Federal Librarians and Archivists Entangled in a Stricter Code of Conduct

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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A new code of conduct admitted at Library and Archives Canada, implicates that federal librarians and archivists who often visit classrooms and attend conferences, or speak up at public meetings, on their own time are engaging in “high risk” activities. In light of the dangers involved, the new code suggests that the department’s staff shall inform of such “personal” activities with their managers in advance for ensuring that there are no conflicts or “other risks to LAC.”

The code expressively emphasizes on the “duty of loyalty” federal employees to the “duly elected government,” and also points out a direction for reporting offenders. The executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, which represents almost 68,000 teachers, librarians, researchers and academics across the country, James Turk, stated that “it includes both a muzzle and a snitch line.” He, along with many others, depict that the code is an evidence of the Harper government’s effort in silencing and undermining its professional staff. A professor of library and information studies at the University of Alberta, Toni Samek, claims that “once you start picking on librarians and archivists, it’s pretty sad.” She specializes in intellectual freedom and has declared multiple clauses in the code as  “severe” and “outrageous.”

An archivist at the University of Toronto, Loryl MacDonald, alleged that the highly controversial and criticized code is already having a “chilling” effect on federal archivists and librarians, who were previously always encouraged to actively participate and interact with groups interested in everything from genealogy to preserving historical documents. MacDonald added that “it is very disturbing and disconcerting to have included speaking at conferences and teaching as so-called ‘high risk’ activities.”

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