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Monday, 11 June 2012

The Death of Library and Archives Canada and the Complacency of Canadian Genealogists

The Harper Government has made sweeping changes to Library and Archives Canada which affects everyone interested in pursuing family history, Canadian history or who wishes to preserve Canada’s national memory and national archival documents.

The mandate of LAC is as follows:

•To preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations;
•To be a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all, contributing to the cultural, social and economic advancement of Canada;
•To facilitate in Canada cooperation among communities involved in the acquisition, preservation and diffusion of knowledge; and
•To serve as the continuing memory of the government of Canada and its institutions. (LAC website, “about us” page)

The Harper Government has made the following cuts:

  • The elimination of 21/61 archivists and archival assistants dealing with nongovernmental records
  • Reduction of 50% of digitization and circulation staff
  • Elimination of inter-library loans
  • Elimination of the National Archival Development Program (the program to preserve the national memory of Canada)
  • Significant number of reductions of staff dealing with conservation and preservation of materials 
The result of the Harper Government’s steamrolling is as follows:

  • 450 LAC staff have lost their jobs
  • The Canadian Council of Archives in Ottawa has been closed
  • Other smaller archives will be forced to close
  • Critical documents will be thrown out or shredded, thereby creating an abyss in the history of our nation
Mr Harper has reduced Library and Archives Canada to The Government Archives of Canada. Through Mr Harper, the LAC has been reduced to preserving government documents and records (his personal filing cabinet for everything that happens in parliament, essentially). This is against the LAC mandate.

The “leader” of the LAC, Daniel Caron, is not an archivist, he is not an historian, he is not a librarian. Daniel Caron is a human resources specialist, a treasury board specialist, a bureaucrat who is apparently all too willing to downsize his staff in order to save money, rather than fulfil the mandate of the LAC  - to save the documentary history of the nation to whom he is accountable.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers are up in arms (rightfully so)
The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of Canada have expressed concern.
The National Graduate Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students have expressed concern.
The Association of Canadian Archivists riled the masses at their recent conference in Whitehorse.

And, yet, through this entire maelstrom, the Canadian genealogy community has remained silent. Complacent. Appearing uncaring. In the US, when RootsTech decided not to allow anyone other than technology buffs to grace their marketplace, the US genealogy community rallied within minutes and within a couple of days, RootsTech saw the error of their decision and reversed it. When the US made changes to the access and availability of the SSDI, the US genealogy community again rallied and even formed an “Occupy Genealogy” movement.

Major reductions and access to our national memory, to our national history, to the records of our ancestors and their struggles is being reduced and in time, perhaps eliminated. Here’s how the Canadian Genealogy Society has responded:

The OGS, the largest provincial genealogy society’s mandate is:
  • To promote genealogical research
  • To set standards for genealogical excellence by encouragement and instruction in effective research methods
  • To make available to those whose ancestors are from Ontario, the knowledge, diversity and comprehensiveness of the genealogical resources in Ontario
  • To share expertise in other geographic areas
If you go to their website, and manage to navigate your way to their “advocacy” page, you can see that they are sort of concerned and are letting you know that there is an issue. They aren’t terribly concerned, but they understand that YOU might be, so they have offered to let you sign an online petition. The petition belongs to another organization – not OGS.

All of the other provincial genealogy societies have mandates to serve the genealogical communities of their provinces. All of them are silent on the LAC issues. Ok, so maybe the provincial bodies, who should be uniting in this cause will be more outraged when the cuts make their way to the provincial archives. As for a united front, a driving force, a leading contender in the preservation of LAC as a NATIONAL archive, the Canadian genealogy community is silent. Complacent. Appearing uncaring. And Harper can get away with changes that will affect ALL Canadian genealogy researchers.

To their credit, the Niagara branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society are outraged. They have placed the concerns on their homepage. I encourage everyone to visit their homepage, to click on the Save LAC box, to take action, to be informed and to be anything other than complacent. If Niagara is willing to take the lead, let’s jump on their bandwagon. Let’s start a letter writing campaign. Let’s inundate our MPs with postcards of protest. Let’s fill their inboxes with e-mails of concern. Let’s unite and let’s be outraged together. But, let’s be outraged. Not silent, complacent, uncaring.

Niagara OGS webite: http://www.ogs.on.ca/niagara

For a list of MPs and their addresses & e-mail addresses: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilations/HouseOfCommons/MemberByPostalCode  Fill in your postal code to find the information for your local MP

E-mail Stephen Harper: pm@pm.gc.ca



1 comment:

  1. BRAVO, Christine! I hope lots of Canadians pick this up via Facebook and Google+ or any way at all!

    ReplyDelete