This post first appeared at ScienceBlogs.com, 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 Please see my #altmetrics post for a slightly out of date list of all the reactions.
- May 2006. Environmental Groups Call on Ambrose to Resign as Chair of International Kyoto Negotiations
- Oct 2006. Circumpolar ambassador job axed
- Jun 2008. It’s the Beginning of the End for Federal Science: Expert Panel on Lab Transfers/divestment (and here)
- Mar 2009. Navigable Waters Protection Act to remove objective definition of navigable and replace it with unaccountable Ministerial discretion (and here)
- Mar 2010. Interview approval rules introduced in at Environment Canada 2007 have lead to substantially reduced requests, especially about climate change coverage.
- May 2011. National Science Agency Axes Food Research including nine experimental farms such as the one in Frelighsburg, Quebec
- Jun 2011. 28 term scientists laid off at Environment Canada in Downsview
- Aug 2011. DFO scientist Kristi Miller says that the Privy Council prevented her from talking to the media about her research into the 2009 sockeye salmon collapse in B.C.
- Sep 2011. Arctic ozone monitoring & research unit & databases shut down as well as 40 year archive of ice cores
- Oct 2011. Scientist David Tarasick speaks out after finding ‘record’ ozone hole over Canadian Arctic
- Feb 2012. Cuts to the ozone monitoring program are affecting ability to monitor air quality and ozone depletion, Canada is jeopardizing the scientific community’s ability to monitor for holes in the ozone, especially over the Arctic
- May 2012. NSERC cuts to Canadian Neutron Beam Centre
- May 2012. List of cuts to NSERC MRS program
- May 2012. Limiting fish protection to “serious harm” is a serious problem, benefits oil & gas industry
- Jun 2012. When asked if he believes in evolution, Minister of Science and Technology refuses to answer question; suggests MP who asked the question has brain damage and here
- Nov 2012. Environment Canada scientists Derek Muir and Jane Kirk discouraged from commenting on oilsands contaminant study
- Jan 2013. Leona Aglukkaq, MP for Nunavut and Minister for the Arctic Council, prioritizes resource development in her vision for the North’s potential rather than issues such as food security, community health or engaging youth. (and here)
- Mar 2013. ELA research programs being prematurely wound down
- Apr 2013. Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear remarks that “no government in the history of this country has supported science as much as this government has.”
- Apr 2013. Kenora MP Greg Rickford hides from constituents rather than talk about ELA closure
- May 2013. Canadian Government PR campaign in US targets Keystone XL, including newspaper ads, websites and visit to NY
- May 2013. The federal government removed some oilsands projects from a list of those requiring environmental screenings, after being told in an internal memorandum that this form of industrial development could disturb water sources and harm fish habitat (and here)
- May 2013. Montreal’s Biosphere museum’s future in doubt
- May 2013. NRC morale is very low
- Jun 2013. Environment Canada convened a ‘secret’ meeting on climate dangers in 2012 but Canadian spy agency, top security officials invited but didn’t attend
- Jun 2013. Genome Canada to stress practical results
- Jun 2013. The federal government employs nearly 4,000 communications staff in the public service, an increase of 15.3 per cent since the Conservatives came to power in 2006
- Jun 2013. Centre of the Universe education centre in Saanich closing by summer’s end in bid to pare costs
- Jun 2013. Northern cod threatened by new fisheries rules: A Department of Fisheries and Oceans plan to increase northern cod quotas could devastate the species.
- Jun 2013. Environment Minister Peter Kent fields questions from Conservative colleagues about climate change. He defends the science yet the government does little about it. This gives weight to idea that they are more beholden to industry than science they appear to agree with.
- Jul 2013. Federal government reducing science and tech spending: Science and technology investment down steadily since 2009-10, Statscan says
- Jul 2013. Libraries consolidated (ie. trashed) at Department of Fisheries & Oceans, making it harder to find obscure information
- Jul 2013. Greg Rickford, new Minister of State for Science & Technology, has the ELA in his riding and toed the government line on its fate (and more)
- Jul 2013. Cabinet shuffle continues tradition of poor science knowledge and lack of clout in science-related departments (and here)
- Jul 2013. Minister of State Greg Rickford will also focus on the economy in his new role: “our science and technology has to focus on job creation, economic growth and developing our prosperity”
- Jul 2013. The government included communications strategists in closed-door discussions that led to an estimated $60 million in cuts at Environment Canada in the 2012 federal budget
- Jul 2013. Government maintains an enemies list (and here)
- Aug 2013. Stats Can’s cancelled University and College Academic Staff System (UCASS) report no longer provides the policy community in government or universities innovation data
- Aug 2013. Experimental Lakes Area process for handover to private operator, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, begins with final handover in 2014
- Aug 2013. Scientist miffed Tory MP Joyce Bateman takes credit for saving ELA
- Aug 2013. Beaver Lake Cree case reveals flaws in environmental review process
- Aug 2013. Government touted a special funding program for environmental community projects that is seeing its budget reduced, mainly to supposedly eliminate administrative costs.
- Aug 2013. Canada’s Emissions Trends Report 2013, usually out in August, has been delayed and is still not released likely due to Keystone XL context
- Aug 2013. Government supports putting a price on carbon emissions as part of a global climate change strategy yet still harshly criticizes opposition for supporting similar things when it’s called a carbon tax
- Aug 2013. Government says some of Canada’s best known environmental groups are doing “significant” policy analysis and research even though it has described them as radical foreign-funded groups trying to wreck the Canadian economy
- Sept 2013. Canadian cuts to scientific research spending are almost as bad as in the US under sequestration
- Sept 2013. PM Harper cuts off questions about muzzling scientists while in New York
- Sept 2013. Is Health Canada bringing measles back by approving ineffective homeopathic remedies?
- Sept 2013. Greg Rickford, Minister of State for Science & Technology, thinks universities vet researchers’ work same way his government does
- Oct 2013. Dramatic drop in NRC publications since Conservatives took power.
- Oct 2013. “I was in Oslo, just recently at the climate ch- ah climate conference, ah environment ministers conference, sorry” — Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq (from here)
- Oct 2013. Stephen Harper’s environment minister casts doubt on climate change
- Oct 2013. Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq turns IPCC report into an opportunity for partisan attacks rather than substantive discussion and action
- Oct 2013. Despite the abundant evidence, Health Minister Rona Ambrose said heroin-assisted treatment for addicts isn’t a safe and effective option
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:
- Evidence for Democracy
- Canadian Association of University Teachers’ Get Science Right
- Science Uncensored
- Scientists for the Right to Know
- Canadian Science Writers’ Association Let Canada’s Scientists Speak
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.