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The Muzzling of Canadian Scientists is Getting Worse

2013/03/17

Last July, I wrote a post about what I believe is the role of government-funded science.  What instigated that post was a march on parliament by a group of Canadian scientists protesting against, in part, the lack of public access given to government scientists.  Say a government scientist discovers that climate change is negatively impacting the health of polar bears and a news reporter wants to write about the research.  The reporter approaches the scientist and asks for an interview.  According to the rules put in place by the federal Conservatives, the scientist would need approval from a bureaucrat in order to give that interview.

That’s how bad it was last year.

Since February 1, 2013, a new rule has been put in place that affects all scientists working in conjunction with DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) in the Central and Arctic Region.  The rule states that the scientists must consider all findings the property of DFO.  Translation: scientists must get approval from a bureaucrat before they can publish their results in a scientific journal.  Even scientists from outside of the government that are planning to work with the DFO must sign a contract agreeing with the new restrictions.

Unfortunately, it gets worse.  On February 7th, DFO scientists received an e-mail stating that they must obtain prior consent before applying for research grants!  It’s not enough to just stop the general public to hear about these studies to the press.  As Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, puts it,

The tightening of control over science must be established far earlier in the process. Stop the research from being submitted to journals. Stop the scientists from collaborating with others. Stop scientists from applying for research grants. Stop science from happening at all.

It’s simple really: this is all about oil, gas and coal.  The federal Conservative government has a goal of making Canada into an “energy superpower” through increased production from the Alberta Tar Sands and any other piece of land or water that may hold untapped reserves of fossil fuels.  And in order to reach its goal, the federal government is systematically destroying environmental regulations, and eliminating the scientific research that could make the endeavor look environmentally irresponsible.

From my perspective, we are destroying our democracy and poisoning our country in order to sell the one drug that world has to get off of as soon as possible.  Canadian politicians will argue that projects like the Alberta Tar Sands and Old Harry in the Gulf of St. Lawrence create jobs and are an important part of Canada’s economy.  To them I would say that slavery was once an important part of the American economy.  And just like we’ve come to understand that slavery is wrong, we will come to understand that digging up and burning every last bit of fossil fuel is wrong as well.

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