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LET CANADA’S SCIENTISTS SPEAK
Muzzling means stories about what tax dollars fund are limited or can’t be told
Access to Canada’s federal scientists has declined significantly in recent years. Members of the media need to interview scientists in federal research facilities in order to accurately report what is happening in everything from Canada’s environment to the country’s health care system. Without access, important stories are untold.
Canada’s federal scientists used to be encouraged to openly discuss their work with the media and public. That changed under the Harper government about five years ago when media policies were introduced to tightly control access to scientists. Interviews and often the questions to be asked are now vetted ahead of time, and responses given by scientists are frequently monitored. In several documented cases ministers office’s have stopped researchers from giving interviews.
Federal politicians say the approach is typical of modern communications management, while observers denounce the micromanagement as Orwellian. As the journal Nature, one of the world’s top science journals, put it the Harper government’s policy is a “Byzantine approach to the press, prioritizing message control and showing little understanding of the importance of the free flow of scientific knowledge.”
The CSWA and the Association des communicateurs scientifiques won the 14th annual Press Freedom Award in 2012 for their work in exposing how the government has silenced scientists.
The stories, reports and documents below chronicle what has been happening . . .
- Latest Tweets on the muzzling issue
- open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
- more stories
Links to other sites
Several Canadian writers’ organizations have released statements that express their concerns about the state’s secret electronic surveillance.
1) PEN CANADA
Read PEN Canada’s statement here:
Irene Ogrodnik of Global News reports:
2) THE WRITERS’ UNION OF CANADA
Read TWUC’s statement here:
In the Toronto Star, Rick Salutin comments:
David Christopher comments:
4) CANADIAN JOURNALISTS FOR FREE EXPRESSION
Laura Tribe writes:
5) BONUS LINKS
Two Canadians write about different aspects of state surveillance.
In The Huffington Post, Emma Gilchrist of DeSmog Canada writes about being spied on:
In Montreal’s Gazette, Stewart Bell describes how the police spied on suspected terrorists:
6) Union of Concerned Scientists
At Canada.com, Jason Fekete reports:
In Nature, Brian Owens reports:
In the Toronto Star, Sandro Contenta reports:
In The Tyee, Andrew Nikiforuk writes:
Andrew Nikiforuk also reports the Canadian Library Association’s stance:
At Yahoo! News Canada, Steve Mertl writes. There’s a colour cartoon too:
In Halifax, Hilary Beaumont posts a story in The Coast:
In the Nanaimo Daily News, Julie Chadwick reports:
The Globe and Mail editorializes:
The Toronto Star editorializes:
In Saskatchewan, The StarPhoenix editorializes:
In the Ottawa Citizen, George Enei writes:
In The StarPhoenix, Dustin J. McNichol responds to George Enei:
In the Ottawa Citizen, Valerie Knowles writes:
CBC Fifth Estate, episode: The Silence of the Labs
Canada denied 22 % of interview requests with scientists in 2013
Terry Project on CiTR #27: Silencing the Scientists
For scientists in a democracy, to dissent is to be reasonable, The Guardian
Silencing Scientists, New York Times article
Series of posts on science policy in Canada, organized by CSWA member Sara Boon
EC Media Policy Released to Margaret Munro Under Access to Information Act 2012
Can Scientists Speak?
Allegations continue to swirl that Canadian scientists are being muzzled by the federal government. The Agenda examines the validity of those claims.
Freshwater research centre saved, but not the research
The claim that the Conservative government deserves credit for “saving” the Experimental Lakes Area is grossly misleading.
When Science Goes Silent
Huffington Post: What the Government Is Hiding Should Make Canadians “Blush in Horror”
Huffington Post: A Cry for Science in Canada
International Business Times
Free Speech and Scientists: Which country more open Canada, US or China?
Scientists push back against government suppression, April 10, 2013 http://www.thetelegram.com/Opinion/Columns/2013-04-10/article-3217093/Scientists-push-back-against-government-suppression/1
Editorial: Probe into alleged muzzling of scientists welcome
The Gazette April 4, 2013
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/Editorial+Probe+into+alleged+muzzling+scientists+welcome/8190531/story.html#ixzz2PbSmmot8
Scientist calls DFO’s new confidentiality and publication rules ‘chilling’
a muzzled scientist responds to weaver
The President of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), Yolande Grisé, in collaboration with the RSC’s Ad Hoc Committee on Intervention in Matters of Public Importance, has published an article in the January 4th Globe and Mail and Le Devoir newspapers, regarding the relationship between government scientists and the Government of Canada.
Silence of the Labs http://www.rrj.ca/m25739/
- Mar 2, 2012, “Nature journal criticizes Canadian ‘muzzling’“, Canadian Press (via CBC News)
- Mar 1, 2012, “Prestigious science journal slams Harper government’s muzzle on federal scientists“, Toronto Star
- Mar 1, 2012, The second criticism of federal scientists muzzling in the journal Nature
- Feb 29, 2012, “PMO Pest Control” parody on CBC’s Rick Mercer Report
- Feb 22, 2012, “Government muzzles its scientists says Canadian Journalists for Free Expression“, International Freedom of Expression Exchange
- Feb 16, 2012 “Muzzling of federal scientists targeted by campaign“, CBC
- Feb 17, 2012, “Canadian government is ‘muzzling its scientists‘”, BBC
- Feb 17, 2012, “Federal scientists say they’re being muzzled“, Toronto Star
- An April 13, 2011 Canadian Press story shows that scientists at Environment Canada could not be interviewed about their research on toxins at a northern mine site.
- In April 2011, the CSWA sent an open letter to the leaders of Canada’s political parties asking how each would guarantee freer channels of communication between Canadian journalists and government scientists. We posted their responses
- 28 July 2011 – The journal Science picks up the story on the Canadian government’s rigid control over its scientists’ contact with the media
- September/ October 2011 – Muzzling of the Environment Canada ozone scientists
- Oct 2, 2011 – Environment Canada muzzled scientists who were involved in research that finds massive hole in ozone layer above Arctic (Montreal Gazette). The discovery comes as government reduces staff at monitoring network to the outrage of scientists and politicians.
- Oct 3, 2011 – Star Phenix editorial: Free info flow best for public.
- Oct 7, 2011 Bob McDonald for CBCNews: Big Hole in Ozone Layer, Bigger Hole in Government Policy
- In June 2010, the Canadian Association of Journalists published an Open Letter to Canadian Journalists. It describes the muzzling of cabinet ministers and civil servants, the “total obliteration” of the Access to Information system, and the effects of this practice. It also offers journalists recommendations: “push back by refusing to accept vague email responses to substantive questions that require an interview with a cabinet minister or a senior civil servant,” “stop running hand-out photos and video clips” and explain “how little information Ottawa has provided for a story”.
- In September 2010, a column by CSWA board member and Canwest News Service reporter Margaret Munro chronicled the frustrations of science journalists across Canada with current roadblocks to accessing government scientists in the Vancouver Sun (editorial on the issue)
- Freelancer Glen Blouin tackled this issue September 25, 2010 in the Montreal Gazette
- On September 29, 2010 a piece by Kathryn O’Hara further outlining these issues was published online in the journal Nature
- Later that day (September 29, 2010), CBC.ca science reporter Emily Chung published a piece referring to the Nature article here
- Check out this campaign related to the issue started on CBC.ca Science undermined by politics: federal union
- A group of scientists have joined forces to speak up for government researchers http://publicscience.ca/