The librarians dilemma
I have talked before about a fundamental difference between our current government and all previous governments. That Conservatives have systematically and methodically attempted to shut down science research, silence public employees in the private lives.
There were the changes to Stats Canada, removing our ability to effectively gauge what is going on in the nation. There is an assumption of secrecy where public documents are either censored out rightly, experience delayed release or are just ‘lost in the mail’.
The next front in the battle for Canada is occurring in the libraries and archives of Canada. A new code of conduct has been decreed and disseminated to all employees of the Library and Archives of Canada.
“Federal librarians and archivists who set foot in classrooms, attend conferences or speak up at public meetings on their own time are engaging in ‘high risk’ activities, according to the new”
The code, which stresses federal employees’ “duty of loyalty” to the “duly elected government,”
It states that “as public servants, our duty of loyalty to the Government of Canada and its elected officials extends beyond our workplace to our personal activities,”
So, employees have to be extra careful that if they say something that may be critical, contradictory or just inconvenient to the official government line, they may face disciplinary action or termination.
For example, I work for the library. On my Facebook page, which I have limited access to family only…I post an entry stating that reduction of funding to the library may result is longer response time to Access to Information Requests (future post). Someone in my group shares that with the ‘public’…well then I am in violation of my loyalty Harper…er, I mean the GOVERNMENT of Canada. I could expect disciplinary action or even termination.
Should not my loyally be to the Nation of Canada, the citizens of Canada?
Now this notion that civil servants owe a loyalty to the government smacks of totalitarianism. They do NOT owe loyalty to the government but to the nation. They do not serve Harper and his Conservatives, but CANADA!
Historically, a major turning point in 1930’s Germany was the altering of the army ‘oath’ from allegiance to Germany to allegiance to Hitler…change a word here add a word there just saying.
When public servants see or believe the current government is causing harm to the nation….lying to the people it is NOT their duty, it is NOT their duty to be loyal to the government and shut up about it. No, it IS their duty to stand up, speak out and express their loyalty to the nation they serve.
One of the most important counter balances to power in this nation, and its abuses, are the whistle-blowers (currently under severe attack south of the border). If we intimidate PUBLIC servants into silence we create a situation where a government can not only do ‘wrong’ but can create the conditions to ‘perpetual dominance’.
The code is already having a “chilling” effect on federal archivists and librarians, who in more open times, were encouraged to actively engage and interact with groups interested in everything from genealogy to preserving historical documents. This was a time when the government (and its agents) were seen to serve the people of Canada and not primarily its government or corporations.
Now however, government employees have to ask themselves is the risk of an accidental slip of the tongue worth their careers?
“It is very disturbing and disconcerting to have included speaking at conferences and teaching as so-called ‘high risk’ activities,” says Loryl MacDonald archivist at the University of Toronto.
The code says to employees they may accept such invitations “as personal activities” if six conditions are met:
- The subject of the activity is not related to the LAC’s mandate or activities;
- The employee is not presented as speaking for or being an expert of LAC or the Government of Canada;
- The third party that made the invitation is not a potential or current supplier or collaborator with LAC;
- The third party does not lobby or advocate with LAC
- The third party does not receive grants, funding or payments from LAC; and
- The employee has discussed the invitation with his or her manager “who has documented confirmation that the activity does not conflict with the employee’s duties at LAC or present other risks to LAC.”
So to summarize the requirements, you cannot talk about things the government doesn’t what you to, you cannot talk to people the government doesn’t want you too and MOST importantly, if you do speak as a private citizen, you must first get permission from your government overlord.
Sieg Heil! (pardon my Godwin)
It appears to rule out federal librarians or archivists interacting on their own time with academics or heritage or genealogy groups and associations, as they may lobby, collaborate and receive funding from the LAC. Including such things as going to their child’s elementary school and telling them what you do for a living.
It seems like a progressive, in the bad sense, attempt to isolate all government employees from engaging the public. What does Harper fear?
John Smart, a retiree who worked for the LAC for almost 20 years believes “the new code reflects a ‘generalized suspicion of public servants’ by the Harper government.
And he says LAC managers are likely not keen to have staff fielding questions about funding cuts and changes at LAC, which are eliminating several specialist archive positions; moving to digitize materials; and reducing public access to archival collections.
There is a pattern here. It’s just not some Alex Jones conspiracy theory. The recent “revolt of the backbenchers’ exemplifies that Harper believes that one tool in his war chest to win the next election is to insure the ‘ignorance’ of the people of Canada about what the Harper government has done, is doing, and plans to do…that ignorance is electoral success for this government.
“First they came for the scientist…
and I said nothing.
Then they came for the librarians…
again I said nothing.
Then they came for the teachers, journalist and activists…
and yet again I said nothing…
it was for the greater good we were told.
Then they came for me…
and I was alone
and too ignorant to know it.”