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The need for such efforts has taken on new urgency since 2014, says Li, when some 1,500 websites were centralized into one, with more than 60 per cent of content shed.

Now that reporting has switched from print to digital only, government information can be altered or deleted without notice, she says.

Melville’s numbers, then, aren’t factored into Canadian employment numbers or divorce rates or poverty rates.

According to , the high non-response rate in the province resulted in “no socioeconomic statistics about the populations in about one-half of Saskatchewan communities.” Nationally, we’re missing similar data on 20 per cent of Stats Can’s 4,556 “census subdivisions,” making a fifth of Canada’s recognized communities statistical dead zones.

The edict to eliminate information deemed “redundant, outdated and trivial” (known as “ROT”) gives federal managers licence to decide what data should be cut and what kept, says Li, the U of T librarian. LAC is updating its “technical infrastructure,” a spokesperson told , LAC head Guy Berthiaume spoke of making LAC a “client-driven organization,” developing a three-year plan and digitizing a quarter of its archives.

Streelasky had no idea Melville had been rendered a “statistical ghost town” after the mandatory long-form census was cut in 2010, and fewer than 50 per cent of the one third of Melville’s 4,500 residents who got the voluntary National Household Survey that replaced it in 2011 completed the form. We know how many people live there, but nothing about them—where they work, their education levels, whether they’re married, single or divorced, how many are immigrants, how many are unemployed, how many live in poverty.

Economic considerations are cited routinely to justify cutbacks in collecting, analyzing and digitizing information.

A closer look at recent data erasure, however, suggests it runs counter to sound economic strategy.

Canada’s closed-data stance is taking root at the very moment “open data” and “knowledge economy” are global mantras. Food and Drug Administration launched open FDA to provide easy public access. “I do big-picture ecology, where we think across countries and continents.

The OECD and World Bank have led the charge for open-platform disclosures. But rapid scientific process stops at the Canadian border.” Detailed information about Canada isn’t available, says Kerr, noting that his American colleagues “make this data freely available.” Part of the problem is long-standing, he says, arising from “the difficult nature of federal-provincial relationships.” But “accessibility of data in Canada is becoming less, not more,” he says.

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