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Difficult Access to CBC Archives

Ottawa, March 15 2001

Hubert T. Lacroix
President and CEO
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
P.O. Box 3220, Station C
Ottawa, ON K1Y 1E4

Dear Mr. Lacroix

As President of the Canadian Historical Association I am writing to express the concerns of the Canadian Historical community about the access provided by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to its archival material and ask for your intervention in improve the current, unsatisfactory situation.   The CBC is one of our pre-eminent national institutions and its history is of interest and vital importance to Canadians. The CBC Archives contain the richest single collection of Canada’s modern cultural history and it is critical to Canadians that this collection be as open and as accessible as possible.  

The Canadian Historical Association/Société historique du Canada (CHA/SHC) is the oldest and largest organization representing professional historians in Canada. Founded in 1922, the bilingual organization is dedicated to scholarship in all fields of history. It has a membership of about 1000, made up primarily of historians engaged as professionals from all regions of Canada and abroad. Our members are frequently consulted by the CBC in all its manifestations, TV, radio, news, documentaries, nationally and in all the regions. We generously support the CBC with our time and expertise.

The CBC Digital Archives has done excellent work in providing access to a part of the CBC collection but, by contrast, the CBC Corporate Archives is nearly invisible. Based both on the experience of our members, but also on my own exploration of the CBC websites, it would appear that the CBC Archives is more focused on generating revenue from the rebroadcast of your archival material than it is on serving Canadian who have an interest in the history of the CBC or Canadian culture.   Unless one approaches it under the tab “Commercial Businesses,” which is not where the historical community would normally look, your corporate website hides the existence of an archive.

Once historians have found your archives, changes since 2006 have made it very hard to conduct certain important kinds of historical research. I append a one-page article from our quarterly bulletin which gives just one example of the run-around and obstacles thrown up in front of historical researchers when they attempt to use your archives. You will note that the author has attempted to raise the challenges he faced with CBC Ombudsman only to learn that the CBC Archives is outside the mandate of the Ombudsman.
The CBC is a federal cultural corporation with an avowed mandate to promote Canadian identity and heritage, yet it gives the appearance that it does not take enough pride in its own history to facilitate such research.

On behalf of the Canadian Historical Association, I would like to ask you to revisit those guidelines which place an unnecessary burden on researchers; to consider the needs of the historical community in establishing online and in-person access to the archives, and to extend the mandate of your Ombudsmen to intervene in cases involving the CBC Archives.  I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Mary Lynn Stewart,
President

Cc.
Kirk LaPointe, Ombudsman, CBC
250 Front Street West
P.O. Box 500, Station A
Toronto, Ontario M5W 1E6
Julie Miville-Dechêne, Ombudsman, Radio Canada
P.O. Box 6000
Montréal, Quebec H3C 3A8

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