Canadian Librarians 'Owe Duty Of Loyalty To The Government,' Must Self-Censor Opinions Even In Private

from the maintaining-awareness dept

Librarians can play an important role in any society that depends increasingly on access to information to function. One of their jobs is to help people find what they are looking for, in a neutral, objective way, without imposing their own ideas or values in the process. Sadly, it looks like that won't be possible in Canada any more, now that librarians are expected to sign up to a new Code of Conduct imposed on them by the Canadian government. Here's one problematic section:

Employment in the public service involves certain restrictions. Public servants owe a duty of loyalty to their employer, the Government of Canada. This duty derives from the essential mission of the public service to help the duly elected government, under law, to serve the public interest and implement government policies and ministerial decisions. The duty of loyalty reflects the importance and necessity of having an impartial and effective public service in order to achieve this mission.
"A duty of loyalty to their employer, the Government of Canada": I think Stalin would have approved of that. Although there is a token invocation of "the importance and necessity of having an impartial and effective public service", it's clear that obedience to the ruling powers overrides any misguided desire to be impartial. That imposition of an overtly political line to everything librarians do in their jobs is bad enough, but it gets worse:
As public servants, our duty of loyalty to the Government of Canada and its elected officials extends beyond our workplace to our personal activities. Public servants must therefore use caution when making public comments, expressing personal opinions or taking actions that could potentially damage LAC [Library and Archives Canada]'s reputation and/or public confidence in the public service and the Government of Canada. They must maintain awareness of their surroundings, their audience and how their words or actions could be interpreted (or misinterpreted).
"Maintain awareness of their surroundings" is a particularly fine Orwellian phrase that basically means: watch what you say, or else there will be trouble. Of course, one famously dangerous environment is the online world:
With the current proliferation of social media, public servants need to pay particular attention to their participation in these forums. For example, in a blog with access limited to certain friends, personal opinions about a new departmental or Government of Canada program intended to be expressed to a limited audience can, through no fault of the public servant, become public and the author identified. The public servant could be subject to disciplinary measures, as the simple act of limiting access to the blog does not negate a public servant's duty of loyalty to the elected government. Only authorized spokespersons can issue statements or make comments about LAC's position on a given subject. If you are asked for LAC's position, you must refer the inquiries, through your manager, to the authorized LACspokesperson.
Yes, you see, even that private little blog where you make a witty remark about the stupidity of some of Canada's glorious leaders could cause you to be subject to "disciplinary measures" (and please, do remember that parts of Canada are just as cold as Siberia....)

The attempt to dress up this pompous control-freakery as moderate and reasonable -- "through no fault of the public servant" etc. etc. -- would be rather amusing were it not part of a much larger move by Canada's rulers to stifle dissent. Canadian scientists, for example, have been subject to these kind of humiliating restrictions for some time, as the BBC reported last year:

The allegation of "muzzling" came up at a session of the AAAS [American Association for the Advancement of Science] meeting to discuss the impact of a media protocol introduced by the Conservative government shortly after it was elected in 2008.

The protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories.

Sources say that requests are often refused and when interviews are granted, government media relations officials can and do ask for written questions to be submitted in advance and elect to sit in on the interview.
Adapting some words penned in a much more serious situation, we might say:
First they censored the scientists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a scientist.

Then they censored the librarians, and I did not speak out, because I was not a librarian.

Then they censored me, and there was no one left to speak for me.
Now might be a good time for Canadians to say "enough is enough"....

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 21st, 2013 @ 9:40am

    Now might be a good time for Canadians to say "enough is enough"....

    That. But only Canada? I'd say it's a worldwide need.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymouse, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:15am

    !

     

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  3.  
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    John Doe, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:22am

    Who knew?

    Who knew that librarians were in such a precarious position in society. With the invention of the internet, I didn't even know there were still libraries. ;)

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:23am

    Next step..

    Harper decides that since public servants "owe a duty of loyalty" to the government, that they are not allowed to vote - that the Conservatives will count their votes (for the current government, of course) anyway.

    And then employees of private sector companies are subject to the same "duty", and thus corporations will vote in their stead.

     

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  5.  
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    Mike Zajko, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:24am

    It's notable that this follows librarians and archivists getting vocal last year about cuts and layoffs to LAC
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2012/05/28/archivists-protest.html
    The government has made clear that while slashing the institutions that preserve the country's history is okay, they're willing to invest plenty of cash in mythologizing our epic win against the Americans in 1812 (not that it did them any good - most Canadians could really care less about the war even after all the publicity)
    http://o.canada.com/2012/11/20/canadian-history-heritage-at-risk-from-cuts-to-libraries- and-archives-canada-says-academics/

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:25am

    Th Canadian inquisition is being formed, and once government employees are under control it attention will turn to all dissenters amongst the citizens.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:29am

    who the fuck wrote this? it sounds more like a Communist country demand than that of a supposed democracy! they have gotten things round the wrong way. the Government should be wary of what it says about the people as it's the people that elects the Government and the people are who the Government works for!!

     

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  8.  
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    ethorad (profile), Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:35am

    Duty of loyalty to employers

    It's not just the Canadian government taking that line.

    I work in the UK for a US company, and each year we get circulated our corporate values and code of conduct statement. We have to read it and sign to say we have read it and understand it.

    Within the code of conduct there is the line that we "owe a duty of loyalty" to the company and we "must at all times act in the company's best interest".

    First up I have no idea why I owe them a duty of loyalty? They pay my wages, and I turn up to work. They have no loyalty to me, being instead beholden to the owners of the company (publicly listed in this case) so I certainly feel no compuction to be steadfastly loyal to the company.

    And secondly, act at all times in the company's best interest? I'm certainly not going to do anything to damage my employer as I'm happy with the continuing wages for work situation. However, perhaps the company would be best served if I donated my kidney to our CEO? Or perhaps I should offer to take a paycut?

    Absolute garbage. The only reason I feel at all comfortable signing on the code of conduct line is that I agree with most of the rest of the document, and I'm only signing to say that I understand it, not that I agree with it. I understand that the company has some deluded ideas about what I owe them.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:38am

    Prime Minister (in waiting) Trudeau is coming to save the day. With flowing locks of well conditioned hair and a cool tattoo.

    Actually I've no idea what his policy position is on this or any other matter. He will likely win the next election but every article I see on him is complete fluff.

     

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  10.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:40am

    Re: Duty of loyalty to employers

    Amen, brother. I am in the exact same situation.

     

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  11.  
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    ebilrawkscientist (profile), Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:42am

    You leap off tall buildings thinking it's not gonna hurt.

    Silence! I've had enough of this wowdy wabble webel behaviour from Parliament Hill! When FREE speech becomes illegal we're at the frontdoor, of the nine outbounds, and the zone of doom. If the Prime Minister doesn't mind our business then the Prime Minister either has no mind or no business. STOP TELLING US WHAT TO DO!

    -It looks like the CENSORED has hit the fan-

     

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  12. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:43am

    News to Americans: Canadians are SERFS, just like rest of UK.

    Oh, sure, they've a veneer of "rights", and the US is often little better in practice YET the principle of declaring your rights a gift from God and not privileges granted by a mere person is vital to freedom. The US threw off the same inherited tyrants (of German descent) that the Canoo -- er, those dwelling in the frozen north, are still under. Every American ranks equally with ANY person in the UK, and above the serfs who continue to accept second class status.

    But of course the serfs will still say "not in practice", though I've already covered the point. They're hopeless.

    You can't let The Rich inherit feudal privileges even as "figure-heads": they just continue to literally own you. -- So I've written off the UK: good enough for you, serfs.

     

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  13.  
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    John Doe, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:43am

    Re:

    Sounds like Obama. The lamestream media softballs him so much that he got slaughtered in the debates because he wasn't use to giving more than superficial non-answers.

     

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  14.  
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    negruvoda, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:50am

    Re: News to Americans: Canadians are SERFS, just like rest of UK.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    AB (profile), Mar 21st, 2013 @ 10:56am

    Re:

    To be fair, his father was one of our better Prime Ministers, which makes him the best option in a long time. That's not necessarily a good thing, just a point of reference.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 11:04am

    ""A duty of loyalty to their employer, the Government of Canada": I think Stalin would have approved of that."
    - I think *any* employer would, even (especially) yours.

    "it's clear that obedience to the ruling powers overrides any misguided desire to be impartial"
    - Not at all, and you give nothing to back up that claim.

    ""Maintain awareness of their surroundings" is a particularly fine Orwellian phrase that basically means: watch what you say, or else there will be trouble."
    - Really? You're playing THAT card? Lol!

    "Yes, you see, even that private little blog where you make a witty remark about the stupidity of some of Canada's glorious leaders could cause you to be subject to "disciplinary measures" (and please, do remember that parts of Canada are just as cold as Siberia....)"
    - So you ran out of arguments and needed to make a post? Is that it? Or you just wanted to bitch at something you couldn't understand? Re-read the text you quoted and try to understand it this time.

    I can't keep going on. What a mockery this article is. No evidence or facts. Just derogatory terms all over because you don't agree with them? What class and professionalism!

    Now let's play your game:
    First they didn't censor scientists, they put requirements. But I couldn't understand that so I became a librarian. Then my employer told me I couldn't post things about my job on a provide blog, so I started talking to myself and writing up posts on TD, hoping someone could fill me in on what's really going on. Hopefully TD won't censor me!

    Fail.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 11:05am

    If we're only going to have twenty people running an entire hemisphere, they could at least make an effort to curb the little-bitch syndrome that gives them away every time. "They dont like me waaaah... My election wasreally for real waaaaaah.. gimmee my drones back waaaaaaaah". The last generation was bad, but these kids running things now look up to craven invertebrae and are too lazy to even pretend at leading a democracy. Spoiled little bitches.

     

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  18.  
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    Nick Dynice (profile), Mar 21st, 2013 @ 11:10am

    Enter: a proliferation of satirical LAC employee gripe blogs. Those should be fun reads.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 11:12am

    hitler never died

    he just moved west.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 11:15am

    Loyalty to Whom?

    The government of Canada seems to have gotten in wrong, or at best halfway right here. That section should more appropriately say:
    Public servants owe a duty of loyalty to their employer, the Government of Canada.

    There's a reason they're called public servants, not government servants..

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 11:16am

    Re: Loyalty to Whom?

    I forgot to change the text of that quoted line. It should read:
    Public servants owe a duty of loyalty to their employer, the Public of Canada.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 21st, 2013 @ 11:35am

    Re:

    Wow, barely posted and the article already gets a visit from the canadian thought police, they really keep you guys on your toes don't they?

     

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  23.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 21st, 2013 @ 11:38am

    Re: Loyalty to Whom?

    Indeed, in a clash between public interests(which free opinions and information supports), and governmental interests(of which those two often oppose), any 'public official' should default to serving the public, as the governments are supposed to be merely representing, and serving, the public they are elected from.

     

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  24.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Mar 21st, 2013 @ 11:47am

    Re:

    I'd say it's a worldwide need.Indeed... democractic governments make much of "freedom" and the US even has freedom of speech and expression as a foundation of theirs... but increasingly what they mean all is "freedom of speech as long as we like what you say" - a massively dangerous trend.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 11:54am

    Re:

    The idea of a government of the people representing the people is soooo out of style. The only place not pretending to do this is China. There they at least admit to be communists.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re:

    Said the troll.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    A Not So Idiot Savant, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Re:

    Which of course points out that presidential debates are useless. Most people if offered a chance to dip their hands into the national treasury will do so. Even when the U.S. is bankrupt and has a huge spending problem.

    The people have made their choice and all of us get to live with the consequences.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 12:23pm

    Scientists, librarians.. I wonder who Steve is going to censor next.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward 2, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 12:46pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Oh crap man, you got 'em.[/sarcasm]

    BTW, I seem to recall a CTV story about Harper sending out trolls to correct "misinformation" (aka spread propoganda). Oh, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpVUYGcgtjw.

    Never had the phrase "obvious troll is obvious been so apropos.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 12:53pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Critical difference:
    When your employer is a private company, the worst they can do is fire you. Maybe even sue you.
    When your employer is the State, the worst they can do is have you arrested and jailed. Maybe even executed for treason.

    You do realize there is a difference, right?

     

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  31.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 21st, 2013 @ 12:59pm

    Re:

    It would be helpful if you actually explained what was wrong with the posting. Just saying "fail" does nothing.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Tom Teshima, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 1:08pm

    What is going on with Canada and Great Britain? I used to think Americans could take a few cues from them regarding individual liberties and common sense, but between the press censorship bills being passed in GB and these crazy laws in Canada, I don't know what's going on lately.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 1:29pm

    Re:

    In Canada, people elected Stephen Harper to a majority government so he can basically do whatever the hell he wants. I'm curious to see what new sneaky changes to laws that have nothing to do with the budget are going to be included this time around. I really hope people realize just how bad the Harper Regime has been for our country.

     

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  34.  
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    gorehound (profile), Mar 21st, 2013 @ 1:58pm

    Re:

    Me Too ! Just waiting to see it all collapse which I think is going to happen sometime this Century.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Monkey with Attitude, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Nope he's a lawyer, he makes money on you till your dead then makes money on the corpse...

    Shakespear had it rightabout laywers.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 4:16pm

    Re:

    Or in your case:
    I didn't understand apples, so I talked about how yellow and oddly shaped oranges are.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 4:50pm

    Re:

    Nobody expects the Canadian inquisition. Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fealty, surrender, ruthless defication, and an almost fanatical devotion to the "Eh", and nice red uniforms.

    No way, Eh, you mangled Monty Python... Expect a visit from the Canadian inquisition....

     

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  38.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Mar 21st, 2013 @ 5:15pm

    Re: Re:

    senor hound, i think we are of a similar generation; and while in my youth i was a goody-two-shoes and 'the law is the law' type non-thinking, non-feeling asshole, i have evolved to become totally anti-authoritarian, and increasingly fearful for not only this (fake) democracy, but the dog damn planet itself ! ! !

    as i've repeated too many times on the inertnet:
    if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention!

    we are not in a sustainable mode on SO many levels, and the chickens, they are a comin' home to roost sooner than i thought...

    frankly, i figured i would be done and dust before the merde hit the fan; but it looks like the process is accelerating and is inevitable... we have ignored the warning signs, failed to make corrections to the system, it is becoming too late to affect the outcome, and we are soon to pay the price...

    (and, yes, i mean both socially and environmentally; each catalyzing the other...)

    dog help us all...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Bill, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 7:23pm

    A few corrections.

    First. The title of he article is a bit misleading. The Code if Conduct is only applicable to librarians employed by Library and Archives Canada, not all librarians in Canada. That's a huge distinction to make. A librarian at a municipal library in Toronto is not bound by the Code.

    Second, the Code gets a key fact wrong. Public servants are employed by the Government of Canada but by the Crown of Canada. In a constitutional monarchy, the Crown and Goverment are two separate entities. On Canada, there are tree branches of power: the Crown, legislature (which includes the government if the day) and the judiciary. Public servants work for the Crown

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    MD, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 9:16pm

    Bill Has it Right

    Yes, this is only applicable to the federal civil servants toiling away in the library and archives for the feds. The underpaid peons expected to make do when leaky pipes destry documents, etc. because the government would rather spend the money advertising (over budget) how great they are, or refusing to try to rescue Canadian citizens enslaved as child soldiers.

    The majority of librarians work for municipal governments and face a different set of challenges.

     

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  41.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 22nd, 2013 @ 4:08am

    Re: Re: Re:

    and, yes, i mean both socially and environmentally; each catalyzing the other...

    It's damn hard to find anyone who can see this. Kudos dear ma'am. *hats off*

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2013 @ 6:02am

    Re:

    This is how democracy works. Public servants owe a duty to the government of the day.
    Let's see - government librarian orders books saying that homosexuality is a disease and the Muslims should be put to death, and tells local libraries to stock them.
    Librarian writes global-warming denial blog and trashes government environmental policies on line.
    Librarian takes money from entertainment industry to produce blog demanding more draconian copyright measures ...
    Techdirt wieghs in to support freedom of expression.
    Happy now?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2013 @ 9:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I seem to recall a story about the US gov sending out trolls too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=cfUPHcjROAk

    So you're failure at trolling. I work for the gov, I'm also the pope and the president of "exposing trolls online" which you are a prominent target of.

    But of course any one that doesn't agree with the BS spurted out in this article has to be an insider, there's no possible way anyone with a brain capable of critical thinking could ever disagree with you. Nutcase.

    I love the TD trolling community. You guys are so awesome. Keep up the trolling, dear US gov insiders.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2013 @ 9:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Only in the US. Name one Canadian Gov employee that was ever jailed for something non-criminal. You can't can you? I thought so. Welcome to the rest of the world.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2013 @ 9:07am

    Re: Re:

    I did, but I guess you can't read.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2013 @ 9:07am

    Re: Re:

    Or in your case:
    I felt like trolling so I went to TD and trolled nonsense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    David P., Mar 22nd, 2013 @ 9:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So wait, you honestly think that US gov trolls are out to get Harper, and so they post critical comments on Techdirt to succeed?

    *die on floor laughing"

    Oh, and I guess UK gov. trolls cause you know, Glyn is actually from London.

    So not only do you fail at trolling, you are retarded as well.

    Please go back to Harper and tell of your failure. Of course, knowing him, he'll probably appoint you as a senator.

     

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  48.  
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    special-interesting (profile), Mar 22nd, 2013 @ 10:32am

    Kinda scary. Aren't all Canadians already loyal citizens in good standing? As such they should not need any extra agreement. Just the fact that such a contract has been submitted there must be something other than the issue of loyalty at steak.

    Why divide up the country with loyalty contracts and what is the difference between citizens (who are by default already loyal) and government? The schism being created might grow.

    The anon comment of treason rang a bell. Remember what loyalty is and its relation to fealty. (to the Crown?)

    First you throw and set the hooks. Then you heave ho the barge to the dockside. Then you load the garbage. From the outside it looks like the hook stage.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    John P. Gillespie, Mar 23rd, 2013 @ 7:22am

    I thought Canada was a free country- guess I was wrong on that , eh?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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