Canadian Heritage Cutbacks

This week has been filled with announcements of program cancellations, staff reductions, and budget restrictions.  Many of these announcements have been related to Canada’s heritage field and have the potential to drastically impact heritage sites, archives, and history preservation across the country.

The major announcements include:

  • Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has announced a 20% reduction in staff.  This means that you will no longer be able to visit the archive without an appointment, as reference service staff is being significantly reduced.  There are also rumors about the entire Inter-library Loans department being scrapped at LAC.  This would be a huge blow to researchers and institutions throughout Canada who rely on loans to access material. 
  • Parks Canada has been hit hard by the recent public service cuts.  Parks staff have been told that 638 positions will be eliminated in the upcoming year.  The impact on individual historic sites will vary, but a number of parks will be greatly impacted.  
    • For example, it was announced that the Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia will be letting go of ten staff members and reducing the hours of at least 110 employees.  As a result of this staffing cut and funding reductions the parks hours and services will be reduced. 
  • The National Archival Development Program (NADP) has been cut. The NADP was a grant program that funded archives projects across Canada.  Many archival programs, archival staff, and community resources will be eliminated with this decision.
  • The Canadian Council of Archives office has been closed. More information on this decision is to be announced in the near future.  On April 30, 2012 Lara Wilson, Chair of CCA announced that “with the exception of the minor capacity needed to administer Young Canada Works (YCW) and the National Archival Appraisal Board (NAAB), the current CCA staff will no longer be in place and our office will be closing.”  Currently it seems as though this level of national support will no longer be available to archives.

I wouldn’t change my decision to delve into the world of public history.  However, these recent trends provide mountains for new and experienced professionals to overcome.  Employment opportunities, professional support, and funding avenues seem to be on the decline on multiple fronts.  

These cuts will also have a significant impact on the heritage field’s ability to communicate Canada’s past to the general public.  Staffing and budget cuts result in less acquisitions, reduced level of care, and less community outreach and programming.  I think the general public, educators, and the government need a reminder of the value of history and heritage.

Government Apologies and Collective Memory

The past couple of weeks have been filled with government apologies for historical wrongs. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Air India, and Bloody Sunday Inquiry have all been prominent in the news recently.

What significance do public apologies for historic wrongs have? Government apologies have the potential to remind the general public of events long past. It is unlikely that people directly impacted by Bloody Sunday or the residential school system are going to forget the horror of these events. However, people not alive during these events or who have not felt the repercussion of them can easily forget the past. Public apologies, inquires, and general discussion about past wrongs bring events back into public view and help raise awareness regarding atrocities and past mistakes. For years, the issue of residential schools was glossed over in public schools. In recent years a movement towards acknowledgment of past wrongs has contributed to an increase in educating Canadians at large about this moment in our past.

However, apologies are often about controlling the collective memory of a particular event. Apologies for historic wrongs are often politically motivated and can be seen as a step towards reconciliation. Apologies add another dimension to the history of a particular events. It allows the government to be seen as taking proactive action against the past.

Is an apology sufficient when an entire community was wronged? Of course not. Is it a step in the right direction to addressing the problem? Perhaps. They can be a starting point for reconciliation but apologies need to be accompanied by actual action.

For another look at government sponsored apologies see Laura Madokoro’s post “Giving Voice To History” on

Canadian Copyright Reform

Early this week Industry Canada Minister Tony Clement announced a 64-page bill to the House of Commons. Bill C-32 is a proposal to admen current current Canadian copyright legislation. The shortened title of the bill is “the Copyright Modernization Act.” The bill attempts to address to copyright in an increasingly digital world and the full bill can be seen online here.

The tabling of this bill coincided with the release of a government website entitled “Balanced Copyright.” This site breaks down the bill into more manageable sections and provides a good overview for anyone without a legal background looking to understand what this bill potentially means.

Canadian Copyright legislation does need to be updated to reflect the rise of born digital content and the sharing of information virtually. However, any new legislation needs to encourage fair use and consumer rights need to be taken into consideration. The new bill has taken some measures towards improving consumer rights, eg. it would no longer be illegal to copy music from most purchased CDs to an ipod. Despite some improvements to a similar bill proposed in 2008, there is still a tremendous amount of gray area in the bill and content needs to be included which reflects new and evolving born digital mediums.

Views on the proposed bill can be seen here, here, and here.