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Who Controls the Past...

Budget cuts to Parks Canada mean that Atlantic Canadian artifacts may be headed to central location in Ottawa

by Miles Howe

Behind these doors lie millions of Atlantic Canadian artifacts. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Behind these doors lie millions of Atlantic Canadian artifacts. [Photo: Miles Howe]

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia – Representatives from labour and the Mi'kmaq and Acadian communities, as well as NDP MPs Megan Leslie and Robert Chisholm, today converged outside Parks Canada's Regional Archaeological Facility in Dartmouth. The coalition has formed to decry federal budgetary cuts that threaten to close the state-of-the-art facility and send the 2-million-plus artifacts contained within to a central location in Ottawa.

The facility's collection, which can currently still be viewed by appointment, contains any number of culturally sensitive, and potentially sacred, objects that describe the history of Atlantic Canada. From water wheels to sewing needles to a gun owned by Alexander Keith, to numerous written documents; the historical narrative of the region is at risk of being shipped away, all in the name of questionable federal book-balancing.

“I've heard the arguments, and we appreciate the fact that to some people that makes some sense,” said Chisholm, MP for Dartmouth – Cole Harbour. “I don't think that it does. The fact that it's going to save money? They've just invested...6 million dollars in this facility in 2009.”

Leslie, MP for Halifax, also noted that the facility, which currently employees six unionized PSAC staff, has 17 years left on its lease. The federal government remains on the hook for this lease, with an estimated cost of $400,000 per year.

“I think this Conservative government needs to realize what they're doing,” said Leslie. “When you line up those numbers in a column maybe they make sense to somebody who's in a cubicle somewhere, but they don't make sense in our communities.

“Those are Atlantic Canadian artifacts...They belong here with us. We're going to lose artifacts from Mi'kmaq communities. We're going to lose artifacts from Acadian communities. Those artifacts belong here.”

Roger Hunka, of the Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council, perceived something more sinister in the federal government's deep fiscal cuts to Parks Canada in the recent budget. While Parks Canada was left to itself to determine where and how the cuts to funding would occur, Hunka called the move a classic 'pillage and plunder.'

“There is not a human being or a government that would just close its history, or close its continuum,” said Hunka. “Especially when we have such a large federation as Canada. There's a lot more at stake here. My question and challenge here is: Where are the provinces on this?...I do not believe it has got anything to do with money. If it is, then we're in real trouble. If this is the way that decisions are made, to wipe out histories, and to wipe out what we need to show a continuum, we're in big trouble. [This is about] power, greed. This is centralized greed.”

Robert Comeau, representing the Nova Scotia Acadian population, shared Hunka's concerns.

“I think a lot of Acadians are concerned, because if it moves, it's probably never going to come back, and we won't have a chance to see anything,” Comeau told The Halifax Media Co-op. “I know my children are interested in our heritage, and I can't afford to go to Ottawa. And even in going to Ottawa, is it going to be available to us there? Here, if it's in Grand Pre, in a museum somewhere, at least it's within the province and accessible to us.

“This land was shaped by the Mi'kmaq and the Aboriginal groups, as well as by the Acadians who came here. For me as an Acadian, and for the Acadian group, it's very important to keep our heritage here. We don't want to lose that.”

Unfortunately, all this begs the question: If Parks Canada, due to budget cuts, no longer finds itself able to locally curate artifacts that appear to share an across-the-board appeal to Atlantic Canadians, then is it time for local interest groups to step forward, request their respective objective histories, and self-curate their own objects?

A managerial representative at the facility noted that this was indeed within the realm of possibilities.

“I think that's going to have to be the next step,” Hunka told The Halifax Media Co-op. “A lot of people are sort of caught by surprise. They can't believe that it's happening, but it is happening. It's sort of a shock...But I think there will be a mobilization of people. [As for who is responsible for curating Mi'kmaq artifacts] I think it's all the Mi'kmaw people, with the Grand Council. I think it's important to get the captains of the Grand Council involved in Atlantic Canada...to come to this building here to talk to all the premiers and to talk to press and media.”

 


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Comments

great piece

Great work Miles, Thanks.

I think this touches on a very important issue, who ownes the truth of history?
Is it, as they say, the victors?  Or is it the rich or the lucky?  The media?  The universities? or even the researchers, independant or otherwise?

Is this just another move by those who control and leach off of the federated state system in order to perpetuate it and increase its power through sustained and prolonged attacks against the historical claims of other cultures, within its claimed borders of authority, to an existence?

The world is in turbulent times, geopolitical manouvering is in fast forward, something serious is in the making.  Now will be another time for nationalism in the news, and it will be pushed hard by whoever is in power, most likely in order to support another unpopular violent adventure into a peaceful sovereign nation, but also to advance the federation.  Never let a good crisis go to waste.

Who is keeping track of the real history of what is going on?
Who's point of view are we trusting?  Ie. Are we sufficently informed?  And if we are, have we been given the mental faculties to distinguish truth from fiction when presented to us?  Is the truth of histoy what you believe?  Is it what your children are taught in public school and university?  It is what we read in the NY Times, Foreign Affairs or the Halifax Media Coop?  Could we ever know or come to truth, given the over whelming abundence of uninformative dis-informatnion and lack of intelligent, truthful information available, even with the technologically advanced formes of media our society posesses?  Censorship and lack of transperency is a big problem, a very big problem.  Public education is a problem for the historical relevence of individual culture.

Collective Corporate Governments will document and censor the history as they see fit, for that is how the cycle goes round and round, the filtering of information in order to perpetuation power, for if power over men exists, attempts can be made to exploit it.  Less power = less risk of exploitation, therefore, those who seek power, will also seek to increase it. 

 

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