Opening Statement by Daniel J. Caron, Librarian and Archivist of Canada at the meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages

November 30, 2010
Mr. Chairman,
Members of the committee, 
 
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Standing Committee on Official Languages. I am here to respond to the evaluation of Library and Archives Canada contained within the Commissioner of Official Languages annual report, tabled in Parliament on November 2, 2010. I am accompanied this morning by Mr. Mark Melanson, the Senior Director General responsible for the corporate management sector at Library and Archives Canada. Mr. Melanson oversees the implementation of the Official Languages Act within our institution.
 
Library and Archives Canada combines the holdings, services and staff of the former National Library of Canada and the former National Archives of Canada. The essential mandate of LAC is the following:
 
  • To preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations;
  • To be a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all, contributing to the cultural, social and economic advancement of Canada;
  • To facilitate in Canada cooperation among communities, including official language minority communities, involved in the acquisition, preservation and diffusion of knowledge; and
  • To serve as the continuing memory of the government of Canada and its institutions.
The face of information has changed substantially in the last decade: superabundance; rapid creation, multiple formats; unprecedented access; and expanding user influence. This picture is in direct contrast to that of the past, which was characterized by limited creation and quantity; mediated access and decisions; authoritative sources; specialist interventions; limited number of fixed formats; limited sharing; and fewer players.
 
All of this calls into question the very basis of the traditional practices and theories that have driven the management of information, librarianship, documentary heritage and the development of Canada's continuing memory. LAC now needs to determine how to achieve optimal results in this constantly evolving environment to stay relevant to Canadians.
 
Presently, as the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, I am leading my institution through a process of modernization that touches all of our principle business activities in order to ensure that LAC respects and maintains its legislated mandate of acquiring, preserving and making accessible Canada's documentary heritage for present and future generations.
 
During this process, I draw upon my experience as the former President of the Council of the Network of Official Languages Champions to ensure that our new and emerging organization embodies in an exemplary fashion the spirit and intention of the Official Languages Act.
 
In general, recognition and respect for official languages is a question of respect for colleagues and Canadians. It is a matter of institutional and constitutional sustainability, of reinforcing our comparative advantages and of making Canadian values more vibrant in our daily life. In short, it means respecting our founding principles.
 
The future of official languages in Canada depends on our willingness and our ability to make linguistic duality work. We do not need to wait for new rules and regulations; we need to use what we have, to be respectful of our values and to be creative and innovative.
 
Canadians expect that their federal Public Service will be institutionally bilingual. Not only to be able to serve Canadians in the official language of their choice, but also to nourish policy thinking from the work and ideas emerging form the two official language communities.
 
With regard to the publication of the Commissioner of Official Languages annual report, I would like to respond to both LAC's successes, as well as the areas where progress can be made and where we have taken significant steps to improve.
 
In particular, LAC received perfect scores for the provision of its services in both official languages in person or by phone. Concerning the active offer of service by telephone, LAC was one of only three institutions to receive this perfect score.
 
In the application of the Official Languages Act in the work environment, LAC is proud of its performance, having attained the highest grade given amongst the 16 federal institutions that were evaluated.
 
Finally, with respect to the comprehensive measures taken by LAC to promote the vitality of official language minority communities, I would like to mention that LAC as evaluated during the first year of a four-year action plan for official languages. 
 
Within the allotted time frame that allows for the completion of LAC's action plan, it is understood that we will need to make some adjustments beyond the first year of its implementation, especially when we take into consideration the nature of capturing a community's documentary heritage.
 
Gone are the days when a national archive could decide on its own what is the appropriate collection of heritage documents for a linguistic minority community and determine how this heritage will be accessed. A modern organization like LAC seeks to form partnerships with the members of the minority communities in order to have them participate meaningfully in addressing the fundamental questions their documentary heritage.
 
This process of meaningful consultation and collaboration is the foundation of LAC's action plan for promoting the vitality and sustainability of the official language minority communities.
 
For example, this year at the Conference of Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Archivists, a collaborative project was undertaken to elaborate a national strategy for the documentary heritage for Franco-Canadian communities that includes the participation of the territorial archive of the Yukon and the provincial archives of New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, along with the National Library and Archives of Quebec and LAC.
 
Presently, the member organizations are engaged in important consultations that will determine the principle parameters of the project and the criteria that will be used to document a shared heritage.
 
It is also envisioned that the formation of this network will afford LAC with the opportunity to share with the official language minority communities its growing expertise in the digital realm. Indeed, the transition from analogue to digital communication can empower these communities to transcend the limitations of geographic isolation by enhancing the communication between community members and provide better communication with federal government departments. Social networking offers many opportunities for community building and LAC, in partnership with the communities, can help document the particularities of this transition to the digital reality of the twenty-first century.
 
Mr. Chairman, the promotion of Canada's linguistic duality is a core principle at the heart of the modernization project at LAC. In fulfilling our mandate to provide Canadians continued access to their documentary heritage, we will continue to work with the language minority communities to ensure that their heritage is also properly captured.
 
Thank you. I would be happy to respond to your questions.
 
 
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