More evidence has emerged suggesting that the decision by Library and Archives Canada to purge “offensive” material from its online archives – including a webpage on Canada’s first prime minister John A. Macdonald – was the result of a single legacy media article that had criticized the department’s historical tone.
In October 2021, a Toronto Star article on the first prime minister’s “racist past” complained about how Macdonald’s biography on Library and Archives Canada was too sympathetic.
Several hours later, federal government employees had taken down the biography, as well as other material.
“Within hours of the Star requesting comment from the agency on Friday, notes appeared at the top of the Macdonald and Laurier biographies saying the pages had been ‘archived on the web,’” the Toronto Star gloated.
According to material obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter, chief archivist Leslie Weir notified staff hours after reading the Star article over the weekend that pages she deemed offensive should be “modified or taken down ASAP.”
“Library and Archives Canada is sincerely sorry some users were offended by content on its website,” wrote Weir.
“Library and Archives Canada acknowledges some of its online presence may be offensive and continues to work on correcting these issues. We recognize there will always be more work to do in this area.”
Numerous other articles were then purged, including biographies of five prime ministers.
“Does Library and Archives Canada plan to modify the bio to include a more accurate depiction of his time as Prime Minister or does it intend to remove it entirely?” asked Toronto Star journalist Jacques Gallant in an email to the department.
“We have a web coder bringing down the pages now. We need the Confederation page modified or taken down ASAP, not later next week or later in the month,” Weird notified her staff.
By June 5, more of the so-called offensive pages were removed.
“I see the Macdonald bio has been removed and replaced with an error message. That said, I see other pages remain online. The Laurier profile that mentions nothing about the Chinese head tax among other devastating policies is still accessible via Google,” Gallant wrote on June 7.
Since then, over 7,000 of the department web pages have been flagged for scrubbing or removal.