Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Abandonment of Canada's Past

This month, the Conservative Party under Steven Harper gained a majority in Canada's elections. One of the new government's first actions was to drastically cut the archaeology staff of Parks Canada.

Cut might not be the right word.

Destroyed might be.

Check out this detailed (but unofficial) summary of recent events. Among other things, the changes include the closing of all archaeological laboratories in Canada except the Ottawa facility. This will mean the transportation of millions of artifacts and cultural heritage objects from regional labs to the already-understaffed and crowded Ottawa headquarters. Of course, the cuts mean that there are no longer any staff members capable of inventorying, packing, transporting, or unpacking this material. Even if they arrive intact, the collections will no longer be available to researchers, students, and the public.

Many of these artifacts were discovered in seminal excavations that changed our understanding of human history. In many cases, they represent all we know about thousands of years worth of human lives.

A month ago, Parks Canada employed 33 conservators to care for archaeological and historical objects. Today, only 8 remain.

Full-time Education Outreach staff, Global Information Systems (GIS mapping) staff, Material Culture researchers, and interpretive staff at 27 National Historic Sites have been entirely eliminated.

What this means is that the world's second largest country, site of perhaps thirty thousand years of human history, now has, according to a Parks Canada conservator, fewer people employed to care for its physical cultural heritage - the artifacts and objects that are our collective history as much as Canada's - than work in a single franchise of a Tim Hortons coffee shop.


  1. Thanks for helping spread the word. Its a dark time for archaeology, heritage, and the environment in Canada. These cuts and many more changes to heritage and environmental research and protection are buried in the current budget bill C-38, which the minority opposition is powerless to stop.

  2. What has been the stronghold for those of us who value the rich culture of our past, Canada appears to be loosing its historical virtue to right winged national identity theft much the same as it has here in the United States. Bonfires and book burning next?