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Article Published February 16, 2005

Help Save the Archives of Ontario
By Rick Roberts, Global Genealogy & History Store

The Archives of Ontario building on Grenville Street in Toronto has been deteriorating for many years. Inadequate and unsafe housing of existing historical collections has already resulted in records being lost. The provincial government's reluctance to provide a purpose-built archives building will lead to even greater losses of the tangible evidence of our province's history.

Problems with the existing building include:
  • inadequate fire protection
  • upper floors sagging
  • other structural issues
  • mould infestation
  • lack of additional capacity
  • inadequate flood protection
Much has already been lost. More will be lost if prompt action to relocate into a safe facility designed for archival collections is not taken.

From a heritage point of view, the danger of inaction is that future generations will be unable to access collections that provide knowledge of their province's heritage.

From an economic point of view, the dollar value of the collections of the Archives of Ontario is diminishing as a result of losses of parts of collections from causes including flood and mould damage. A collection that has been valued at $250 million sits in the present facility, a 1960's office building that is cramped, unsound, and has no sprinkler system. Mould is spreading into the walls and to other records. The collections are gradually decaying and losing value at the rate of $13 million a year. Tax payers of Ontario should be very concerned that an asset, that is owned by the people of Ontario, is being allowed to waste away.

From a political point of view, consider the impact of a catastrophic loss due to fire, flood, or structural collapse.

Detailed planning for a new facility concluded about two years ago. That plan included provision for a new location that would be safe, accessible, financially responsible, and preserve Ontario's heritage for future generations. However, due to changing political priorities that plan was shelved.

It is time to speak out.

The actions of our elected representatives demonstrates that they believe that the people of Ontario have little or no concern for the preservation of the province's historical collections.

The only way that their opinion is going to change is for a large number of people to express their case clearly and persistently.

There are many ways to communicate your concerns.

The most effective method is a written letter addressed directly to the person you wish to influence. Letters should clearly state your opinion in your own words. Form letters do not have the same weight as a thoughtful original piece of correspondence. Be brief. Express what you want and why. Ask for the reader's support. Try to get it done in a single page. Handwritten has more impact, if legible.

Follow-up your letter with a phone call. Confirm that your letter was received. Use the opportunity to summarize your points and ask for support. Be brief and persuasive.

Avoid confrontation, conflict and threats. Remember that you are selling an idea... clearing a misunderstanding, expressing that Ontario's heritage is important to you and your descendants.

Don't count on someone else to do it. Politicians are influenced with numbers. Thoughtful and credible letters from many individuals concerned with a single topic, will raise the profile of an issue within any riding, or elected government.

Email is gaining acceptance as a method of communication however it is not as effective as a letter on paper for many politicians. If you cannot put the time aside to write and mail a letter, email is better than no communication. If you are sending a letter, consider sending an email to inform that a letter is on the way, summarize your points, and ask the reader to consider supporting your position.

Some points you may want to include in your communication
  • the importance of protecting Ontario's heritage collections
  • why those collections are important to you personally
  • why those collections are important to future generations
  • safety of the patrons of the Archives of Ontario
  • safety of the employees of the Archives of Ontario
  • protection of existing collections from mould infestation
  • protection of existing collections from fire
  • protection of existing collections from flood
  • protection of existing collections from floor/building collapse
  • concerns about past losses of the financial assets of the collections
  • concerns about future losses of the financial assets of the collections
  • capacity for newly available collections
  • appreciation for the new off site storage building that is underway
  • any other reasons that are important to you personally
Where to Send Your Letters and Email
    Hon. Gerry Phillips
    The Hon. Gerry Phillips is the minister responsible for the Archives of Ontario. He is the elected member of provincial parliament for Scarborough - Agincourt and the Chair of Management Board of the Cabinet of Ontario. Management Board is responsible for The Archives of Ontario. Contact information:

      Hon. Gerry Phillips
      Minister at Management Board Secretariat,
      77 Wellesley St W, 12th Flr, Ferguson Block,
      Toronto ON M7A 1N3.

      Tel : 416-327-2333


    Premier Dalton McGuinty
    Management Board is under the responsibility of Premier Dalton McGuinty. Personal communication to Premier Dalton McGuinty is recommended, however it may be appropriate to CC him on your correspondence to your MPP and to the Hon. Gerry Phillips. Contact information:

      Premier Dalton McGuinty
      Queen's Park, Rm 281,
      Main Legislative Building,
      Toronto ON M7A 1A4

      Tel : 416-325-1941
      Fax : 416-325-7578


    Your local MPP (residents of Ontario only)

      To locate contact information for your Minister of Provincial Parliament, or if you do not know who your PROVINCIAL member is, go to the Elections Ontario web site and click on "Find Your Electoral District" (near top, right-hand side of web page)

      The search result will give you the contact information for your member of parliament.
Others to contact
    John Tory, Leader Progressive Conservative Party
    Room 200, North Wing,
    Legislative Building, Queen's Park,
    Toronto ON M7A 1A8


    Howard Hampton, Leader, New Democratic Party of Ontario
    Queen's Park, Rm 114,
    Main Legislative Building,
    Toronto ON M7A 1A4


    John Yakabuski
    Conservative Critic, Management Board of Cabinet
    Room 202 North Wing Legislative Building,
    Queens Park M7A 1A8


    Michael D. Prue
    New Democratic Party of Ontario,
    Critic, Management Board of Cabinet
    Rm 153, Main Legislative Building
    Toronto ON M7A 1A4


The Archives of Ontario is the most important repository of documents and artifacts that define Ontarians as a people. Let our generation not be the one that destroys the evidence of our collective past.

Rick Roberts

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