Open letter to James Moore about NADP and CCA

16 May

[The text here is incomplete and does not include two lists of projects where York University has used the NADP and CCA. Please see the full PDF of the letter.]

The Honourable James Moore, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

16 May 2012

Dear Minister:

On April 30, 2012, administrative staff at Library Archives Canada announced that the National Archival Development Program (NADP) and the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) were eliminated. Without prior consultation or warning to affected stakeholders, the decision was made to cut vital programs and services which feed into the pan-Canadian network of archives which serve researchers from across the country and internationally.

The CCA first received federal support in 1986 and over the last twenty-six years its distribution of federal funding has efficiently and successfully supported the development and advancement of archives in communities throughout Canada. The NADP cost the citizens of Canada $1.71 million a year to operate. In turn, it assists in the operation of the following programs:

  • Outreach and educational activities in communities to help small institutions manage their treasures
  • Development of the national on-line catalogue of archival descriptions, and its provincial and territorial counterparts, so all archives, including the very small, can reach Canadians
  • Provision of archival and preservation advice to archives
  • Job exposure for new graduates from Canada’s archival and information studies programs
  • Access to archival holdings information on-line
  • Cataloguing of archival materials to make them accessible to the public
  • Training opportunities for local archives run by volunteers or one-person operations
  • Site assessments to both urban and rural archives, to safeguard Canada’s documentary heritage
  • Preservation  of at-risk documents and other archival materials, including electronic records

The NADP is a program with direct positive impact on Canadians in their own communities.  The elimination of NADP will have a far reaching and devastating impact across Canada since we are now facing the collapse of the Canadian Archival System comprised of Provincial/Territorial Councils and their members in historical societies, religious archives, municipal archives, Aboriginal archives, ethnic minority archives, educational archives, and others—a system that is critical to the 150th anniversary of Confederation which we will celebrate in less than five years from now.

Cutting this program will have a significant impact across Canada. In addition to six staff members losing their jobs at the CCA Secretariat, eleven archives advisors across the country will lose their jobs. Several provincial and territorial archives councils have suspended operations and thirteen are at risk of collapsing within one to six months; 90 projects for the 2012–2013  year have been cancelled, resulting in job losses at 74 archival institutions; the national office of the CCA will be closing, requiring that two organizations that share premises, the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) and the Canadian Historical Association must also move their operations; operations that support the development of ARCHIVESCANADA.ca[1], the national catalogue of archival descriptions are endangered; and managerial assistance to the National Archival Appraisal Board (NAAB) and the North American Archival Network International Council on Archives (NAANICA) is threatened.

The NADP does not simply provide funding for the maintenance of consulting and advisory services for archival associations: the program also funds many projects across the country to ensure that archival material is preserved, arranged and described and made available to the public. Since 2006 it has provided archivists with the means to hire qualified professionals to generate finding aids, preserve fragile documents, digitize others for greater ease of access and generate electronic finding aids to contribute to their local union lists (in Ontario, this is Archeion.ca) and eventually consolidate records into ArchivesCanada.ca and the national catalogue.

The NADP is not icing on the cake. It is a life-line for small institutions to hire professional expertise, buy preservation supplies, or hire a short-term contract archivist to ensure a project is completed.

Since 1992, the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections has received $178,952 through various grants and funds managed through the Canadian Council of Archives. In turn, the university has contributed matching funds of $105,106 direct and $140,741 in-kind investment. Without the support of grants managed by the Canadian Council of Archives, none of these projects would have been possible. These funds covered projects that purchased vital preservation materials for historical photographs suffering from vinegar syndrome, as well as an ambitious digitization project that preserved live sound recordings of Canadian artists and provided free and open access to digitized materials to the public online. The support of the Canadian Council of Archives provided archivists at York University with the means to hire contract archivists to tackle challenging programming, description, digitization, and preservation projects. A list and cost breakdown of these projects is appended to this letter for your reference.

What the federal government saves in the short term will be miniscule when compared to the long-term impact this will have on the local level in archives across the country and how it will undermine the ability of remaining professionals working at LAC to carry out their legal responsibilities as custodians of the federal government’s records and, more broadly, as the keepers of the collective memory of the nation.

In Ontario, we are facing the loss of three staff members employed by the Archives Association of Ontario (AAO), or the severe curtailing of their activities and programming.  We are also looking at dozens of archival institutions that have been planning (often for years in advance) to apply for a NADP grant to tackle large-scale projects within their own operations being unable to follow through with these plans.

The result of this cost-cutting will be the erosion of a national network of archival descriptions that we have fought for years to establish and grow.  It will undermine our profession’s ability to build and maintain our online databases.  It may eliminate altogether the ability of many institutions to digitize materials at a quality and standard that will ensure long-term accessibility and preservation. Most importantly, it will impede access and promotion of materials that are essential to community-building and the education, enlightenment and empowerment of Canadian citizens.

Archives are a pillar of Canadian heritage and democracy; archival materials support research for publishing, science, technology development and numerous federal government initiatives.  The impact of these cuts will be immediate, its effects will reverberate for years to come and they will undo twenty-six years of national cooperation.

On behalf of the community we represent, we ask that the elimination of the National Archival Development Program and the Canadian Council of the Archives be reconsidered.

Yours sincerely,

William Denton <wdenton@yorku.ca>

Web Librarian / Steward, Library Chapter, York University Faculty Association


[1] ARCHIVESCANADA.ca provides Canadians with greater access to our national heritage. The Canadian Council of Archives, in partnership with the provincial and territorial councils, their member institutions, Library and Archives Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage, invested resources to create ArchivesCanada.ca,an easy-to-use web application that provides access to hundreds of thousands of historical documents, images and other national treasures—available from the comfort of a classroom, home or office.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: