Canada’s top librarian personally directed her staff to wipe federal websites of content she deemed offensive.
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, chief archivist Leslie Weir told employees at Library and Archives Canada to purge thousands of pages, including a biography of Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald.
“We need to discuss having a disclaimer on the website about having content that may offend people. I feel very strongly about that,” Weir said in an email on June 9, 2021.
“Much of the content on the Library and Archives Canada website reflects the time at which it was written. We understand much of this outdated historical content no longer reflects today’s context and may be offensive to many. This is an enormous undertaking with over 7,000 web pages.”
Weir, who was appointed by the Liberal government receives a salary of $243,000 a year and once took an all-expenses-paid trip to China in 2019.
Employees at the department voiced their concerns that Weir’s criteria for what was offensive were too vague.
“The only direction we received from Leslie was ‘offensive content,’” said a manager.
Acting manager of public services Rebecca Giesbrecht also stated that the department was scrambling as a result of the order.
“Leslie has asked for us to remove all ‘offensive’ content from the website. We are scrambling today to identify what that might be with a rough set of criteria to work with,” wrote Giesbrecht.
Weir’s criteria for offensive history included any page that erased Indigenous people, had “outdated terminology,” and anything that “lacked Indigenous perspectives and/or that ignores or dismisses the impact of colonialism.”
“The result will be that a lot of stuff from our website disappears rather quickly and nothing substantial will be up to replace it immediately,” wrote Giebrecht in a June 8, 2021 email.
Canadians first became aware of the historical purge after a Macdonald biography disappeared from the federal government’s website. Soon after, the biographies of five other prime ministers were also scrubbed.