Statement re: Tony Turner and “Harperman”
Since it was first recorded and posted in June, “Harperman,” written and performed by Tony Turner and an impromptu chorus has been viewed online over a million times. It’s safe to say that the song’s message resonates with many Canadians.
Like all of us, Tony Turner lives many lives – folk singer, federal scientist, and citizen among them. Of all these lives, however, it is perhaps the last one – citizen – that is the most important because it is the one in which each of us must engage or else risk seeing our democracy and our rights deteriorate and, eventually, disappear.
In 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that public servants have the right to freedom of expression during election campaigns. Since then, with few exceptions, federal public servants have been able to exercise this Charter-protected freedom and no harm has been done to the performance of their professional duties to government or to the public.
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada is committed to defending the Charter right of Tony Turner and of all of our members to express their political views outside work as fully-engaged citizens of a free and democratic country.
Tony Turner did not seek to bring his obligations as a citizen into conflict with his obligations as a federal scientist. In fact, he made very clear efforts to avoid any mention of his job as a federal public servant. Nor did we, his union, seek to draw attention to a conflict that since 1991 has simply not existed. Ironically, it was the Employer that did so by launching an investigation to determine if Tony Turner violated the Harper government’s values and ethics code.
It is, sadly, only the most recent example of a government that is determined to erode the obligations and rights of all Canadians – including the obligations of public scientists to communicate their findings freely to the public and the right of all Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to express their political views freely.
In this sense, Tony Turner’s fight is every federal public servant’s fight. Indeed, it is every citizen’s fight.
This is a fight that was settled by the Supreme Court decades ago. That’s why, as the union representing Tony Turner, we are working so hard on his behalf and will continue to use every tool at our disposal in the future to ensure that Tony and other members continue to have the freedom to express their own views outside work. That is your right, that is our right as citizens.