The Public Need The Info

Have a look at the following pair of quotes.

1. “There is an urgent need for public scrutiny of the influence of senior-level bureaucrats in the management of Canada’s natural resources.”

2. “Government control of information must end and the undermining of Canada’s public scientists must stop.”

They look like they could be from the same source, don’t they? Perhaps different drafts?

Let’s look at another pair.

1. “Scientists were also explicitly ordered then, as they are today, not to discuss ‘politically sensitive’ matters (e.g., the status of fish stocks currently under moratoria) with the public, irrespective of the scientific basis, and publication status, of the scientist’s concerns.”

2. “… key federal science based departments and agencies including Natural Resources Canada and Environment Canada, have implemented new communications policies that have resulted in an incapacity to communicate sound independent scientific information ….”

To anyone following recent news all these quotes likely seem familiar.

Let’s look at a third pair of excerpts.

1. “… the intimidation and ‘gagging’ of employees familiar with the project evaluations done by DFO with respect to the Task Force and the court case to the point that they fear for their jobs,”

2. “… was forbidden from discussing her recent salmon-genetics research with the media.”

Ah, “DFO”, “Task Force”, “court case”, “salmon-genetics” … Cohen Commission or something?

Have a look at just one more pair of quotes.

1. “… poorly served by the present institution in which fisheries science is inextricably linked to, and affected by, a political bureaucracy. It is difficult to imagine how wise policies for dealing with uncertainty can be devised in the present administrative atmosphere.”

2. “… continued disregard for evidence-based research and it is another case of the government’s “command and control” approach. Media and public access to federal scientists has become politicized ….”

These all certainly sound current don’t they? Now have a look at the sources of these quotes.

1. May 1997 Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
“is scientific inquiry incompatible with government information control?”
J A Hutchings, C Walters, R L Haedrich

2. July 28 2011 Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) news release http://www.pipsc.ca/portal/page/portal/website/news/newsreleases/news/072811

May 1997 and July 2011. Fourteen years and look how far we’ve come with regard to government interference with and disregard for publicly funded science. Recent cuts to Environment Canada will mean less scientists and less science so less need for government to suppress that science. Still not really the progress Canadians might hope for.

The PIPSC news release was a response to muzzling of DFO scientist Kristi Miller regarding her salmon research. Miller will be a witness at the Cohen Commission (Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River) on August 24th. More science not quite comfortable for the government can be expected when Alexandra Morton appears before the commission on September 7 and 8. Fortunately Morton is not on the government payroll so generally enjoys a greater measure of freedom with her scientific voice outside of the commission.

I believe that Canadians prefer scientific evidence over government controlled ‘spin’ on issues of importance, fisheries being but one example. We must demand our right to public access to publicly funded research. I urge everyone to attend these hearings, and to write, email or tweet their MLAs and MPs to send a clear message that Canadians do not accept suppression of scientific views, whether or not those views align with government policy around an issue. For those interested in the salmon issue specifically, you can also help by attending the rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery on August 30.

For more information see;
http://www.salmonaresacred.org/cohen-commission
http://www.cohencommission.ca

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