http://www.calgaryherald.com/opinion/ed ... story.html
Ottawa's muzzling of librarians' free speech is intolerable
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.
Some of those codes may well be merited in departments where highly sensitive information is handled, but only rampant and absolutely unwarranted paranoia could see a need for it among employees whose job is to preserve and disseminate historic and reference information for the public. Before any LAC employee can accept a speaking engagement, six criteria have to be met - including that the subject matter not be related to LAC. That effectively rules out anyone sharing their knowledge with the general public.
The code appears overly concerned with what an employee might say about the federal government, and even says limited-access blogs may be reason to discipline an employee because such a blog could negate the duty of loyalty to the government.
Most responsible people know there's a tacit understanding that they will not castigate, criticize or otherwise throw their employer into disrepute in a public arena. They understand that they represent their employer even during off-hours and should conduct themselves accordingly. Any concerns about such behaviour should be dealt with on an individual basis. However,
when librarians and archivists give talks about their work, about history or about document preservation, they are educating the public. Speaking at a conference about the role of archivists, for example, cannot by anyone's wildest imagination be construed as disloyal.
This unwarranted dictate severely limiting the librarians' and archivists' freedom of speech is intolerable and must be reversed.
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
Given that Levant portrays himself as a bold free speech warrior not afraid to speak truth to power, will he step up and protest this travesty?
You'll notice I'm not holding my breath.