residents and visitors of the House between 1808 and 1870.

The Clergue Blockhouse was relocated to the Site in 1996, and served as the home of industrialist Francis Hector Clergue from 1894 – 1908. The original stone story (main floor) of this blockhouse originated as a gunpowder magazine for the Northwest Fur Trade Company / Hudson Bay Company, before Mr. Clergue turned it into his residence, adding the second floor on top.

Situated in the small Northern Ontario community of Sault St. Marie, the ECNHS has found that our programs and services are often not tailored enough to be inclusive of ALL audiences.  As our northern city expands to invite newcomers to Canada, and works toward the strategic pillars of our new municipal mandate (common cause and new direction) we are forced to think outside the box to create a culturally vital and vibrant institution. As such, we have been charged with evaluating our current methods of service, creating new programs, and developing partnerships to maximize our ability to remain relevant within our changing community.

Within Sault Ste. Marie’s strategic pillars as laid out in our municipal mandate, some of the calls to action are to:  invite immigration and welcome newcomers; advance relationships with Indigenous peoples; improve community well-being as we collectively eliminate barriers; and celebrate our history, cultural heritage, diverse identities towards the creation of a Pride of Place.

Keeping these strategic goals in mind, the staff and Board members at ECNHS eagerly stepped forward to participate in this project.  We were excited to better understand our current capacity, and to grow the programs and events offered at ECNHS. Through changes to our Fall Rendezvous, an annual festival run in partnership with our ‘Friends of’ group we desired to create a more welcoming and inclusive experience for Sault St. Marie’s diverse community.  Due to the dates of this event, the festival also incorporates “Culture Days” and is registered as an Ontario Culture Days event.

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Our Story

Fall Rendezvous is our four day festival that provides our local community, tourists, and educational boards an opportunity to learn about the life, livelihood and politics of Sault St. Marie from 1808 to 1820. To begin creating a more inclusive event, we first examined which audiences were historically not engaging with, or attending the festival. In doing so, we identified three communities: (1) Francophones (2) persons with disabilities and (3) Indigenous peoples.

Once we had identified our gaps, we created three core mandates to inform our work in creating a truly inclusive experience with the support of these communities:

  • Focus on removing barriers to, and create opportunities for, participation and engagement.

  • Promote the event in a way that can reach the breadth of our community.

  • Accurately and respectfully represent the diversity of the community in which we reside, as well as the historic role of diverse community groups. Focus on removing barriers and increasing opportunities for participation.


In planning and creating a truly inclusive event, we initially reached out to community organizations, school boards, and Indigenous partners to establish a network of contacts to assist, guide, and lend professional expertise to our process.

Once established, we secured funding for any additional services required for the festival, to ensure we could provide supports for these new audiences.  Additionally, we ensured that traditions and ceremonies were observed and implemented as part of our engagement with various communities.  An example of this was offering of tobacco bundles to our Indigenous partners as a request for their participation. Acceptance of the tobacco, before their participation, was required for the Ojibwa culture.

Based upon consultation with our local communities we identified several services that could assist in making our Fall Rendezvous more inclusive to our historically disengaged audiences:

  • Provide an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter on-site at our opening ceremony.

  • Make available ASL interpreters for students who may require one during our educational days.

  • Create a map which highlights accessibility features and entrances.

  • Translate into French our festival handouts and teacher packages

  • Provide a Francophone guide on-site to provide French language interpretation and guide visitors through our program stations across the festival grounds.

  • Providing a French language evaluation to the teachers and /or visitors

  • Create a symbolic evaluation for persons with a disability to provide feedback on their experience. See our Resources for more info.

  • Better represent Indigenous culture within our event and programming. For the Fall Rendezvous, three out of ten stations were programmed by Indigenous peoples:  Indian Friendship Centre – the story of the Wampum; Native Drums and ceremonial customs; and Metis – Song, dance, and Sash.




Learning Symbol, notepad and pencil in a circle Learning Symbol, notepad and pencil in a circle Learning Symbol, notepad and pencil in a circle

Learning #1

During the planning stages of developing programing and events, it is crucial to share authority with community partners. Building trust, creating a dialogue, learning and listening prior to planning and implementing assists in identifying bias or barriers that can impede equitable inclusion. By inviting and including everyone involved in the planning stages, the end result will be inclusive, engaging, and inviting to all.


Learning #2

Do not be afraid to ask questions. When working with diverse communities, it is important to ask questions if you are unsure. By asking questions you are engaging in the conversation, showing a willingness to build your own understanding, and building trust and rapport. Further, ask questions of not only your program partners and presenters but of your visitors as well. Doing so allows you to track engagement, evaluate success and create. You have to know if the audience also wants the change or would be willing to try the changes, evaluate and recommend adjustments for future programming.   The evaluations that came in from our Francophone classes were very positive in all aspects of the school visit and tour of the historical stations on the site, as well as providing a French Language interpreter to attend those stations with the students and teacher in order to translate what the English speaking presenter was providing.


Learning #3 

When working with cultural groups or organizations, it is important to respect and acknowledge their traditions and culture.  We learned when it is appropriate to offer Ojibwa Indigenous groups tobacco when asking for their participation as well as any honorarium/fees they may wish for participation. Cultural traditions are as important and may even replace the traditional ‘contracts’.  By respecting custom and tradition and building reciprocity throughout, you are building the foundations for inclusive dialogue rooted in respect and understanding.


Moving Forward

Museum inclusiveness requires staff, volunteers, and Board Members to openly embrace change, view our practices with new lenses, listen, and allow for partners to have the shared authority in making the change, and learn from those whom we are partnering with, or servicing.  New audiences will be open to having a voice and making an impact.  Transforming our programs, events, and services to embrace this adds value, diversity, and equity.  It needs to be in the forefront of our museums as we move forward.

The Ermatinger ● Clergue National Historic Site is committed to developing diverse and inclusive programming and events. We understand that within programs & events, our attempt to be diverse and inclusive still showed gaps in services. We plan to reach out to local community groups and organizations to help us to shape and develop these programs and events moving forward. 

Gaps to address in order to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive:  indigenous, people with disabilities, francophone, LGBTQ, Immigrants, people living in poverty, older adults, racialized people, women, and youth.

We have begun many new partnerships since this festival. We are as well working to keep an open dialogue with the partners we created during this process. Our Fall Rendezvous festival/event is our biggest endeavor each year, and we would like it to be as inclusive as possible, especially since we have tied it also to Culture Days within Ontario and Canada.

Since the festival the following new partnerships have been formed:

  • Local Immigration Partnership
  • Settlement and Newcomer Services
  • Algoma University – Shingwauk
  • Baawaating Family Health

There still is a need to create open dialogue and understanding with Batchewana First Nations, Garden River First Nations, Nogdawindamin Community Services, and the Metis Nation of Sault Ste. Marie, to ensure our programs and services are interpreting our heritage with integrity.

We are also pursuing further avenues to create greater accessibility within or organization and at our events by working with our Accessibility Committee and partner organizations. We do so in order to create an organization in which:

“Accessible programs: more than physical facilities

Inclusive programs: more than sharing a space”


The Art of Inclusion, McMichael Art Gallery


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The Ermatinger•Clergue National Historic Site would like to thank the following organizations and people for their assistance, participation, and expertise in assisting us in creating a successful festival:

  • Sault Ste. Marie Indian Friendship Centre
  • Healing Lodge Singers – Indigenous drumming and singing – all women
  • American Sign Language Interpreter – Lesley Sawchyn
  • Metis Nation of Ontario – Sault Ste. Marie Division
  • Breaking Away – special needs program
  • Nouvelon – Notre Dame School,  Francophone School
  • Sault Community Career Centre,  Multicultural contacts, Culture Day partner, funding partner
  • Leo Binda,  Indigenous program presenter
  • Jean Marie Wissel – French language interpreter & translator
  • Staff, volunteers, and re-enactors, heritage interpreters who assisted in the program / event
  • City of Sault Ste. Marie
  • Friends of ECNHS
  • Francophone champion:  Jean Marie Wissell, Nouvelon School Board

Indigenous Program content

Indigenous program station & inclusiveness - Indian Friendship Centre:

  • Kimberly Pelletier, Healing & Wellness Coordinator
  • Amber Jones, BSW candidate: Algoma University

Healing Lodge Singers: women’s drumming and singing group

  • Theresa Binda

Indigenous program station – drums & ceremony

  • Leo Binda

Indigenous program station & materials for teachers packages - Metis Nation of Sault Ste. Marie:

  • Anne Trudell, Education Officer, Metis Nation of Ontario

People with Disabilities:

  • Easter Seals Canada – ACCESS 2 ENTERTAINMENT
  • Local Public & Separate School Boards – special needs resources
  • City of Sault Ste. Marie – Accessibility Committee




Headshot of Kathy Fisher



Curator, Ermatinger ● Clergue National Historic Site

Kathy has been working within the museum sector in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario for 25 years. Receiving her Certificate in Museum Studies from the Ontario Museum Association (OMA), she has remained an active member of the community having hosted courses and the OMA conference in Sault Ste. Marie. Kathy has also hosted workshops for the Ontario Historical Society and assisted the development of the 4Culture Network of Cultural Attractions , as well as the North Shore Cultural Attractions Networking in Algoma District. She is a participating member of the the Board of Directors for Regional Tourism Marketing Partners and the Culinary Tourism Strategy for Algoma. Additionally, Kathy is a member of the Local Immigration Partnership Committee and the Provincial Lead in the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. Kathy holds a B. Sc. in Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation, as well as Associate Degrees in Fine Arts and Humanities.



Headshot of Will Hollingshead




Heritage Programmer, Ermatinger ● Clergue National Historic Site

William has a Bachelor in Fine Arts – Sculpture/Installation Art from the Ontario College of Art and Design University and he has completed a Certificate in Museum Studies with the Ontario Museum Association as well as an online Certificate in Library Management. He has been working in museums and galleries for 7 years taking on a variety of roles and responsibilities. Having recently relocated to Sault Ste. Marie, his hometown, from the Greater Toronto Area, Will is now a full-time Heritage Programmer. Will sits on a variety of boards including: Steering Committee for Regional Museum Networks with the Ontario Museum Association, Acting Co-Chair of the North Shore Cultural Attractions Network, Vice Chair for the Group of Emerging Museum Professional, Director on the St Mary's River Marine Heritage Centre Board of Directors, and various other cultural and heritage committees. His areas of interest are public education programming, strategic planning, exhibit planning and design, and special events and volunteer management. He sees museums, galleries, and historic sites as a place where not only the past, but also the present can and should assist us in informing the future; a place where we can use artifacts and histories to foster a discourse, inspire, and engage not only the visitors we serve but also the staff that work in these facilities; a place where communities can come together to share in and experience culture.



Advisory Committee Member

Headshot, Penny Pine


Collection Coordinator, Canadian Museum of History

Advisory Committee Member

Headshot, Vishnu Ramcharan


Specialist: Visitor and Community Engagement

Ontario Science Centre

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Fall Rendezvous Evaluation Form

Symbolic Evaluation Method


Dig Deeper

Art of Relevance – Nina Simon

“The Question of Inclusiveness” Sault Ste Marie Hosts 2005 National Conference on Community Economic Development and Social Economy


Easter Seals Access 2 Card Program

Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, Diversity through Inclusive Practice

An accessible survey method: Increasing the participation of people with a disability in large sample social research

Ryerson University – Guide to Accessible Events

Government of Ontario - Guide to Accessible Festivals and Outdoor Events 

Community Groups

Youth Odena

Indian Friendship Centre in Sault Ste. Marie

Breaking Away – Supporting Independence for Adults with Developmental Disabilities

Indigenous Community

Muskrat Magazine, Ojibwe Chief Shingwaukonse – One Who Was Not Idle

Great Lakes Research Alliance Aboriginal Arts & Cultures

Algoma University – Karl Hele Launches New Book This is Indian Land

Francophone Community


 Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nor de l’Ontario

Including Students with Special Education Needs in French as a Second Language Programs: A Guide for Ontario Schools

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This resource was made possible by the generous support of the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration Partnership Grant Program.