Canada's Conservative government has issued new regulations to librarians and archvists governing their free speech in public forums and online media. According to the Harper government, public servants owe a "duty of loyalty" to the "duly elected government" and must get permission from their
political officers managers before making any public utterance — or even a private utterance in an online forum that may eventually leak to the public, to prevent "conflicts" or "risks" their departments.
The Tories have also rolled out a snitch-line where those loyal to the party line can report on their co-workers for failing to maintain ideological purity.
"Once you start picking on librarians and archivists, it's pretty sad," says Toni Samek, a professor of library and information studies at the University of Alberta. She specializes in intellectual freedom and describes several clauses in the code as "severe" and "outrageous."
The code is already having a "chilling" effect on federal archivists and librarians, who used to be encouraged to actively engage and interact with groups interested in everything from genealogy to preserving historical documents, says archivist Loryl MacDonald at the University of Toronto.
"It is very disturbing and disconcerting to have included speaking at conferences and teaching as so-called 'high risk' activities," says MacDonald, who is president of the Association of Canadian Archivists, a non-profit group representing some 600 archivists across the country.
Regular readers will remember that Canada's librarians and archivists led a charge to save Canada's National Archives when the Harper Tories broke up the irreplaceable collections and flogged them off to private collectors at fire-sale prices.
Federal librarians fear being 'muzzled' under new code of conduct that stresses 'duty of loyalty' to the government [Margaret Munro/National Post]