The Information Policy Blog

The (unofficial) blog of the BCLA Information Policy Committee

Library and Archives Canada’s Code of Conduct Starter Post

It was a busy weekend in Canadian library land after a copy of Library and Archives Canada’s code of conduct leaked to the press. Since then there’s been blogging on the issue, more news reports, the slides that accompany the code was leaked and in Question Period on Monday NDP MPs Pierre Nantel and Andrew Cash asked CPC Heritage Minister Jim Moore “why is the government scared of librarians?”

This post is to give you a bit of an idea how that conversation’s been playing out as more people hear about the content of this code.

From Emerging Technologies Librarian on the code of conduct’s secretive nature:

The document made it clear that it was shared only on the staff intranet. Personally, I find that worrisome for any governmental agency. The document also discourages engagement with social media, EVEN WHEN CLOSED ACCESS. The document fails to describe appropriate ways in which to engage positively with social media, instead focusing on censures.

In a followup to the original piece by Margaret Munro she discusses the training slideshow:

The presentation about the code, which critics say is having a “chilling effect,” goes on to stress that public servants have a “duty of loyalty” to the government that extends to their personal activities.

The code also describes teaching and attending conferences on personal time as “high risk” activities.

Heritage Minister James Moore, who is responsible for Library and Archives Canada, has been quick to distance the government from the code that has been denounced as a “muzzle” by several critics.

From Bibliocracy on The Duty of Loyalty:

If Daniel Caron indeed operates “at arm’s length” from the Government as alleged by Minister Moore, why should he and his deputies be protected by a Duty to Loyalty intended to apply to elected officials and their proxies? The LAC Code of Ethics says 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. Public servants must therefore use caution when making public comments, expressing personal opinions or taking actions that could potentially damage LAC ’s reputation and/or public confidence in the public service and the Government of Canada.”

The above doesn’t especially stand up to the rigours of logic, especially in light of Minister Moore’s repeated allegation that LAC’s operational decisions have nothing whatsoever to do with the Government. There are a few insalubrious conflations there and what looks to be at least one glaring non sequitur.

From Bob McClelland in the Ottawa Citizen:

The real reason for muzzling federal employees is quite simple. If you have complete control of communications and the release of information, you reduce the risk of an incident which might embarrass the minister and the department, or contradict the government’s position. Some would call it an effective communications policy; I would call it a denial of freedom of speech.

From Bibliocracy on why the Duty of Loyalty isn’t the really bad part:

The real danger is the insidious implication expressed by the Code as a whole that ALL civil liberties, in the workplace or out of it, are subject to oversight and approval by management. Repeatedly you see the document saying “it’s OK for you to have opinions…but it might not be if they’re about certain things. Best to check with your boss”. Even where these principles are pretty well attested in other departments’ Codes of Ethics it’s the heavy-handedness of the language and the implied universalisation of management oversight of employees’ personal lives that are truly sinister.

And finally, genealogist Dick Eastman talked about it from the perspective of people who use LAC:

Libraries and Archives Canada employees used to be encouraged to interact with groups interested in everything from genealogy to preserving historical documents. Now the opposite rules are in effect.

It’s kind of crazy out there, but library groups and organizations are putting together statements and trying to figure out what we can do about this kind of thing. We’ll link to some of those later this week.

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2 responses to “Library and Archives Canada’s Code of Conduct Starter Post

  1. Pingback: Library and Archives Canada Code of Conduct Followup Post 1 – Use Your Ears | The Information Policy Blog

  2. Pingback: Library and Archives Canada Code of Conduct Followup Post 4 – Second Week | The Information Policy Blog

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