New Yukon policy to 'muzzle' teachers, says NDP
Government drafting guidelines for public statements about education issues
The Yukon government is drafting revisions to its communications policy for teachers and other education staff. The NDP says it places unacceptable limits on free speech.
While the official opposition has called the policy "bullying behaviour," the government has replied the NDP is "fearmongering" and distorting the issue in the legislative assembly.
One draft version of the policy says education employees should "not provide information to the media ... unless authorized to do so" and mentions a "duty to refrain from public criticism of their employer."
The NDP opposition says it’s outraged by the draft policy.
"In the wake of controversies, instead of openness the Yukon Party government plans to muzzle teachers through its chilling Making Public Statements Policy," said Jim Tredger, MLA for Mayo-Tatchun.
"Why does the Yukon government think the best way to handle controversy is to stifle voices and silence teachers?"
The government says the policy is nothing new or unusual.
Scott Kent, minister of Education, said the main purpose is to set clear guidelines for the handling of confidential information.
"Really, the purpose of these guidelines is to provide Yukon education employees with the direction and guidelines that they need when they make public statements about education-related issues," Kent said .
Deputy Minister of Education Valerie Royle said the policy is being revised. She said the document is about balancing the duty of loyalty to an employer versus the right to free speech as a citizen.
"This is not unique to Yukon," she said. "This is for all Yukon government employees but these policies exist in all Canadian jurisdictions."
The government says it is consulting with the Yukon Teachers Association on the policy. Luc Lafferté, president of Yukon's francophone school board, said the board has similar rules which set limits on what its staff can say at public meetings or to the media.
"I would be surprised if the government policy is different than what the ethics code always says," he said.