muzzling

Thu, 2013-12-12 12:53Carol Linnitt
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Environment Canada Letter to Federal Scientists Acknowledges 22 per cent of Interviews Denied in 2013

Image from PSICS The Big Chill of muzzling of scientists

An open letter to Environment Canada staff from Deputy Minister Bob Hamilton and Associate Deputy Minister Andrea Lyon says science done at the department has become an “issue…receiv[ing] attention recently,” prompting the letter to provide official “perspective” on the matter.

Throughout 2013 22 per cent of media requests for interviews with scientists were denied while requests in the past five months have increased by 50 per cent, the letter states. In total Environment Canada received just 316 media requests in 2013, of which 246 (78 per cent) were approved.

Climate scientist at the University of Victoria and Green party MLA Andrew Weaver says the fact that Environment Canada is giving such a small amount of interviews is “shameful.”

If a federal organization, comprising thousands of scientists across the country is giving 246 media interview in a year, that’s not too dissimilar to what I was doing as an individual faculty member at the University of Victoria,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. That’s way down from what it used to be.”

Wed, 2013-10-23 11:32Tim McSorley
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The Big Chill: "Scientists Can't Do the Job They Were Hired to Do"

The Big Chill report highlights the muzzling of scientists in Canada

A new survey of federal researchers and scientists reveals the startling degree to which they are limited in their ability to share their research findings with the public, including in cases of the public good, and for the first time gives a clear view of the degree to which scientists feel political interference determines how their work presented.

The study, called The Big Chill, reveals that 86 percent feel they would be reprimanded if they spoke out to the media in a situation where a decision by their department goes against what their research finds to be in the public interest.  A full 90 percent also said they are simply not allowed to freely speak to the media about their work.

In more concrete terms, 37 percent say that, within the last five years, they have been directly stopped from sharing their expertise in response to a question from the media or the public, and nearly one quarter have been forced by government officials to modify conclusions of their research for non-scientific reasons.

Thu, 2013-09-26 09:58Guest
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In the Soviet Era as in Canada: Science Suffers Under Authoritarian Rule

Stand up for science rally by Zack Embree

This is a guest post by Richard Kool, Associate Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University in Victoria.

Back in the 1930s, the Soviet ruler Josef Stalin had a problem with genetics; as a result, geneticists were branded traitors (“Trotskyite agents of international fascism”), stripped of their positions at government laboratories and universities, sent to prison, or even executed. Soviet biological sciences were hindered for more than a generation. The story of the Soviet geneticists has a distant resonance to the story of what is happening to government-sponsored environmental science in Canada today.

Fri, 2013-09-13 11:32Tim McSorley
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'Stand Up for Science' Rallies to Gather Lab Nerds, Defenders of Democracy

death of evidence rally by richard webster

Last year, Canadian scientists and their supporters mourned the “Death of Evidence” in Ottawa. This year, though, they are being asked to stand up and be heard.

On Monday, “Stand Up for Science” rallies will be held in 14 cities across Canada, calling on the federal government to better support science done in the public interest.

Many of the problems that were impetus of the Death of Evidence rally last year are still there, and if anything, things have continued to get worse,” said Dr. Katie Gibbs, one of the organizers of both Monday's rally and last year's Death of Evidence protest, in an interview with DeSmog. “This rally, we're focusing more on making suggestions for how the government could start to restore public science.”

Those suggestions include: supporting the open communication of publicly funded science to the public; using the best available science and evidence to make the best decisions; and funding scientific research from basic science through to applied.

Fri, 2013-06-28 08:00Carol Linnitt
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Artist Franke James Live and (Actually) Uncensored (Since, Apparently, She Refuses to Be)

Franke James is Your Fault art

In 2011, Toronto-based writer, artist and environmental activist Franke James was asked by Croatian non-profit Nektarina to feature her artwork on an European tour. Unsurprisingly, James agreed, only to have the tour cancelled when the Canadian embassy in Croatia withdrew funding that it denied ever giving Nektarina, and made the non-profit aware that James “speaks against the Canadian government.”

James was not one to be silenced, as her new book reveals. Banned on the Hill: A True Story about Dirty Oil and Government Censorship catalogues the entire ordeal of being blacklisted by Harper’s government for speaking out against the tar sands, and puts the paper trail Canadian diplomats left of their censoring ways on display.

DeSmog: You’ve been spreading a message of environmental awareness that runs counter to the Harper government’s pro-oil stance since 2003. Did you have any inkling that something like the government’s squashing of your European tour might eventually happen?

Franke James: No! Who would ever think you could get into trouble for writing to the Prime Minister asking that we make polluters pay? Is this Canada or the Kremlin?

Thu, 2013-06-27 08:00Guest
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Evidence For Democracy: Government Scientists Are Muzzled

Evidence for Democracy

This is a guest post by Scott Findlay, an Associate Professor of Biology, a member of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa, and cofounder of the new national advocacy organization, Evidence for Democracy. 

Re: “Muzzling government scientists?” by Philip Cross, June 14

Philip Cross, former Chief Economic Analyst at Statistics Canada, repudiates the claim that government scientists are being muzzled. What is his evidence?

In contrast to Mr. Cross’s assertion, concerns about muzzling have been voiced by academic institutions like the Canadian Association of University Teachers, writers associations like the Canadian Science Writers Association, and scientific organizations like the Royal Society of Canada. And even if these other institutions were not involved, would the bringing of the muzzling charge by an “advocacy” organization in itself undermine the case?

Of course not — all parties in judicial undertakings are partisan by definition. What matters in court is not who brings the case, but the evidence adduced to support the case so brought.

Mon, 2013-06-03 07:13Carol Linnitt
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Harper’s Attack on Science: "No Science, No Evidence, No Truth, No Democracy"

This is a DeSmog Canada post originally commissioned for the Academic Matters: The Journal of Higher Education May edition “The War on Knowledge.”

Science—and the culture of evidence and inquiry it supports—has a long relationship with democracy. Widely available facts have long served as a check on political power. Attacks on science, and on the ability of scientists to communicate freely, are ultimately attacks on democratic governance.

It’s no secret the Harper government has a problem with science. In fact, Canada’s scientists are so frustrated with this government’s recent overhaul of scientific communications policies and cuts to research programs they took to the streets, marching on Parliament Hill last summer to decry the “Death of Evidence.” Their concerns— expressed on their protest banners—followed a precise logic: “no science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy.”

No Science”

Since 2006, the Harper government has made bold moves to control or prevent the free flow of scientific information across Canada, particularly when that information highlights the undesirable consequences of industrial development. The free flow of information is controlled in two ways: through the muzzling of scientists who might communicate scientific information, and through the elimination of research programs that might participate in the creation of scientific information or evidence.

Fri, 2013-05-10 16:21Stephen Leahy
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Public Pressure Forces Harper to Agree to Transfer Shuttered ELA Environmental Research Centre

It took a solid year of outrage from Canadian researchers, the international science community and the public to force the Harper government to finally agree to transfer the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) to a non-profit organization.

And then the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans tried to take credit for today's announced signing of a crucial Memorandum of Understanding with the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

The Harper government was being hammered on this from every conceivable angle before they finally buckled,” said Diane Orihel, PhD student at University of Alberta and founder of the Coalition to Save ELA.

The ELA is 45 year old freshwater research facility in northern Ontario considered unique in the world. It was there that Canadian scientists discovered the dangers of acid rain as well as mercury and phosphorus pollution. Regulations that protect the health of the environment in Canada many countries are based on the work done at the ELA.

Science in Canada

Prime Minister Stephen Harper wasn't kidding when he said Canada would be unrecognizable when he was done with it. 

Since its beginnings in 2006, the Harper administration has not only systematically transformed the legal framework of the country to benefit industrial interests, but has also undermined Canada's public reputation for excellence and openness in science around the world. Its actions have made international headlines.

The prestigious scientific journal, Nature, has criticized the government for its media communications protocol, describing it as a “cumbersome approval process that stalls or prevents meaningful contact with Canada's publicly funded scientists.” 

The international community has also taken notice of the country's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, designed to fight global warming at the international level, as well as Canada's obstructionist role in international climate talks in Rio, Cancun, and most recently Durban

This turn of the tide has environmental leader David Suzuki wondering if Canada is entering a new Dark Age. Internationally acclaimed climate scientist Andrew Weaver told the BBC that Canada's scientific information is “so tightly controlled that the public is left in the dark.”

When DeSmog asked Weaver what he thought of the steady erosion of Canada's environmental standing, he replied: “I would not use the word erosion…I would use the word elimination. Erosion implies slow and steady. This is fast. We're cutting down institutions that have been around for decades. And we're eliminating them overnight.”

Here is a partial list of recent funding cuts to Canadian scientific institutions and research programs:
Tue, 2013-05-07 10:24Adam Kingsmith
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The Harper Government's War on Critical Thinking

The oligarchy on Parliament Hill has spoken – the next phase of operation “The Slow and Painful Death of Freedom in Canada” is an all-out war on critical thought.

For no more is Canada a place to irreverently “commit sociology,” or disrespectfully engage in “academic pondering” over simple problems like terrorism. We’ve not the time for petty scientific inquiry regarding such trivial matters as environmental degradation or global warming. And it’s best to just ignore frivolous problems like increased inequality, abhorrent aboriginal conditions, and unflinching gender gaps.

After all, “the root cause of terrorism is terrorists.” That’s it, case closed. Just as the root cause of pollution is the environment. Unemployment - that’s employees. Drug abuse, the abusive drugs, and gun violence, well it’s all those violent guns we’ve got.

So keep calm, we’ll win the wars on drugs and terror if we continue trading rights and freedoms for safety and security. As for the rest of our hindrances – fear not, the free market will fix everything. In the mean time, we’ll continue to chip away at those cumbersome social safety nets and outsource any means of production, if you promise to continue spending money you don’t have on things you don’t really need.

After all, according to Dear Leader Harper, “we know what Canadians want.”

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