Editorial: Ottawa’s muzzling of librarians’ free speech is intolerable by Calgary Herald, March 25, 2013
Ottawa’s deliberate muzzling of federal librarians and archivists, a move which comes complete with a new code of conduct, jargon about “high-risk” activities, threats of discipline, and a hotline to rat out miscreants, is truly chilling. Librarians and archivists would seem to be the most innocuous of souls, so it’s hard to imagine what activity they could engage in that would be so “high risk” as to merit this type of censure. These are the folks who give talks at schools, speak at conferences, address groups of amateur genealogy enthusiasts, and publicly discuss the preservation of historic texts, among other educational activities. Yet, according to the new code of conduct, all of these activities – done on the librarians’ own time away from work – must now be approved ahead of time by their managers.
The new code covers the gamut of employees at Libraries and Archives Canada – staff, student assistants, workers on contract to the department, and even volunteers. It talks about the obligation of maintaining a “duty of loyalty to the Government of Canada” which extends “beyond our workplace to our personal activities.” One would think that librarians and archivists are at grave risk of selling secrets to Canada’s enemies in their spare time, rather than helping to educate their audiences about history. “Teaching, speaking at conferences, and other personal engagements,” the code says, “have been identified as high risk … with regard to conflict of interest, conflict of duties and duty of loyalty.” The code was assembled by officials at Libraries and Archives Canada, after last April’s Values and Ethics Code for federal government employees came into being, mandating that each department establish its own conduct code. [Emphasis added]