Stephen Harper’s War on Canada
January 30, 2015 § 6 Comments
Last weekend, the Toronto Star published a scathing article, looking at how Canada’s elected government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has muzzled, shut down, and otherwise sullied government branches. Harper has silenced scientists working for Environment Canada and Health Canada, all in an attempt to keep them from publicising the harm caused by the Tarsands in Alberta.
Then there’s Harper’s war against the Library and Archives Canada. This is the national archives and library of the country. In other words, it’s kind of important. Rather than fund it properly, ensure that Canadians have access to their national history, Harper has cut funding, shut down branches, and done everything it can to prevent us from knowing the history that his government spends too much time blaming us for not knowing. This is unacceptable, and downright terrifying.
Mark Bourrie, the author of the article notes that: “In 2008–2009, Library and Archives Canada spent $385,461 on historic documents. In 2011–2012 it spent nothing. In Washington, the Library of Congress’s acquisition budget was between $18 million and $19 million annually from 2009 to 2012.” Think about that. In 2008-09, LAC’s acquisition budget was .02% of that of the Library of Congress. In 2011-12, it was 0%. This is a national disgrace.
During Daniel Caron’s reign of error at the the LAC, he and his management team came up with a code of conduct for employees:
Caron and his management team came up with a code of conduct banning librarians and archivists from setting foot in classrooms, attending conferences and speaking at public meetings, whether on the institution’s time or their own. The 23 pages of rules, called “Library and Archives Canada’s Code of Conduct: Values and Ethics,” came into effect in January 2013. Employees could get special dispensation from their bosses, but the fine print of the gag order made it unlikely that permission would be granted. The rules called public speaking, whether to university students, genealogy groups, historians and even other archivists and librarians, “high risk” activities that could create conflicts of interest or “other risks to LAC.” The code stressed federal employees’ “duty of loyalty” not to history or to Library and Archives Canada, but rather to the “duly elected government.” Employees breaking the code could find themselves reported to LAC managers by colleagues who turned them in on what James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, called a “snitch line.”
“As public servants, our duty of loyalty to the Government of Canada and its elected officials extends beyond our workplace to our personal activities,” the code said. It reminded librarians and archivists, many of whom do not consider themselves public menaces, that they must maintain awareness of their surroundings, their audience and how their words or actions could be interpreted (or misinterpreted). They were warned not to fall into the trap of social media. And LAC employees were warned that teaching a class or speaking at a conference put them at special risk, since “such activities have been identified as high risk to Library and Archives Canada and to the employee with regard to conflict of interest, conflict of duties and duty of loyalty.”
This is appalling. I cannot think of a universe where giving a pubic talk is “high risk.” Especially for an archivist. How is it high risk? University students might learn how to use the archives? Various publics may learn how to look for their ancestors? And the very fact that Harper has farmed out aspects of LAC’s geneaology department to Ancestry.ca is criminal, and nothing short of that.
Then there’s the part about “loyalty to the Government of Canada and its elected officials.” Um, no. Civil servants DO have a loyalty to the Government. It’s part of their job. But a loyalty to the elected officials. No. Wrong. The loyalty of civil servants in Canada is to Canadians, the taxpayers and citizens. We have a right to know whether or not the tarsands are harming our environment. We have a right to be able to go to the LAC to discover our history.
Harper’s war on brains, as The Star terms is, is unacceptable, wrong, and dangerous. The way to build a healthy nation is through an educated populace. But Harper clearly does not want this. He wants Canadians to be poorly-educated, to not have the essential information they need to make decisions on matters of public policy. Stephen Harper needs to be stopped. The Government of Canada needs to recover its moral compass. The government should serve Canadians, not see them as contemptuous and a nuisance to the government.
Harper’s behaviour is nothing short of undemocratic and un-Canadian.