On March 8 the Globe and Mail publish an opinion piece www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/editorials/saving-living-history/article1493288/ on the Lest We Forget workshops, a Library and Archives Canada program which connects students to veterans from their hometowns, at minimal cost, and brings historical wartime records alive to a younger generation. The Globe lamented that hands-on access was being replaced with online access to a small selection of digital files.
On March 9 the Librarian and Archivist of Canada published an open letter addressing changes. Here it is in full.
"On March 8, 2010, the Globe and Mail published an article about the Lest We Forget project. For the benefit of your readers, I would like to set the record straight: the Lest We Forget project is not being cut. On the contrary, it is being expanded through partnerships and published on line to facilitate access.
Currently, four out of five of the students that use Lest We Forget do so by receiving photocopies of military records sent from Library and Archives Canada to their schools. This practice continues. Furthermore, it should be noted that on-site access to these records also continues at our offices in downtown Ottawa.
On April 9th - Vimy Ridge Day - Library and Archives Canada is launching a representative sampling of 200 digitized military service records on its website. These digitized files will allow teachers to conduct Lest We Forget activities independently, anywhere in Canada and, in fact, around the world.
Over the past six months, Library and Archives Canada has been looking at partnerships to enhance the delivery of this and other important programs. The objective of these partnerships would be, for example, to offer a Lest We Forget workshop anywhere across Canada, including Ottawa, with the help of veterans, local libraries, remembrance volunteers, or any qualified facilitator with an interest in this field. Our objective is to maximize the number of students across Canada who will discover, first-hand, the individual stories that these soldiers' files have to tell. This approach allows us to do more for this program and frees up our resources to move on the development of other important parts of the collection.
Library and Archives Canada continues to be committed to honouring Canada's military heritage. A quarter of our collection consists of military records and we actively maintain partnerships with the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada to ensure that Canada's collection of military documents are acquired and preserved for the benefit of present and future generations.
Dr. Daniel J. Caron
Librarian and Archivist of Canada"
The letter makes it clear that LAC is intent on doing less on "Lest We Forget", shifting the burden to partners, and reallocating resources ... " ... frees up our resources to move on the development of other important parts of the collection." The letter is ambiguous as to whether LAC staff will continue to be available to student groups who choose to come to the LAC building on Wellington St.
Coming at the time of the death of the last surviving Canadian Great War veteran makes the decision particularly ill timed. Or is it? It could be just bad luck, but would it be too Machiavellian to ponder whether LAC management wished to make a point with their political masters by cutting in the most objectionable place ... elsewhere called the RCMP musical ride strategy.