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Toronto Star story, headline led to archives purged of ‘offensive’ info

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Blacklock’s Reporter says a Saturday Star headline and story led to Chief archivist Leslie Weir to order pages either “modified or taken down ASAP” within hours of reading both, even though no staff was working on the weekend.

Pages on John A. Macdonald, Fathers of Confederation and the War of 1812 were among those removed after a June 4, 2021 email from Star reporter Jacques Gallant.

Gallant was irked an “online biography of John A. Macdonald had nothing about Residential Schools and the Chinese head tax. 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?”

The following day a Star headline on June 5, 2021 with Gallant’s article said: “Internal Emails Show Confusion And Dismay Over Ottawa’s Glowing Online Profile Of John A. Macdonald.”

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Archives managers distributed the Saturday article by email and Weir went into action immediately and by the end of the day on June 5 webpages deemed most offensive were removed.

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Gallant, however, contacted the archives again on June 7, 2021.

“I see the Macdonald bio has been removed and replaced with an error message,” he wrote. “That said, I see other pages remain online.”

He also said Indigenous scholars have said the government should admit it was wrong to keep the web pages up until this time and apologize.”

Gallant asked again via a June 8 email: “Does Library and Archives Canada plan to apologize?”

“Library and Archives Canada is sincerely sorry some users were offended by content on its website,” wrote Weir.

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