Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms vis a vis Library Archives Canada’s “Code of Conduct” 0

In January 2013, Library and Archives Canada released to considerable debate and concern a Code of Conduct: Ethics and Values for its employees. The Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians has examined this code of conduct and believes that several sections are not only inappropriate for information professionals at the LAC but also seem to infringe on some fundamental rights. In the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is stated that all Canadian citizens enjoy the right to:

  •  freedom of conscience and religion
  • freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication
  • freedom of peaceful assembly
  • and, freedom of association

In section IV, Conflict of Interest Post Employment, the LAC Code states that prior to sharing information, opinions and viewpoints outside of LAC, the librarian or archivist must ensure that they have:

“… discussed [the opportunity] with his or her manager, who has documented confirmation that the activity does not conflict with the employee’s duties at LAC or present other risks to LAC.”

The LAC Code states, somewhat contradictorily, that “…off-duty conduct is usually a private matter. However, off-duty could become a work-related matter if it does any of the following…[or] harms the LAC’s reputation or program…”

What’s not only odd but also upsetting about this statement is that librarians and archivists are part of a recognized profession. Information professionals are guided by codes of ethics that are also supported by the Canadian Library Association, the American Library Association and the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA). All of these professional organizations aim to endorse and uphold freedom of expression, opinion and association as fundamental to the functioning of the professionals in the field. IFLA has on numerous occasions and in many forums made it clear that it believes firmly in the positive role of libraries and is committed to the upholding and enhancement of this role. For its part, IFLA consistently mentions the importance and value of Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression, as set out in Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. It is therefore of grave concern to all librarians and archivists that the LAC Code seems to make an attempt to abrogate these important freedoms for those working at Canada’s national archives and library.

We, the members of CAPAL, support the right of all individuals to freely express their opinions and views, especially those who strive to uphold the principles of freedom of speech and assembly, among others, within the information professions. The simple freedom of sharing opinions and expertise with colleagues and interested parties should be extended to all librarians and archivists without fail or incident. The LAC’s Code of Conduct seems to want to call into question this basic human right to expression.

Professional librarians and archivists have responsibilities with respect to sustaining and preserving knowledge for current and future generations. Further, as part of a functioning and open democracy, information professionals should be able to exercise their basic rights and freedoms as articulated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. To do otherwise, is not only unethical but unprofessional.  CAPAL affirms the right of all librarians and archivists at Library and Archives Canada to enjoy the rights and freedoms as expressed in our Charter and in their various professional codes. We hope that those sections of the LAC Code that seem to contradict the spirit and letter of other codes in the information professions be amended accordingly, and as soon as possible.

A full update of current events pertaining to the LAC situation can be found at: http://www.savelibraryarchives.ca/update-2013-03.aspx