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Melville still exists—but as a shadow. Also gone are internal reports on the oil sands experiments of the s. The decision to kill the site, which had thousands of links to resources for Aboriginal people, had been announced quietly weeks before; the librarians had only days to train with web-harvesting software.

The need for such efforts has taken on new urgency since , says Li, when some 1, websites were centralized into one, with more than 60 per cent of content shed. Now that reporting has switched from print to digital only, government information can be altered or deleted without notice, she says.

Derek Mortensen Stories about government data and historical records being deleted, burned—even tossed into Dumpsters—have become so common in recent years that many Canadians may feel inured to them. But such accounts are only the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg. Statistics Canada no longer provides a clear snapshot of the country, says John Stapleton, a Toronto-based social policy consultant.

Austerity measures, ironically, have resulted in an inability to keep track of the changes: Related reading from Jonathon Gatehouse: The situation has descended into farce: Library and Archives Canada LAC , entrusted with preserving historic papers, books, photographs, paintings, film and artifacts, was so eroded by cuts that, a few years ago, author Jane Urquhart was unable to access her own papers, donated to LAC in the s.

The result is a crisis in what Canadians know—and are allowed to know—about themselves. But the conclusions drawn by its authors, a librarian at Carleton University and an information-management consultant, are chilling. In , the U. Last year, the U. Federal Reserve posted full and revealing transcripts of meetings held by then chairman Ben Bernanke in the weeks and months leading to the recession—there for anyone with an Internet connection to read.

Canada certainly talks the talk. Access to federal scientific data is equally dire. Canada is in the Dark Ages, compared with the U. But rapid scientific process stops at the Canadian border. A rising tide of anti-intellectual thinking But where digitization has helped other governments and companies make more information available, it is having the opposite effect here.

Federal Depository Library Program tracks U. But the organization has suffered a 50 per cent cut in its digital staff, and received no additional funding in the budget. Parsing the truth has become a national parlour game. Economic considerations are cited routinely to justify cutbacks in collecting, analyzing and digitizing information. A closer look at recent data erasure, however, suggests it runs counter to sound economic strategy. The glaring example is the elimination of the mandatory long-form census, a detailed survey of Canadians taken every five years.

StatsCan stands by the data: Five years later, we are seeing the effects. Response rates from the very rich, the very poor, rural areas, immigrants and Aboriginal communities tend to be far lower—so these groups are not well-represented.

But when you have wrong information, chances are, it will put you on the wrong path to policy development. Businesses, including his own, have been hard-hit, says Elliott: The Department of Finance was relying on data from the online classified service Kijiji to back its position. As a result, economic decision-making is compromised, as a July ScotiaBank report points out.

Census Bureau who is co-director of the Washington-based Census Project, a group fighting to maintain the U. They live and breathe. Comprehensive Canadian income-data history currently begins in Gordon expresses alarm that 20 years of data history between and vanished in due to changes in the way national accounts, GDP and other data were compiled: Some were internationally famous.

The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory in Nunavut, which played a key role in discovering a huge hole in the ozone layer over the Arctic, closed in Also shuttered was a brand-new climate-controlled facility at the St.

Andrews Biological Station in New Brunswick. The original station provided writer Rachel Carson with documentation of DDT killing salmon in local rivers reported in her book Silent Spring , credited with giving rise to environmentalism. The data gap naturally affects policy. Published research, in areas ranging from medical technologies to astrophysics, declined from 1, reports in to in Innovation, measured in patents filed, also declined, from three in to zero in Assessing the performance of a government that turns—and campaigns—on its economic record has been compromised as a result, a serious problem during a federal election, says Yalnizyan: How is that distributed?

In the absence of readily available information, a record number of individual Canadians are turning to the mechanism to access internal government records and information, the Access to Information and Privacy system ATIP. But that system is also a shambles. Fewer requests are being processed, at a more glacial pace with more redactions. Information commissioner Suzanne Legault found in a report that only 21 per cent of access requests in the fiscal year resulted in information released, compared to 40 per cent in Legault made 85 recommendations for reform, including extending coverage to the Prime Minister, ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

Freedom of Information and Privacy Association: The change was made as Legault was poised to recommend possible criminal charges against the RCMP for withholding—and later destroying—gun-registry documents. The Federal Court of Appeal intervened earlier this year, when a citizen seeking information on the sale of military assets was told it would take 1, days. In , an Ontario court had to order the federal government to release thousands of pages of documents detailing government involvement in residential schools withheld from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

ATIP delays affected a complaint her organization filed with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal claiming the federal government discriminated against First Nations children, she says. The hearings were postponed when it was discovered the government had withheld 90, pages of documents.

A pattern of disappearing information has raised questions about political interference, notably, after the Canada Revenue Agency ordered employees to destroy all text-message records.

The concern is that the agency was covering up evidence of a crackdown on charities that opposed government policy. The census scandal drew international criticism. Blackstock saw her professional and personal life was monitored; in her case, the conduct was determined by the privacy commissioner to be in violation of the Privacy Act.

Stephen Harper, friend of science, kind of The vanishing of Canada has created a counterinsurgency—scientists, researchers, economists, civil rights groups, librarians and artists marshalling resources and their own time to monitor, expose, protest and create a new literature of knowledge loss. In July, Evidence for Democracy launched True North Smart and Free , an interactive website documenting seven years of changes to how science is collected and used in federal policy decision-making.

Archival history is a casualty when a country is in a severe economic, military and political crisis, says Robin Vose, president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. The irony is acute.


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