Thursday, June 07, 2012

Morning Reading

I started off very excited about an article I read on The Textile Blog this morning. The Written Word and Textiles is right up my alley, and somewhat distracted me from the shock of another news article about how Canada's Neo-Philistine government is gutting the Library and Archives of Canada.

As the Textile article makes abundantly clear, the ability to access information has only recently been available to those who are literate. And widespread literacy, which we take more or less for granted in the developed world, only became available to us as it benefited industry. Business and industry needed workers who could read, so pressured government to provide education for all.

The Canadian government is now working to limit access to its people's history. I have often heard it said, either in jest or all seriousness, that it is not in a (retrogressive, right-wing) government's interest to have an educated electorate. I fear this is all too true in our current situation.

Several years ago, I was working an a piece about Louis Riel, one of our early Canadian leaders. I was able to visit the National Archives in Ottawa, where I was issued a card that allowed me access to the collections for research purposes. In an afternoon, I was able to track down and read the original document whose words formed the foundation of my artwork. It was a thrilling experience, and I felt so honoured and proud to be a citizen of such a wonderful country that valued and cared for its heritage.

The source of my most recent work, based on the Codex Canadensis, can be viewed online through the Library and Archives Canada website, one of the many LAC services that has been hit with cuts. The original manuscript is, oddly enough, in American hands, in the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The circumstances that brought this about are completely understandable, and although I wish the book was in Canada as it is so important in our country's story, I am also relieved that it is safe where it is. The current Canadian government wouldn't give a rat's ass about it.

3 comments:

  1. goodness Heather! what a shocking state of affairs! are the government going to sell off the archives? or simply letting it quietly expire?
    here in the U.K. the government is making such cuts to local authorities, that our libraries are closing. if you're interested, try looking up Micheal Rosen's blog for lots of informtion, and arguments against the cuts. best wishes
    Jan

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  2. Anonymous9:32 PM

    Thanks for spreading the word about these cuts. I read the link describing the cuts to the archives in detail and it sounds like other cuts I've heard about. A friend of mine works in a branch of the government that deals with military family housing and support services and he described the same situation. In his office about 25 out of 60 positions were eliminated. Closer to my home (Japan), it has been announced that the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo will now process all Canadian visa applications from Japanese citizens not through the Tokyo embassy but through the embassy in the Philippines, where labour is cheaper.

    It just goes on an on and like all slash and burn strategies, I am sure it will backfire. The cuts will be proven to be counter-productive and in the end people will be re-hired at higher cost and they will have to spend valuable time repairing the damaged programs. Harper just doesn't get it. He's not making the country stronger by trying to balance the budget. He's weakening the country by gutting the infrastructure.

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  3. Oy! Do NOT get me started on the Harper government. The atrocities just continue to mount. How do we "un-elect" them quick - before it's too late for everything that matters?

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