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

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art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: 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

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Mike Zajko says:

It’s notable that this follows librarians and archivists getting vocal last year about cuts and layoffs to LAC
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)

Anonymous Coward says:

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!!

A Not So Idiot Savant says:

Re: 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.

ebilrawkscientist (profile) says:

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-

out_of_the_blue says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

“”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!


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I seem to recall a story about the US gov sending out trolls too:

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.

David P. says:

Re: Re: Re:3 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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..

That One Guy (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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?

Bill says:

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

MD says:

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.

special-interesting (profile) says:

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.

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