Charlotte Gray: Are we ‘turning into a nation of amnesiacs?’

Award-winning biographer and historian Charlotte Gray talks to Tom Clark about the issue she wants raised in this election campaign: preserving Canada's archives.

As Canadians consider which party is best qualified to lead them moving forward, one historian and author says they should also be looking backward.

Canada’s history has been sadly neglected, says Charlotte Gray, and cuts to Library and Archives Canada have meant that preserving and accessing our shared past has become more challenging.

“I’ll tell you the issue that really worries me, and that is that we are turning into a nation of amnesiacs, a nation of know-nothings” Gray told The West Block‘s  Tom Clark.

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“Not just a sort of reckless disregard for information, but we’re allowing the destruction of information. What’s happened in the last 10 to 15 years has really sort of broken my heart in terms of being somebody who loves history. We’ve seen so little attempt to actually enjoy our history. In fact, we’ve seen deliberate attempts to reduce our access to it.”

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Prioritizing the digitization of records and making them accessible will be critical, said Gray, lest future generations of historians look back on Canada in 2015 and find a massive blindspot.

“History is no longer seen as a source of strength to this country, and it’s what makes Canada unique. Our history is so different from any other countries,” Gray noted, adding that selectively highlighting certain aspects of our past is revisionist, and distorts the actual evolution of Canada as a nation.

“If I hear one more person saying that Canada was born on, and then fill in the missing words, you know, the battlefields of the First World War, the beaches of Dunkirk, the northern oceans as Franklin sailed through the Northwest Territories. Such a distortion, that’s not history … That’s just political propaganda.”

Watch Tom Clark’s extended interview with Charlotte Gray:

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