Access Denied!

Maps may not be our usual fare, though Simon’s posts on graphical representations of data are always interesting. Still, I remember a law firm library in Toronto that had a beautiful collection of extremely detailed maps of Ontario bound in large format.

Plus, there are a couple legal shadows falling over this picture… so this quote from a map librarian:

As of January 2007, Natural Resources Canada will discontinue the printing of paper topographic maps and will close the Canada Map Office. Our government wants to get out of the business of producing printed maps.

Many Canadians place a priority on the paper map service the Government currently provides. Natural Resources Canada’s digital mapping policy will effectively cut off access to the majority of Canadians. However, our politicians see this issue as a minor one. ACMLA, which represents both the public and research communities, would like to convince them otherwise. This policy will have an enormous impact on the Canadian public and our map users. The Minister of Natural Resources has a responsibility to listen to our point of view. This is not a minor policy amendment but a major change that has implications not just for map librarians but for the ordinary Canadian who is looking for a map for their cottage or who wants to go snowmobiling or hiking. Canada can be a vast and unforgiving country without a map in hand.

How you can help:

This is a political issue and we must get the message out to as many Canadians and organizations as soon as possible. An independent website has been set up to lobby and inform Canadians. ACMLA asks its members to support this initiative by sending emails to inform associations, university departments, schools, individuals, etc. of the Government of Canada’s decision to abandon printing paper topographic maps. Let your M.P. and your Minister of Natural Resources know what their constituents think of this decision.

Support Access to Maps for Canadians:

Heather McAdam
GIS Coordinator
Maps, Data and Government Information Centre
Carleton University Library


  1. I’m trying to imagine how our friends in the natural resources sector are going to find their way around without topographical map in hand. Somehow I can’t see them trekking through forests and over mountains with laptop to guide them….I realize we can print out a page or two from the web, but few of us have the facility to print out large maps. This is one area I am willing to admit it may be taking electronic use a little too far….

  2. I suppose there may be a silver lining here. If and when the present government scraps the gun registry maybe all those folks with unregistered guns will wander out into the woods without maps…

    I am surprised there hasn’t been any comment on the other funding cuts announced yesterday ie The Law Commission of Canada, The Court Challenges program, etc.

  3. Very recently, we were asked to locate a map detailing a specific Indian Reserve. This map will be entered into evidence at an upcoming trial. Part of my job is to ensure the map is accurate, reliable and legible. I imagine counsel could submit the map in digital format …but at some point someone is going to need to print that sucker – and print it on what? I don’t have access to a printer that can spit out a 4’x4′ sheet paper. I have no skill at taping and cutting (which is only one reason why I am not an elementary school teacher). No human on earth with any common sense could accept a map like that as accurate.

    So what is the solution for the future? If maps are still used as evidence to claim or refute land use and land occupation – should they not still be produced to fulfill that role?

  4. This is madness. Clearly no one responsible has ever done a canoe trip, or, I suspect, lived further than 20K from a town. Maps are used in situ, and even if my laptop had a wifi connection it wouldn’t work as well as a sheet unfolded on a stump. Besides, where’s the fun in folding a laoptop? Way too easy.

    I think there’s something at the kernel of Jeff’s comment: where are the rough and ready cowboy and mountain men types, or the wannabe’s, when you need ’em? Surely they can’t know every creek and gulley by heart.

    The neat coinage by Alfred Korzybski should now be “The map is not terra Tory.”

  5. As usual Jorge Luis Borges was here before us:
    On Exactitude in Science . . . In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

    Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658

    From Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions.