Category Archives: Privacy

Renaming Federal Research Libraries after Harper a Fitting Tribute

Since the defeat of the Conservative government on Oct. 19, there has been extensive discussion around the government’s legacy, and particularly that of its leader, Stephen Harper. One early suggestion (facing significant opposition) is to rename the Calgary airport after Harper (

While naming the airport after Harper would follow a tradition (e..g Pearson in Toronto or Trudeau in Montreal), there are far more fitting federal institutions that could and should bear Harper’s name. In particular, the remaining federal libraries would be an ideal set of institutions to name after Harper. Given the Harper government’s penchant for closing and consolidating federal libraries ( those that remain deserve a particular mark and moniker to demonstrate their ability to withstand the trend of federal library collections being moved from buildings to dumpsters. In addition, naming the federal libraries after Harper would likely serve as a means to ensure that future Conservative governments would carefully consider closing any more federal libraries as they bear the name of the former party leader. Perhaps the government could also restore the estimated 1.55 million government websites to be eliminated as part of the Treasury Board’s ROT plan ( under a special section of the website known as the “Clement Collection.”

Indeed there would seem to be no shortage of federal information services and institutions that could be renamed as fitting reminders to the dark decade.

Information Policy Under the Harper Government Part 1: Cuts to LAC/Caron’s Leadership

Cuts to LAC/Caron’s Leadership

One Line Description: Terrible Management and Significant Underfunding Crippling our National Library and Archive

Short Summary:  Through a combination of poor management (former LAC Head Daniel Caron) and significant budget cuts (from $117 million in 2012-2013 FY[1] down to $93 million in FY 2015-16[2]), the Harper Government significantly reduced LAC’s ability to play a leadership role in the Canadian library and archival communities and for the organization to carry out core functions.

Details:  In 2009 the Harper Government appointed career bureaucrat Daniel Caron to head LAC, despite the fact he held no background in either library and information science or archival studies. Caron consistently demonstrated little understanding of the two professions suggesting in 2010 that both may become irrelevant, and urging that a complete reinvention of information professionals dismissing the long and evolving history of both.[3]  Further indicating his lack of understanding, in 2012 in testimony before a Parliamentary Committee, Caron suggested that the work of cataloguing materials including archival materials had become unnecessary.[4]  Under Caron’s dismal leadership of LAC was coupled with severe budget cuts eliminating roughly 20% of the organization’s budget in 2012 and causing staffing levels to fall from 1,117 in FY 2012-13[5] to 8,67 in FY 2015-16.[6]  The budget and staff cuts have left LAC unable to carry out core functions.  50% of its digitization staff was eliminated, and one estimate suggested that it would take 300 to 700 years for the organization to digitize its holdings.[7]  In 2013, LAC was unable to make available the 1921 Census data without partnering with a private company ([8]  If LAC can’t, on its own, make available a 90 year old Census document, how will the organization play a key role in the country’s sesquicentennial – a role the Harper Government has consistently suggested it will play.[9]

[1]  Library and Archives Canada. Report on Plans and Priorities 2012-13, p. 15.

[2]  Library and Archives Canada. Report on Plans and Priorities 2015-16.

[3]  Daniel Caron. “Memory Institutions in the 21st Century: The Need for Convergence and Collaboration.”

[4]  Daniel Caron. Evidence before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages. 41st Parl. 1 Sess., Nov. 6, 2012.

[5]  Library and Archives Canada. Report on Plans and Priorities 2012-13, p. 15.

[6]  Library and Archives Canada. Report on Plans and Priorities 2015-16.

[7]  Save Library and Archives Canada. “Digitization.”

[8]  LAC. “Census of Canada 1921 Now Available to Researchers.”

[9]  LAC. Report on Plans and Priorities 2014-15.


PLG Edmonton Stands Against Bill C-51

PLG Edmonton is deeply concerned about the impact that Bill C-51 will have on public privacy and freedom of speech in Canada.    The Act puts the privacy of the personal information of Canadians at risk, and could also be used as a tool to limit freedom of expression in Canada.

Despite the intention of the federal government to protect Canadians from terrorism, the bill will expand the definition of security threats to actions that threaten public safety and ‘economic or financial stability of Canada’ (Stryker and Cheung, 2015). As a result the law could be used to target civil society organizations, protest groups, and other members of the public whose actions are viewed by the government as a threat to the economy, stifling debate and discussion around topics of concern to Canadians as a result.

The bill will also allow for easier sharing of Canadians’ personal information between federal departments and foreign agencies. The justification for this is that it will help police and security forces access important information they need to thwart potential terrorist acts. However, experts do not believe that the federal government has the proper infrastructure in place to ensure that the federal government can properly fulfill its responsibilities under the new law. Canada’s Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien argues that under Bill C-51, there would be a lack of oversight and resources within his office to ensure that government agencies are not misusing this information (Beaulne-Stuebing, 2015).  Canadian anti-terrorist experts Craig Forcese and Kent Roach have said that Canada’s security review infrastructure lacks the essential resources it will need to review the work of CSIS as it assumes new security responsibilities (Forcese and Roach, 2014)

The privacy commissioner also believes that the bill could prevent the government from following correct records management practices.  He is concerned that as personal information is collected by various agencies, it could be retained for a longer period of time than it is needed. (Beaulne-Stuebing, 2015).

With the bill now having Royal Assent, we encourage repeal at the earliest possible juncture and demand that the federal government take into consideration the serious threats that this bill will pose to personal privacy and freedom of expression in Canada. We also encourage Canadians to remain vocal about Bill C-51 and its potential impact during the upcoming federal election campaign.

Beaulne-Stuebing, R. (23 Apr, 2015) Bill C-51 will strain my office’s resources: privacy commissioner. Retrieved from

Roach, K., Forcese, C. (2015) Canada’s Antiterror Gamble. Retrieved from:

Stryker, A., Cheung, C. (March 11, 2015) 8 things you need to know about Bill C-51. Retrieved from:

C-51 sees charter challenge from civil liberties, press freedom advocates

“In a joint statement, both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression say sections of Bill C-51 violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ‘in a manner that is not justified in a free and democratic society.'”

For more information, please visit

The Library Digital Privacy Pledge of 2015

The Library Digital Privacy Pledge of 2015 focuses “on the use of HTTPS to deliver library services and the information resources offered by libraries. Building a culture of library digital privacy will not end with this 2015 pledge, but committing to this first modest step together will begin a process that won’t turn back.  We aim to gather momentum and raise awareness with this pledge; and will develop similar pledges in the future as appropriate to advance digital privacy practices for library patrons.” Visit Eric Hellman’s blog for more information on the Library Digital Library Pledge of 2015.

He invites all stakeholders and “everyone with responsibility for providing library services on the web, including publishers, systems vendors, librarians and scholars…to review the draft before it is finalized.”

If you or your library organization wishes to be added to the list of signatories, please send your contact information to

How Ninja Librarians are Ensuring Patrons’ Electronic Privacy

“Perhaps more than anyone in our society, librarians represent the values that make a democracy strong, intellectual freedom foremost among them.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts is working with Massachusetts librarians and Boston’s Radical Reference Collective to educate and protect library users’ online communications. Read more about it here:

Radical Librarianship: how ninja librarians are ensuring patrons’ electronic privacy

Privacy and Surveillance in Libraryland

After a decade of debate, Canada’s anti-spam law takes effect this week. You’ve likely seen the effect in your inbox. As Michael Geist explains in his recent blog post, the legislation is really about, ”shifting privacy expectations in how our information is collected and used.”

(Need a reminder about the extent of your exposure and the fragility of your privacy in our online world? NPR’s Planet Money podcast about Project Eavesdrop is worth a listen.)

So how does privacy legislation and surveillance intersect with the library world? This was the topic of a Sunday session at the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual conference. The discussion ranged from legislative particulars to stories about law enforcement officers and university administrators demanding to know the names of library users who were searching for specific topics in the library catalogue. In short, the role of librarians as protectors of patron privacy is becoming more complicated than ever.

We’ll post a link to the session slides when available but in the meantime, it’s worth noting that  speaker Seeta Gangadharan (who has written about digital privacy for activists and organizers, among other topics) noted an increased demand for privacy instruction programming at public libraries. Hopefully this will be a trend north of the border as well.

To echo the words of an ALA Government Documents Roundtable member at Sunday’s session, we challenge all librarians and archivists to incorporate examples or discussion about privacy issues into information literacy sessions!

Not sure where to start? Try the Resources section of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada website, which includes a few humorous illustrations to help keep your audience awake. Need something focused on libraryland? Try this Privacy Tool Kit, prepared by the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee’s Privacy Subcommittee.

Harper Signs on to Draconian Copyright Provisions… Tells Canadians Nothing about Them

In light of today’s announcement PLG Edmonton is re-posting an information sheet and presentation by then University of Alberta student Cari Postnokoff, originally posted in February 2014, regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.


The Trans Pacific Partnership is a trade deal currently under negotiation behind closed doors. It has the potential to profoundly affect Canadian intellectual property laws. PLG Edmonton member Cari Lynn Postnikoff has put together this information sheet on the Trans Pacific Partnership. Get informed and share it around. You can also see her presenting on the topic at the 2014 Forum for Information Professionals at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta below.

If the Info Sheet isn’t appearing, you can download it here.