|Elimination of National Archival Development Program & Services at Library & Archives Canada
Open Letter. May 30, 2012
May 30, 2012
Honourable James Moore
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
House of Commons
Dear Minister Moore,
RE: Elimination of National Archival Development Program (NADP) & Services at Library and Archives Canada
The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) strongly objects to the elimination of the National Archival Development Program (NADP) and other vitally important services by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) on April 30, 2012. We urge Canada to restore full funding to these critical services and programs.
The National Archival Development Program (NADP) provides support to archival programming at provincial, regional and university archives across Canada. The decision to eliminate the NADP will have a far reaching and devastating impact not only on the Canadian archival community and the Canadian public but also on First Nations, both now and in the future, as their rich documentary heritage is put at risk by the loss of this important program. Archives preserve our past – a past that has been recorded on millions of historical documents, maps, photographs, motion picture films, video recordings and audio recordings. These important historical records are held in archives and First Nations communities throughout the province and across the country. Without NADP funds, it will be difficult and in some cases impossible to preserve and share this rich collective history in archival form.
The archives of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (the Resource Centre), for example, will be severely impacted by the elimination of the NADP. UBCIC holds important historical records which are an irreplaceable part of Aboriginal documentary heritage and a significant aspect of Canadian history, particularly relating to human rights; Aboriginal Title, Rights and Treaty Rights; and social justice. Since a great deal of crucial First Nations information exists only in unpublished materials that are rarely collected, our holdings are of critical significance as they contain unique insights and an alternative perspective not often found elsewhere. The archival holdings of the UBCIC carry the recordings of the collective voices of many Aboriginal individuals and communities in B.C. Our archival holdings consist of thousands of unique and significant textual records as well as audio and video recordings, photographs and motion picture films. These records carry the stories of events such as the Indian Child Caravan and the Constitution Express, which influenced the history of the Canadian Constitution; events that have shaped both British Columbia and Canada. Records of the UBCIC’s work with groups such as the United Nations, which has granted the UBCIC Special Consultative Status with its Economic and Social Council, are also internationally significant. Although these materials have been assessed as having permanent value, only limited resources have been available to ensure their preservation and NADP funding has played a crucial role in supporting the preservation of these important historical records. Without NADP contributions, important archival records will be endangered and their preservation will be severely hindered.
The NADP enabled the UBCIC Resource Centre to establish critical preservation procedures to protect, preserve and to make publicly accessible very significant archival materials relating to the political history of British Columbia. Without NADP funds, this work would not have been possible.
Ultimately, the NADP has served to protect an under-represented perspective of Canadian heritage and has helped ensure that more Aboriginal voices of history can be heard and shared. The preservation of these records helps to engender a sense of continuity with the past and care for the history of Aboriginal communities. It promotes the preservation of historic materials that carry the potential to create a deeper understanding of the past and the evolution of important issues affecting all British Columbians and Canadians.
The UBCIC Resource Centre and Research Department heavily utilize other services provided by LAC that are also being reduced or eliminated. . Recent cuts include:
• Elimination of 30% of archivists and archival assistants;
• Reduction of digitization and circulation staff by 50%;
• Reduction of preservation and conservation staff;
• Closure of the interlibrary loans unit
The closure of the interlibrary loan unit, in particular, will have a huge impact on us and on the 130 specific claims for which we conduct research. The complex nature of our research requires regular consultation of records pertaining to transportation, railways, labour, parks and fisheries, among others. Microfilmed documents from these government departments are often only available through LAC interlibrary loan. Lack of access to these reels will detrimentally impact our ability to produce thorough research and will add significant and prohibitive expense because we will have to purchase reproductions and/or travel to LAC to retrieve documents.
The cut backs on reference services will also directly impact our work since the research we conduct is very complex and it is often difficult to locate needed information without the assistance of experienced archivists. Further, while efforts to digitize the important records from the red and black series of RG 10 has resulted in the online access of some key documents, there are many records produced by other government departments that are important for the advancement of claims. With the reduction of digitization services, this important access to necessary records is also threatened. We know of no organization in western Canada that has duplicates of these reels the acquisition of which is well beyond the means of any single organization.
Ultimately, these short-sighted funding cuts are disturbing because they are reducing access to government records and jeopardizing First Nations and Canadian documentary heritage as a whole. This goes directly against the founding and governing legislation which mandates LAC to “provide professional, technical and financial support to those involved in the preservation and promotion of the documentary heritage and in providing access to it.” On behalf of First Nations and future generations, we strongly urge you to reverse your decision regarding the budget cuts at Library and Archives Canada and reconsider the elimination of such critical programs and services.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Chief Robert Chamberlin
Chief Marilyn Baptiste
UBCIC Chiefs Council
AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
BC AFN Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, Co-Chair AFN Chiefs Committee on Claims
First Nations Summit Task Group
Hon. John Duncan, Minister, AANDC
Tyrone Benskin, NDP Critic for Canadian Heritage
Anik Dupont, Director General, Specific Claims Branch, AANDC
UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.