In the fall of 2013, the current Government began dismantling 7 out of 9 of Canada’s Department of Fisheries (DFO) libraries, including The Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg and the St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. These libraries contained hundreds of thousands of physical scientific reports ranging from climate change to fishery information. The purpose behind this was to save money — an estimated $443,000 dollars/year — and to provide these materials as a digital archive.
However, this translation was a haphazard process. Any catalogues or registries of these scientific reports were destroyed. The index of the archive index is now lost, as was any accountability . According to eyewitnesses, irreplaceable books, historical studies, maps, environmental reports, and single-copy ‘grey literature’ on water systems and climate change, were given away, taken by private consulting firms, and rescued by concerned scientists. Truckloads of remaining documents were thrown in the dumpster. There was no oversight of this “cleansing” process, or what is referred to by scientists world-wide as an act of libricide and likened it to burning books.
Government officials transferred a small percentage of physical documents they deemed important to the two remaining libraries in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and Sidney, B.C. At the current time an estimated 660,000 printed documents are held in these two locations.
Only 30,000 of these materials have been appropriately digitized. There is no record of what was lost and we do not have access to the catalogue of the remaining 630,000 printed documents that could be digitized.
This action is not only emblematic of the overarching reach of the government into science, but also of the dangers of replacing physical materials into virtual archives. This is essentially death by obfuscation.
Canada is responsible for governing 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater. Given the change underway in the world’s ecosystems, this loss of historical water and climate data will damage future recording and understanding of climate change and pollution.