Sir ROBERT BORDEN:
I rise, not so much for the purpose of discussing this item, as to direct the attention of the House and especially the attention of the Government to the need of some immediate provision for the preservation of the public records of this country. I shall not attempt any elaborate review* of the necessity, but with due regard to the stage of the session, I shall endeavour to condense my remarks into the briefest possible compass. Therefore, I need not, in the first instance, emphasize the importance of preserving the records of public administration. That necessity has been realized in all civilized countries. I think it was Lord Salisbury who stated many years ago that "a nation which cannot produce its archives is like a bank that cannot redeem its paper currency with gold." Lord Durham also s*id: "A country without a history is not a nation," and a country cannot have a history in the true sense unless its records are preserved.
Let me state very briefly what has been done in Great Britain. In the year 1800 a committee of the House of Commons was appointed to make a report on the condition of public records in England and Scotland. As a result of this report, a Royal Commission was named, charged with the arrangement and publication of public records, and the control of all public repositories. This commission was renewed from year to year until 1837, and it issued many valuable publications. Up to that time no effective steps had been taken in Great Britain to ensure the safety of the records. With few exceptions, documents of the courts of law and government offices were stored at several places, mostly of an unsuitable nature, and the contents were inaccessible and unknown.
In 1837 an Act was passed. I have under my hand some details of its provisions, but it is not necessary that I should allude to them specially. It provided for the safety of the records, for their custody, for their classification and for the publication of information with regard to them. From the passing of this Act up to the present time, papers not required for the current business of administration in Great Britain have beeen removed to the Public Record Office, where they are arranged, classified and dealt with acording to regulations.
What has been done in the United States? I invite the attention of hon. gentlemen to this in particular, because in some respects the United States have given more attention and accomplished more work with regard to the history of Canada than we have done up to the present. In the United States they make no division between the two countries for historical purposes, and they have accomplished a great deal. The State Archives building in Wisconsin alone cost ten times more than the Canadian Archives building, and practically every state has an important building set aside for the purpose. The state of Michigan was perhaps the last to provide for its needs. In that state there was an enormous collection of historical material in the hands of Mr. Burton, which was known as the Burton Library. At a cost of several million dollars, the state purchased these documents which related to Michigan and to a portion of territory which was formerly Canadian. The collection is now state property, although it is still known as. the Burton collection.
In addition to the aid rendered by the state, enormous sums of money have been expended by private individuals on the history of the United States. The Carnegie Institute at Washington has an historical section, with a director at a salary of $10,000 a year. His duty is to find out in every part of the world material which will fill the gaps in American history. It is not his duty either to acquire documents or to copy them, but simply to tell the student where they are. For this purpose men have been sent to examine the Archives in France, England, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Mexico, Cuba, Canada and other places. Guides are published of this material, including a volume of considerable size on Canada.
The Carter Brown Library in Rhode Island was founded many years ago by Mr. Carter, who left some millions of dollars for the purpose of collecting books and pamphlets previous to the year 1800 relating to North America. With the
interest on this money, a most valuable collection of books dealing with Canada and Newfoundland has been acquired. I believe that in the case now pending before the Privy Council between Canada and Newfoundland with regard to Labrador, it has been found necessary to resort to material which can be found in this collection and cannot be found anywhere within the limits of Canada. It is in this place, and in this place alone, that some of the most valuable hooks relating to Canada are to be found. As a further illustration, of many which might be given, I may say that the University of California possesses about two-thirds of the historical material relating to the province of British Columbia.
For these reasons the American universities are in a position to offer, and do offer, a far better course in history than can be offered anywhere in Canada. This will, in the course of time, have a serious effect on Canadian development, and it is certainly worthy of the most earnest and careful consideration by those who are entrusted with the government of this country.
What has Canada done? As far back as 1831 the Hon. Mr. Stuart introduced a resolution into the Assembly for a grant of money for the advancement of the knowledge of the history of the country. He thought it was most desirable that we should obtain a knowledge of how the French and English Governors had conducted the government of this country and of the progress that had been made. An interesting debate, to which I need not further allude, took place, but fifty years passed before the Government of Canada, in not a very effective way, undertook to make some provision for the preservation and classification of our Archives. Within the past fifteen or eighteen years there have been more liberal appropriations for the purpose, and I am glad to recall the fact that under the administration of Sir Wilfrid Laurier a building for the housing of the Archives was provided. That building, as I shall attempt to point out, has become absolutely and absurdly inadequate for the purpose for which it was intended.
Through indifference and failure in the past to provide a safe place for the Archives of this country, many of the most important documents have been destroyed, and but for the foresight of the English and French Governors in insisting on duplicates and triplicates of official documents, Canada would not be in a position to-day to understand much of her past history or to obtain the documents to con-
duct her negotiations relating to treaties, boundaries, fisheries and lands. Without the materials for history it is perfectly obvious to hon. gentlemen that we can only have meagre text books in our schools, and that the teaching of history in our universities must be poor. In that case our people will grow up with but a limited knowledge of our progress and of its tendencies and characteristics, and we shall be less fitted than we otherwise would be to cope with present and future problems.
I should like to direct the attention of hon. members, and particularly the atten tion of the Prime Minister and his col leagues, to the report which was made b5 the Royal Commission appointed by the Canadian Government in 1912. I refer to it in the first place to show the extreme insecurity in which very valuable records are placed at the present time. I quote from the report of that commission, which was composed of Sir Joseph Pope, Undersecretary of State for External Affairs, Mr. E. F. Jarvis, Assistant Deputy Minister of Militia and Defence, and Dr. Arthur G. Doughty, Dominion Archivist. First, as to the state of preservation of public documents, I quote as follows:
This varies. In most of the departments, while the current correspondence is well kept, the older documents are commonly relegated to basements, attics and dark rooms, apparently rather as lumber to be got rid of than as records to be preserved, and too frequently are not so arranged as to admit of ready reference, or in not a few instances, even of convenient access. In some cases there is no semblance of method, the older papers being stored in inaccessible places, without pretence of classification, or any precise indication as to what the collection may contain. The exposure of the documents to dust, dampness, and other agencies, and in some cases their proximity to the heating apparatus of the building, contribute t,o the deterioration of the papers, while the inflammable nature of the shelving on which they are placed is a constant source of danger.
The report goes on to say, that in most eases these documents are not required for use in the office beyond a period of five years back, and it is said that "the experience of the Militia Department (the only department which so far has transferred its old records to the Archives), is that these inquiries can he answered more satisfactorily by the Archivist, to whom all such questions are referred."
Now comes a very important part of the report, as to the character of the buildings in which records of priceless value for historical purposes are kept at present:
As regards this feature there is no uniformity. In some departments the files of correspondence,
of whatever age, are contained in steel cabinets and are readily accessible. In others, many of the older documents are stored away in wooden cupboards or boxes, sometimes loosely piled on shelves, or, it may be, on the floor of basement or attic rooms, where they lie for years, dustladen and forgotten, offering scant facilities for examination, and in some instances well-nigh inaccessible. The rooms in the upper stories of most buildings in which these documents are lodged are totally unfit for the storage of valuable records. The wood is old and dry and there would be little prospect of saving any of the papers in the event of fire. One fact, everywhere observable, is that the preservation and care of the older records is the last thought of anybody. _ . ,
The congested condition of the offices owing to the lack of room is no doubt largely responsible for this state of affairs, as in many departments the ingenuity of the higher officials is sorely taxed to find space in which to transact current business. Under these conditions it is not surprising that documents rarely, if ever, required for the conduct of the day's work, should be relegated to dark rooms and passages not suitable for other uses.
Then the report goes on to point out that thousands of documents are stored in buildings throughout the city in upper rooms, with old fashioned wooden staircases. These papers are in various stages of neglect, with no protection of any sort against fire. To indicate the volume of these records, I may point out, as stated in the report of the commission, the following facts: In the East Block alone there are 69 rooms with 308,810 cubic feet, 7,178 drawers, 22,633 lineal feet of shelves devoted to the storage of records. In the West Block there are 74 rooms, 353,473 cubic feet, 13,662 drawers, 7,538 lineal feet of shelves. In the old Parliament building there were 22 rooms, 66,594 cubic feet, 2,082 drawers, 10,240 lineal feet of shelves. In the Langevin block and other buildings there are 283 rooms, 901,137 cubic feet, 69,950 drawers, and 86,808 lineal feet of shelves. These figures give a grand total of 438 rooms, 1,629,014 cubic feet, 92,872 drawers, and 127,219 lineal feet of shelves. In other words, there are over 24 miles of shelves. The report indicates that a very large quantity of these documents might be destroyed under competent authority, and it is urged that they should be classified at once and that those of value should be removed immediately to a special fire-proof building provided for the purpose.
This report was made immediately before the war, and during the stress and anxiety of conditions due thereto, it was not acted upon, although, perhaps, it should have been, even under those conditions. As a matter of fact, an Order in Council was passed a few months before war began
to give effect to the recommendations of the commission, and a sum of money was placed in the Estimates for the construction of the necessary building, but owing to the war the proposal was not carried out.
I am reminded by my hon. friend the member for East Hamilton (Mr. Mewburn), that among those documents to which I have alluded are records of absolutely priceless value relating to the achievements and,records of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. I am told that there are about 700,000 such files in the Rea building, which is not fireproof, and that material, the destruction of which would shock the country, may at any time be destroyed unless some adequate measures are taken for its preservation. In addition, I should like to emphasize the point, which I made a moment ago, that even for the material under the care of the Dominion Archivist, the space at his command is absolutely and utterly insufficient.
I should be very glad indeed if any word of mine could bring to the attention of hon. members of this House the very great importance of the work which has been accomplished in the Archives during the past fifteen or twenty years, in securing, preserving and classifying the records of Canada. I recollect very well when Dr. Doughty was brought to Ottawa to take charge of the Archives of this country.
I recall the discussions which we had in the House, and I look back with some satisfaction to the fact that I did everything possible to encourage him to continue in the work which he had undertaken. He was a little discouraged at first on account of the inadequacy of the financial provision for his work, and I remember that from the side of the House which I then occupied, we did venture to urge upon the Government, and especially upon the then Minister of Agriculture, a somewhat larger appropriation. Dr. Doughty is a man whose service is of very great value to this country in the work which he is carrying on. In the first place, he has all the zeal and zest of an enthusiast. His whole heart is in his work, and he has, besides, the system and the organizing capacity of a business man. These two qualifications are but seldom united in one person and they have enabled him to be of the greatest possible service to this country.
In that connection, let me add a word in regard to the work which is being carried on by the Board of Historical Publications. That board consists of Dr. Adam
Shortt, as chairman; Dr. Doughty, the Dominion archivist; Prof. George M. Wrong, of Toronto University; Prof. Charles W. Colby, of McGill University, and the Hon. Thomas Chapais, a member of the Senate. The object of the board is to put at the immediate and convenient service of all persons in any way interested in Canadian history the most essential documents bearing on the development of the vital interests of the Canadian people. A vast amount of documental and other material relating to the early history of this country has been gathered together, and perhaps I could sum up the work of the board in a word. In a certain sense, and to a certain extent, the Board of Historical Publications acts as the interpreter, to the people of Canada and to the rest of the world, of the material which has been and is being gathered together in the Archives. Much of this material has been brought to light only recently, through the activities of the Archives Department. The very volume of it and the labour entailed in making thorough researches has hitherto deterred all but a few enthusiasts from making full use of it. The work of the board has been to organize such research and to put out such publications as will make the labours of the Dominion Archivist and his staff available generally to Canadian people, and particularly to those interested in historical research. It is claimed, and_ I think with justice, that the effect of this is greatly to broaden the basis of Canadian history, to impart a new interest in that history to those who at present are practically indifferent, and also to make for a more intelligent, practical, and wholesome national sentiment. I hope the committee will bear with me if I read just a word from an address upon the work of the Board of Historical Publications, which was delivered by Dr. Adam Shortt, chairman, before the Royal Society of Canada in 1919. He said:
Owing- to the peculiar relations which Canada [DOT]bore to the Mother Country, both as a French and as an English colony, and the necessity for a constant interchange of information and instructions, special facts, views, and interests there was. produced and accumulated a remarkable body of documentary records embodying the chief facts of Canadian history. There is a greater variety than might be expected, in the presentation of the facts and views, since there were several effective channels, public and private, through which these might 'be presented and appeals made to the imperial authorities. Thus in the long run most currents of colonial life were represented in one form or another, whether for approval or condemnation, in criticism or defence. Much local material, considerable private correspondence,
and many descriptive accounts of the country and the condition of the people have been preserved and recovered. Early newspapers and pamphlets, though many of them rare or unique, and quite scattered in their location, are also extant and furnish a very necessary atmosphere of fact and comment for the more central and official documents. Owing to the very volume of this material, even so far as collected at the Archives in Ottawa, and more so as scattered in various Canadian centres, it is possible for only a very limited number of students to consult it. To do so requires at once a strong personal interest, a special historical training, the necessary leisure, and last, but far from least, the requisite means, to enable one at all adequately to consult the documentary and other evidence necessary to satisfactory results.
Further on he says:
If, therefore, our Canadian history is to be known in authentic form, not only to our own people, but to the outside world, whose interest in Canada is steadily rising, it requires the facilities for direct knowledge to be greatly increased. It is necessary to put in available form the chief documents relating to the various phases of the country's history.
I have only quoted very slightly from this pamphlet. I understand that a number of copies are available for the information of hon. gentlemen and any of them would find the pamphlet well worth a perusal. It gives a comprehensive outline of the programme which the board has undertaken.
I should have alluded, in speaking of the nation's loss, to the very great loss we sustained when the old Parliament Buildings were destroyed a few years ago. At that time a mass of material went up in flames, the loss of which is absolutely irreparable seeing that this material bore directly, in many ways, upon the history of this country. In examining the currents of thought bearing upon the legislation presented to Parliament, we have a most valuable guide to the tendency of public opinion from time to time, and to the progress and development- of the national thought. All that material and much other information, the nature of which will readily occur to hon. gentlemen, has absolutely been lost; and fifty times as much is to-day in danger of being lost through the accidental occurrence of a fire against which no precautions are being taken at present.
I spoke of the valuable services of Dr Doughty. Let me also observe that in my opinion Dr. Shortt has a knowledge, an ability and an experience which have enabled him to be of the greatest service to this country. His work in the past has largely been in the historical line. His whole heart is in his work, and he is very ably assisted by Dr. Doughty, and by the three gentlemen whom I have mentioned whose labours are entirely unremunerated
by the country because they are labours of love, and whose work with Dr. Shortt and Dr. Doughty has gone on most harmoniously and effectively.
Now, I realize that we are under conditions when any proposal for increased expenditure must be examined very carefully by hon. gentlemen, and by the Government who must initiate it, before any such proposal will find favour. But we do make appropriations in respect of the material affairs of this country. No one,
I am sure, will minimize the importance of our material progress and development.
I can look back for more than half a century in realizing the remarkable advance in standards of living among the people since my boyhood days. And we need not fear as to our future development. But crops and manufactures do not make up the whole life of a nation. The development of the intellectual and spiritual qualities of the nation, of the moral qualities of the people, is surely not of less importance. A nation which neglects these higher considerations cannot hold its place in the world. The preservation of our records has a direct relation to such considerations. I do strongly urge that some appropriation for the purpose should be made before the conclusion of 4 p.m. the present session.
I offer this last observation. Looking back over the history of the world we may learn that what men have presently regarded as immaterial and unsubstantial has proved in the lapse of centuries most material in that it is most enduring. The Forum and the Coliseum are in ruins, but the history, the literature and the jurisprudence of Rome will always survive.
Topic: FUEL SUPPLY PROBLEM
Subtopic: DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT AMENDMENT