The Information Policy Blog

The (unofficial) blog of the BCLA Information Policy Committee

Tag Archives: civil liberties

BCCLA Sues Canadian Government to Stop Illegal Spying

Canada’s CSEC agency isn’t as well known as its American counterpart, the NSA, but the Snowden leaks have brought them into the spotlight for their spying efforts. This spying has many questionable aspects, including economic espionage on Brazil, but even more concerning (if you’re Canadian) is how little we know about their spying on Canadians.

Not everyone is content to assume that things can’t be that bad in Canada. The BC Civil Liberties Association has launched a lawsuit against the Canadian government because of CSEC’s unaccountable illegal spying. This is a huge precedent-setting deal.

OpenMedia is organizing the public awareness campaign around this, as they’ve done with the stop online spying initiative (which the IPC is proud to remind you BCLA has signed onto).

There is loads of information on their sites for you to familiarize yourself with the issues, and to support these people who are fighting the legal fight for our rights to live unsurveilled.

Watch this space for more of what librarians specifically can do to help (and feel free to make suggestions here, on Twitter or wherever else you feel moved to).

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Library and Archives Canada Code of Conduct Followup Post 2 – Balancing

Just a short post today to note that Daniel Caron has made a public response to the outcry about the Code of Conduct. Basically he says that this is normal, “commonly applied in the public and private sector.”

The problem with this response is that as noted on Bibliocracy “This basically says ‘leave your brain and your free will at the door’.” That is a problem not just for librarians and archivists at LAC but any citizen.

Listen again to our committee chair talking about the things that it makes sense to be sensitive about information professionals disclosing. That’s where the balance of responsibility in being an information professional comes in. Despite what Caron says, this abysmal code of conduct gathers up everything a librarian could possibly say and treats it like every possible opinion is high-risk and must be cleared by superiors. If that was commonly applied in information organizations (and other settings) around this country how could anyone say we had any sorts of freedoms of expression?

One of the benefits of this terrible code of conduct being made public and getting media attention is that it might be a spur for information professionals at other organizations, in the public and private sectors, to take a look at their own organizational policies. If our codes of conduct were made public would people be outraged, like we are about LAC? These are conversations we should be having in our workplaces too and this media attention is a good excuse to do some self-reflection too.

A final note (to a post that went longer than I thought it would): Friday morning on CBC Radio’s Q, Jian Ghomeshi will be talking about LAC in his opening essay. I’m sure a lot of librarchivists will be listening.

Library and Archives Canada Code of Conduct Followup Post 1 – Use Your Ears

You’ve read this blog’s starter post on the LAC Code of Conduct, and BCLA’s statement on it (which had a nicely pointed critique of LAC seeing its employees’ accomplishments and opinions as sources of suspicion instead of pride). You’ve been reading other blogs and news sources noticing the kerfuffle about librarians and scientists getting muzzled (plus some analysis of interesting word choice within the documents).

What can you possibly do next?

Listen to this stuff! With your ears!

BCLA Info Policy Committee chair Myron Groover was on CBC Radio’s As It Happens this evening. Listen to the segment which focuses on how LAC can try to control librarians’ off-work behaviour, including the snitch line. Also, earlier in the week James Turk, the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, was interviewed on Radio-Canada International [scroll down to the bottom to hit the “Listen” link].

One of the reasons this issue is a big deal (and why it’s important for the public to hear about it) is because it’s not just librarians and archivists being told not to talk about their work, but scientists and even our (former) Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page [following that link takes you to a story with a “Listen” link if you desire]. As government websites get pared down, it’s not hard to see that in Canada “long-term research and evidence-based policy making are about to get a lot tougher.”

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.