After Muzzling Scientists, Canadian Government Now Moves On To Book Burnings

from the return-to-the-dark-ages dept

Techdirt has been tracking the sorry saga of Canada’s assault on free speech for a while, as it first muzzled scientists and librarians, and then clamped down on the public expressing its views. Now, it seems, the Canadian government of Stephen Harper is attacking knowledge by dismantling key scientific collections, as this post on The Tyee reports:

Scientists say the closure of some of the world’s finest fishery, ocean and environmental libraries by the Harper government has been so chaotic that irreplaceable collections of intellectual capital built by Canadian taxpayers for future generations has been lost forever.

There seems to have been no attempt to find other homes for books, maps and unique collections of historical data, or even to offer them for free to the Canadian public that paid for them. Instead, they are simply being destroyed, some in literal book burnings:

Many collections such as the Maurice Lamontagne Institute Library in Mont-Joli, Quebec ended up in dumpsters while others such as Winnipeg’s historic Freshwater Institute library were scavenged by citizens, scientists and local environmental consultants. Others were burned or went to landfills, say scientists.

What’s strange is that even though the rationale for this mass destruction is apparently in order to reduce costs, opportunities to sell off more valuable items have been ignored. A scientist is quoted as follows:

“Hundreds of bound journals, technical reports and texts still on the shelves, presumably meant for the garbage or shredding. I saw one famous monograph on zooplankton, which would probably fetch a pretty penny at a used science bookstore… anybody could go in and help themselves, with no record kept of who got what.”

In the light of these events, another top scientist made the following comment:

Hutchings said none of the closures has anything to do with saving money, due to the small cost of maintaining the collections. He, like many scientists, concludes that Harper’s political convictions are driving the unprecedented consolidation.

“It must be about ideology. Nothing else fits,” said Hutchings. “What that ideology is, is not clear. Does it reflect that part of the Harper government that doesn’t think government should be involved in the very things that affect our lives? Or is it that the role of government is not to collect books or fund science? Or is it the idea that a good government is stripped down government? ”

Hutchings saw the library closures fitting a larger pattern of “fear and insecurity” within the Harper government, “about how to deal with science and knowledge.”

Or it may just be that the Canadian government doesn’t want any inconvenient scientific evidence to get in the way of its dogma-based policymaking.

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Comments on “After Muzzling Scientists, Canadian Government Now Moves On To Book Burnings”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Reminds me of how the US government went downhill by becoming anti-knowledge.

Besides the CBO for budget and numbers people to advise congress, congress used to have people who were experts on a board range of political issues, and were good at predicting the cause and effect of new laws being considered and passed (just like the CBO is for budgets).

So what happened to all those experts? Well, the experts were hired by congress, and whoever controlled congress. So in 1994 when the Republicans took over, you’d expect them to be replaced by experts picked by the Republican party right? Well nope, Republicans not only got rid of the old experts, they eliminated their jobs entirely, in the name of ‘cost savings’, a claim as dubious as Stephen Harper’s claims here.

Androgynous Cowherd says:


It’s pretty obvious what the ideology is. It’s the usual modern right-wing ideology: “whatever big business wants”. Big business in Canada does not want inconvenient environment-related facts to impede it by inspiring regulations against pollution, overfishing, and the like.

Harper must represent a Canadian analogue to the Tea Party.

Bosco says:

Scripps Institute of Oceanography Library closed as well

Tech-dirt is spot on with the idea that this is “anti-science”. But it’s also a plot to control the agenda by controlling information. The Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UCSD just closed its famed marine library in 2012. It’s been around since the 70’s and served as a serious repository of knowledge in the marine sciences. I’m wondering if this is part of the anti-global warming agenda.

(Anyone who knows anything about UCSD knows the place is rolling in dough. It’s just that building luxury dorms and increasing salaries seems to be highest on the agenda). Oh yeah and google digitized the collection so you don’t need hard copies right? Just lets see if anyone can read your stupid disk 500 years from now!

Libraries across the country are being systematically attacked. The New York Public library closing many of its stacks being just one example. The trend is to replace ‘hard copies’ with easily manipulated digital copies that place google in drivers seat. Yet another example of a major corporation extracting rents.

Google has appointed itself the historian/protector of all future knowledge. They’re pushing universities across the country to digitize collections and close physical structures. They’re digitizing the entire university of Michigan collection. The university will remove most hard copies from their medical library. Eventually all their libraries will be empty of books.

It’s about the removal of reference points. If you don’t know where you’ve been it’s hard to find out where you are.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Scripps Institute of Oceanography Library closed as well

I think you are conflating Google’s digitising process with all these institutions selling out their ‘birthright’ and responsibility. It’s not Google’s fault/responsibility for Harper, UCSD or the New York Public Library. If anything, they should be commended for doing their bit to help mitigate this cultural and scientific vandalism.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Winnipeg’s historic Freshwater Institute library were scavenged by citizens, scientists and local environmental consultants.”

Does this have something to do with tar sand fracking? Is scientific environmental teachings getting in the way of foreign oil companies coming into Canada, and pumping millions of gallons of poisonous liquids into the ground and drinking water. Then the company pulling out of the area when the oil is depleated, leaving the local population living in a toxic waste dump, have something to do with all of this?

I will speculate that the answer is most likely, yes.

Cindi (profile) says:

Misinformation and no book burnings

This is totally inaccurate, you need to read legitimate news sources.
The department says material was offered to other libraries and third parties. It was also offered to the DFO staff on site, then the general public, and recycled if there were no takers, Ms. Doucet said. Scientists at the Freshwater Institute say a Winnipeg consulting company hauled away anything its workers thought might be useful ? material that the scientists say is now lost to them.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the team from North/South loaded three vehicles, including a flatbed truck, with boxes of books, journals and “grey literature” — old consultant’s reports, government documents and other studies that won’t ever be available online and are otherwise hard to track down

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