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A page from The Statistical Year-Book of Canada 1898. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
A page from The Statistical Year-Book of Canada 1898. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

The Canada Year Book is history Add to ...

After 145 years of documenting the country’s history, the Canada Year Book will no longer be published.

Statistics Canada published the last edition of its longest-running publication on Tuesday. It is the last such print publication and will not continue as an online resource.

Rather, the agency says it “will continue through other means to keep Canadians informed about their social and economic life.”

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The yearly almanac has long graced the shelves of libraries, schools, offices and research centres, a reference guide on the demographic, political and economic changes affecting Canada and its citizens.

The agency, in the midst of deep budget cuts, said ebbing demand was the chief reason for discontinuing the book. It printed just 3,000 copies of this year’s edition – down from 12,000 books 15 years ago (recent years saw some copies of the book left unsold). Readers are increasingly seeking more current online data and publications, said Gabrielle Beaudoin, director general of communications.

Several of the people working on the publication have retired and might not be replaced, she added.

It’s been a very long run. Canada’s earliest year book, published in 1867, cost 12 1/2 cents, at a time when the country’s paper money was issued in denominations of $1 and $4. It included descriptions of the rise of the shipbuilding industry and growing trade ties with Jamaica, Barbados and Brazil. The 1914 version depicted a nation preparing for war, while the 1955 edition documented the baby boom, soaring telephone use and the effects of the Cold War on Canada.

This year’s version, which costs $24.95, explores changes in tuition costs, developments in crime and health, changes in international adoption rates and how Canada’s GDP compares with other advanced economies.

“In the future, we will have summary tables that have the exact same information as in the Canada Year Book, but it’s up to date every month or every three months...the new way of accessing information is online so we’re just moving to that,” said Statscan’s Ms. Beaudoin.

Eduardo Franco, professor of epidemiology and oncology at McGill University, says some of his PhD students still use the books to look up health statistics. As long as the content remains available, “I for one accept that this is just part of the new reality and that the Internet provides us with a better interface to the data.”

Others are sorry to see it go. Jerry Fawcett, reference librarian at the Calgary Public Library, says the almanacs are still frequently used to learn about Canadian history – particularly by people who prefer the printed word over computers.

“There is an assumption that is everyone is computer literate or if you got to a library you can just access this electronically. You can – but there are still many people who need a great deal of assistance.”

The yearbook is useful because someone can sift through it, and explore, often by accident, facets of history, from what taxation was like to population changes and daily living, said Mr. Fawcett, whose library keeps a stack of yearbooks since the early 1905.

Data tables may well provide more current information, but he worries context will be lost.

“I’m certainly not an antiquarian as far as demanding that everything still needs to be in print...but you do lose the ability to browse, and see what actually went on for a year or a few years. And I think that’s a bit of a loss to society in general.”

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