The Canadian War on Science: Updates to the chronology of the Conservative government’s anti-science actions

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      This post first appeared at, a partner of National Geographic.

      How bad is it? Even the New York Times editorial board has noticed what is going on with Canadian science, comparing the situation here unfavourably with the situation in the U.S. under George W. Bush.

      It began badly enough in 2008 when scientists working for Environment Canada, the federal agency, were told to refer all queries to departmental communications officers. Now the government is doing all it can to monitor and restrict the flow of scientific information, especially concerning research into climate change, fisheries and anything to do with the Alberta tar sands — source of the diluted bitumen that would flow through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Journalists find themselves unable to reach government scientists; the scientists themselves have organized public protests.

      There was trouble of this kind here in the George W. Bush years, when scientists were asked to toe the party line on climate policy and endangered species. But nothing came close to what is being done in Canada.

      Science is the gathering of hypotheses and the endless testing of them. It involves checking and double-checking, self-criticism and a willingness to overturn even fundamental assumptions if they prove to be wrong. But none of this can happen without open communication among scientists. This is more than an attack on academic freedom. It is an attempt to guarantee public ignorance.

      So, once more into the breach with a series of 52 additions to my main list. Please note that the original post is still the most complete and authoritative and that I’m using this post as a way of starkly illustrating just how many new items I was able to find (with the crowdsourced help of all of you out there) in a few short months.

      The response to my initial post has been incredibly gratifying. Please see my #altmetrics post for a slightly out of date list of all the reactions.








      And lest people despair too much, there is a growing movement to draw attention to the cuts and closures, such as the July 2012 Death of Evidence rallies and the more recent Stand Up for Science rallies that were held across the country.

      Some of the relevant organizations and movements standing up for science in Canada are:

      Finally, I would like to draw everyone’s attention to Chris Turner‘s book The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada. I am reading it right now and will review it soon. I’m sure I’ll also find some new items in the book for the next update.

      Once again, the complete list is here.

      And as usual, if there are any errors, omissions, duplications, etc. in either list, please let me know in the comments or by emailing jdupuis at yorku dot ca.




      Oct 11, 2013 at 9:03am

      The first thing you learn on Mailroom 101 is to follow your Corporate Masters Orders without question. :)

      James G

      Oct 11, 2013 at 10:54am

      Calling the shortsighted environmental policies of the ruling Conservatives a "war on science" is myopic. That is only a front in the war. Step back a bit and witness animal rights activists slowing any progress against Parkinson's disease, Greenpeace delaying stem-cell research with inane legal challenges, the Greens in Alberta cheering on Calgary for banning fluoridation of drinking water, and some candidates here beating the Tom-Tom's for raw milk. It's at worst a front in the 'war on science' then. Or, is it just the science whose conclusions some want held paramount?

      Ben Sili

      Oct 11, 2013 at 5:36pm

      Funny how the green eco agenda is called "science" despite its totalitarian treatment of scientists who dare disagree with the supposed consensus... I guess not accepting the diktat is being at war with "science". LOL


      Oct 12, 2013 at 9:38am

      This is what happens when you are a born-again Christian and trying to run the country according to the Bible's claim that the birds and the bees and all creatures great and small are for mankind to use and enjoy as they see fit.
      Ironic since Noah didn't even exist.