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Rescued by the Americans: the Story Ottawa Conservatives would prefer Canadians not know

Veronica Strong-Boag

First of all three disclaimers: I like many Americans; I love digital records; and I value the efforts of independent on-line initiatives to serve the public good. Why then my reservations when I read the website  Two generous residents of the lower forty-eight, with significant expertise in the US National Park Service,[1] have provided free access to a rich trove of  “electronic publications, covering the cultural and natural history of Parks Canada and the national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas of the Canadian park system.” Full texts are available, although only in English. As Harper’s Conservatives sack information services and access, anyone interested in Canada’s parks and historic sites and monuments has reason for gratitude.  We would be much poorer without such initiatives to preserve access to critical information about our past and present.

But after we have thanked our American friends, we should ask some questions, beginning with why is such an external source of public data on Canada necessary? The US site explains that it is “not affiliated with Parks Canada.” This seems a bit strange surely?  All the linked documents were paid for by Canadian taxpayers and all were inspired by Canada’s own priorities with regard to national parks and historic sites and monuments.  Indeed the various units within Parks Canada have a distinguished history of professional research conducted by historians, archaelogists, anthropologists, and a range of natural scientists.  Their studies have contributed significantly to what we know about human exploration and settlement and changes in the natural environment and climate. They have been essential in ensuring that we better understand our part of North America.