Cheadle, B. 2013. Federal Scientists Muzzled By Tories Investigated By Environmental Law Centre. Huffington Post. Retrieved March 27, 2013, from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/20/federal-scientists-muzzled-tories-canada_n_2727888.html.
Frozen out. 2012. Nature 483: 6–6.
Harper government’s reckless and undemocratic muzzling of scientists: Editorial. 2013. The Toronto Star. Retrieved March 27, 2013, from http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2013/03/18/harper_governments_reckless_and_undemocratic_muzzling_of_scientists_editorial.html.
Hutchings, J. 2013. Harper government’s muzzling of scientists a mark of shame for Canada. The Toronto Star. Retrieved March 27, 2013, from http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/03/15/harper_governments_muzzling_of_scientists_a_mark_of_shame_for_canada.html.
I’ll start this last blog entry by saying that I don’t know a whole lot about politics and I will also admit that the following entry may be a little biased. This is most likely because I am not too fond of our current federal government and have disagreed with pretty much every move they have made since they have been in office.
Since being elected in 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada have been steadily silencing federal scientists. These researchers are basically being told what they can or cannot say to the media (e.g. journalists). There have been many cases where federally funded scientists have not been able to talk about their published primary literature in public and the current government has set up a system in which journalists must report to a “media-relations” office to submit written questions or request interviews. These requests are apparently often rejected or answered in simplistic terms by a middle man and the scientists themselves may not even get to speak. Many researchers are not permitted to talk about their work without political permission and this cumbersome system keeps research from being shared.
The Canadian government has not addressed this matter and does not seem to care about complaints of the suppression of science. Judging by these muzzling tactics and other science related issues like the shutting down of the Experimental Lakes Area (an extremely influential freshwater research centre), this government seems to be totally anti-science. This would make sense as it appears that some of the main objectives of the Harper government are to create jobs and exploit and sell resources, which can be environmentally damaging in many cases and could potentially be hindered by scientific findings.
In a time where climate change and issues like sustainable fisheries are widely discussed and viewed as major concerns, it seems seriously backwards and medieval to be shutting down science as this government appears to be doing. To me, restricting scientists from sharing their findings and conclusions is just plain wrong. I believe, and I’m sure many others do too, that a main component of science is the sharing and communication of research. This silencing by the Harper government also appears to be pushing the boundaries of democracy and freedom. In fact, the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria recently called the government’s actions a threat to democracy and a breach of the federal Access to Information Act.
How can conservation biology issues be examined and dealt with when scientists are not even allowed to share their findings? Jeffrey Hutchings effectively summarized this concern in a recent Toronto Star article, “When you inhibit the communication of science, you inhibit science.”
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