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Ottawa spends thousands to dispose of fisheries library materials

The federal government has paid more than $22,000 to date to dispose of books and research materials from seven Fisheries and Oceans libraries set to close next year, according to documents released today.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea said in a statement earlier this month that all copyrighted material had been digitized, with the remaining collection to follow. Shea’s office told the CBC that any books not claimed by the general public were “recycled in a ‘green fashion.'”

In an interview with the CBC, Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay says he submitted an inquiry into the consolidation of the fisheries library system in October and the numbers in the documents released by the ministry today reveal a “destructive process” of disposal. The documents also show there is no system in place to determine the number of items digitized by location and collection. The inquiry and the ministry response are now available on CBC’s website.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May questioned the legality of the disposal in a Parliamentary debate on Monday, during which she noted the Library and Archives of Canada Act defines the fisheries materials as heritage documents that cannot be disposed of without written consent from the librarian and archivist of Canada.

“These materials are not the property of any government of the day to dispose of casually,” May told CBC News. She says she spoke to Hervé Déry, the interim librarian and archivist of Canada, who made it clear protocol had not been followed.

Gary Goodyear, minister of state and former science minister, responded to May in Parliament, denying allegations despite a report from Radio-Canada in June that discarded library materials had been discovered in dumpsters in Mont-Joli, Quebec.

“Duplicate materials that nobody wants will be disposed of in the usual manner. Information which was available in the libraries continues to remain available in the digital world – welcome to this century,” Goodyear said, concluding that digitization allows more access to information for taxpayers.

May, who said she was insulted by Goodyear’s response, is considering filing a formal complaint to the RCMP about the mishandling of library material.