(June 8, 2014)  Sometimes a single act or event can symbolize a whole culture.  June 8th is the 66th anniversary of one of those profound acts.  And this year’s announcement that the University of Saskatchewan will be closing its law library is one of those events which symbolize a different culture.

One of the displays in that law library was the rear fender from a farm tractor which symbolizes the culture that built the University of Saskatchewan.  It was on June 8, 1948 Saskatchewan farmer Cecil George Harris while pinned under his overturned tractor, used his jackknife to carve his last will and testament into that fender’s paint.  The fender was presented to the Court and used to establish the precedent that a handwritten will could be a valid legal instrument.

Mr. Harris was a farm person and he no doubt knew he was dying, yet his message was optimistic and his last efforts and thoughts were to protect his family’s future by writing a will.  That says something about the quality of prairie farm culture and looking to the future – perhaps it is those long prairie vistas.

Since the law library where it was housed is now a victim of the same austerity mania that Ottawa uses as a cover to destroy what it either does not like or will not understand, it would not be a surprise to see this valuable artifact put in a back room or at worst, given the disrespect for academic freedom so recently on display at the University of Saskatchewan sold or sent to the recycling bin.  Pretending a university can have a law faculty without a dedicated law library says much about the current culture which has come down from an Ottawa regime in full retreat from evidence-based policy.

Over the past years this organization has pointed out the systematic destruction of research capacity in grains carried out by Ottawa.  As grain producers our members understand all too well what happens when research capacity is privatized.  We have a vivid example this spring where seed canola which was privatized in the 1980s now costs in the order of $600 a bushel compared to seed wheat which is still funded by farmers in the public interest and costs a fraction of that astronomical number.

With the closure of the Winnipeg Cereal Research center, our capacity to continue producing the highest quality of cereal grains is being thrown to the winds by Ottawa and the giant agro-chemical companies are picking up the elite scientists who gained their expertise in farmer- and publically-funded laboratories and research farms.  Ottawa wants all plant breeding to follow the canola model which aims to promote herbicide sales while coasting on the yield gains already in hand created by farmers funding science in the public interest.

Scientists, commentators, and academics from around the world have expressed dismay at the systematic destruction of scientific and academic libraries across Canada under the trusteeship of the Federal Government.  One of the first acts of this pogrom against evidence was the destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board library in 2013.  With last month’s sabotage of Health Canada libraries, even the general public should now realize what a serious problem this represents.

While it is all too easy to destroy libraries, research facilities, and marketing agencies, Ottawa may find that it is not so easy to destroy the cooperative values symbolized in a steel tractor fender now hidden away at the University of Saskatchewan.

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