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The CHA responds to CAUT regarding the Save Library and Archives Canada Campaign

Ottawa, March 26, 2012                                                                        

Mr. Wayne Peters, President
James L. Turk, Executive Director
Canadian Association of University Teachers

Dear Sirs:

Thank you for your letter of 8 March 2012, in which you expressed further concerns regarding changes at Library and Archives Canada, and in which you requested the support of the Canadian Historical Association in your campaign to oppose the LAC changes.  We are pleased that the CAUT has taken such an interest in LAC and share many of your concerns around modernization, acquisitions, and the chronic underfunding of this vital cultural institution. However, there are some elements of your campaign where we, as professional organization representing historians, take a different view.   We also have different approaches how best to influence LAC and government.  While we have decided not to participate in your campaign, I want to assure you that the Canadian Historical Association is taking an active role engaging LAC about our shared concerns. We want to ensure that archival services and policies are optimally addressed from the standpoint of Canada’s historical community, and are taking steps to try to make that happen.

We feel that the CAUT campaign has combined two types of issues that need to be addressed separately; some that are within the purview of the LAC and others around funding constraints that the LAC has no control over and should be directed at the government. On the latter points, we are in agreement with the part of your campaign relating to lobbying the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Prime Minister for more resources.

On the issues that LAC has control over, such as acquisition policy, access to specialist archivists, and others, we have taken the approach of discussing these directly with LAC in face-to-face meetings and through an advisory process. We feel this is bound to be more productive than a confrontational public campaign which we feel got off to an unfortunate start by making personal attacks on the qualifications of the senior staff at the LAC.

As we indicated in earlier communications, in 2011 the Canadian Historical Association accepted LAC’s invitation to participate in national stakeholder consultations and working groups connected to its modernization initiatives.  To date, our representatives have attended several meetings of both the stakeholder forums and working groups.  Personally, I can report that the Agora Acquisitions Marketplace Working Group has made tangible progress in addressing several issues relating to setting up a national framework for acquisitions.  The CHA has put forward a proposal that diversity and inclusivity be major drivers of future archival acquisitions, and both LAC participants and other members of that working group have completely agreed with this direction.

Regarding the changes in direct service, vacancies and acquisitions referred to in your letter, we have arranged a meeting in April 2012 with Mr. Fabien Lengellé, Director General of Services at LAC, to discuss the new appointment system and related changes to see how well it is working for our members and other serious researchers, or whether adjustments are required.

I am not certain as to what is meant by your reference to LAC’s acceptance of “fewer donations of cultural artefacts.” My understanding is that LAC does not have a mandate to collect artefacts beyond archival documents, whether textual, visual, or sound and film.  Nevertheless, we will look into this matter further.

Had the CAUT consulted the CHA in devising the campaign we would have advised leaving out the concerns about decentralization. LAC has repeatedly told us and other stakeholders that it accepts it has a critical national role to ensure that Canada’s documentary heritage is protected and we will be vigilant to ensure they meet this mandate. However, LAC has also said that it does not need to be the repository of all collections if there is a better home for particular fonds. While the CHA believes that certain collections certainly need to be housed at LAC, we agree that it is not always necessary or desirable to do so.  The most important outcome is that the collections are protected and made accessible to researchers, preferably at a repository accessible to the majority of anticipated clients.

While we share many of your concerns and appreciate your attention to them, we are not opposed as your campaign suggests you are, to all forms of decentralization. We agree with you in asking government for more resources for LAC and we will continue our lobbying campaign alongside yours.

Sincerely,

Lyle Dick
President
Canadian Historical Association

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