Not just Environment and Health: Canadian government attacks libraries from 12 ministries

Canada's Conservative government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has led a brutal attack on government libraries: literally burning the country's environmental records and doing such damage to the Health Canada libraries that scientists have set up clandestine libraries in the basements of their offices. But that was just for starters. In all, the Harper government has demolished the library collections of twelve ministries, including:

The Canada Revenue Agency, Citizenship and Immigration, Employment and Social Development Canada, Environment Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Natural Resources Canada, Parks Canada, the Public Service Commission, Public Works and Government Services, and Transport Canada.

However, Health Canada and the DFO are not the only government bodies to lose access to vital archival material in the past two years. Postmedia reports more than twelve departments losing libraries due to the Harper government’s budget cuts, including the Canada Revenue Agency, Citizenship and Immigration, Employment and Social Development Canada, Environment Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Natural Resources Canada, Parks Canada, the Public Service Commission, Public Works and Government Services, and Transport Canada.

Many of these departments lost multiple libraries, with historical records and books disappearing from shelves, scattered across private collections or tossed in dumpsters. In 2013 even the country's main home for historic documents, Library and Archives Canada, faced major cuts to service, including hours, interlibrary loans and staffing.

This unprecedented process has triggered concerns about the loss of physical documents and imperfections in the digitization process. A recent report from the Canadian Libaries Association (CLA) expresses these fears in no uncertain terms.

“Currently in Canada the vast majority of research data is at risk of being lost because it is not being systematically managed and preserved. While certain disciplines and research projects have institutional, national, or international support for data management, this support is available for a minority of researchers only. A coordinated and national approach to managing research data in Canada is required in order to derive greater and longer term benefits, both socially and economically, from the extensive public investments that are made in research.”

Loss of Librarians Devastating to Science and Knowledge in Canada [Erika Thorkelson/Desmog]

(Image: OLA Poster: Federal Library Closures of 2012: A Rescue Effort