Don't Muzzle Librarians and Archivists
An Open Letter to The Honourable James Moore
Dear Minister Moore:
We are deeply concerned and surprised by the directives in Library and Archives Canada’s new “Code of Conduct: Values and Ethics”. This Code infringes on the civil liberties of our fellow librarians and archivists as embodied in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as their national professional codes, values, and ethics as stated in Canadian Library Association’s position statement on Intellectual Freedom.
While you have stated that the responsibility for introducing this code rested with Dr. Caron, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, this code is clearly driven by and derived from the “Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector” that your government introduced in 2012. While the government claims to operate at arms length from Library and Archives Canada, this code is a clear imposition of government policy on this institution.
Librarians and archivists are citizens, having the fundamental right to freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media communication, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association. They are also scholars who make important and significant contributions to research and the body of knowledge. The new Code, under the contentious Section 4, Conflict of Interests and Ensuing Terms of Personal Activities, denies Library and Archives Canada employees the fundamental rights to express themselves, to engage with associations, to teach, and to speak at conferences.
If the same values and ethics were to apply to all civil servants, such as politicians, it would therefore be impossible for any civil servant to comment or speak publicly in any conferences, institutions, press, and various platforms, as these, under the conditions of the new Code, would also be considered as potential high risks and conflicts of interest.
This new Code is directly in opposition to the federal “Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector” that Prime Minister Harper espouses: respect for democracy, people, integrity, stewardship, and excellence. The government’s blatant lack of respect on all points is apparent in this draconian new Code, which implies mistrust for this noble profession.
Librarians and archivists follow the Canadian Library Association code and have the “basic responsibility for the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom. Both employees and employers in libraries have a duty, in addition to their institutional responsibilities, to uphold these principles”. This core value in librarianship is an indication of its integrity. This is a profession that serves the public good in an effort to support a healthy and open democratic society for all Canadian citizens. Librarians and archivists cannot complete such responsibilities without intellectual freedom themselves.
They cannot exhibit respect for democracy and people when they are denied this respect. They cannot uphold integrity, stewardship, and excellence when sweeping government policies prevent them from doing so.
As you publicly stated in the media, you practice “at arm’s length” to Library and Archives Canada’s policymaking. As specified in the “Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector”, we urge you to play a “critical role” that your position as a minister precludes, “… responsible for preserving public trust and confidence in the integrity of public sector organizations and for upholding the tradition and practice of a professional non-partisan federal public sector.” We urge you to engage in a dialogue with Dr. Caron, and revise the Code.
Future Librarians for Intellectual Freedom