Even the Toronto Star — never a friend of Stephen Harper or his government — expresses some skepticism about the widely discussed “book burnings”:
Rumours of book burnings in Ottawa have been greatly exaggerated. And the unfortunate effect has been to distract from real concerns about the preservation of our scientific heritage.
The hyperbole seems to have grown out of early reports on the ongoing closure of seven of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ 11 libraries. At least one scientist, concerned that rare and valuable literature would be lost, likened the move to the book-burnings of totalitarian European governments of the 1930s. This comparison was literalized in later stories, which had DFO employees actually burning manuscripts from the dismantled collections.
But the government denies that any books have been incinerated; there are no eye-witness accounts; and, frankly, the story lacks the ring of truth. What government with a modicum of sense would choose to dispose of books in such a cartoonishly fascistic manner?
Yet while Ottawa is not quite 15th-century Florence or Nazi-era Berlin, the government’s approach to the closures does raise disquieting questions.
The decision to shut the libraries may make sense. The physical collections in question received an average of 5 to 12 in-person visits last year, and the department says consolidation will save roughly $440,000. But many scientists are rightly concerned that some of the hundreds of thousands of documents in DFO’s collection – many of them rare, some one-of-a-kind – will not be preserved. “It’s not clear what will be kept and what will be lost,” Jeff Hutchings, a renowned marine biologist, told the CBC.
H/T to Colby Cosh, who commented:
A story trumpeted to heaven by Award-Winning Journalist™ Andrew Nikiforuk turned out to be super-torqued crap, you say? Inconceivable!
— Colby Cosh (@colbycosh) January 13, 2014