Environment Canada's Muzzle Mandate Available for Viewing

Mon, 2008-02-25 17:09Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Environment Canada's Muzzle Mandate Available for Viewing

Further to an earlier post, we now have a copy (attached) of the new Media Relations Protocol with which Environment Canada is muzzling its scientists.

The protocol says Environment Canada's staff members are no longer allowed to speak to the media without first calling consulting with their direct supervisor and phoning Media Relations at Environment Canada's national headquarters. This, the protocol says, will ensure that EC experts “respond with approved lines,” thereby saving Minister John Baird from surprise or embarrassment.

I think that's a lot to hope. A minister who refuses to read anything about climate science is destined to continue embarrassing himself. And every new scientific revelation he reads in the newspaper must come as a surprise, whether it came from an Environment Canada scientist or not.

But the funniest part of the new muzzling mandate is this, under the “purpose” section:

“To improve service to media by coordinating responses and ensuring that appropriate spokespeople are speaking to issues.”

So before this Nov. 14, 2007 document was written, a reporter could phone an Environment Canada expert, ask a question and get an answer - in the same conversation and the same business day. Now, under this new-and-improved policy, the reporter phones the expert, who immediately hangs up and goes searching for his or her boss. Both then forward the reporter's question - no matter how inane - to Media Relations in Ottawa, which then designs “quick, accurate and … consistent” messages that can then be broadcast to reporters all across the country.

The federal Conservatives, famous for their hostility to big government, are clearly immune to irony. This effort to “improve service,” reminds me of the old joke about the scariest words ever uttered in the ear of an entrepreneur: “We're from the government and we're here to help.”

AttachmentSize
media relations protocol.pdf4.39 MB

Comments

That sounds very much like what was done to James Hansen at GISS and others in the US, as described in the book Censoring Science by Mark Bowen.

I wonder if Baird and bunch copied the US terminology? I’m sure Harper has recycled at least one of Bush’s speeches. And I hear that 80% of Harper’s advisors are Americans; I don’t know if that’s true, but it is believable.

Edited to add: see pages 41-42 of Censoring Science; these were notes made by employees because the turkeys giving the orders avoided putting anything in writing and would not let one employee have a witness for one phone call. Sleazy politics.

One main effect was to slow down and avoid interviews, because if a scientist had to wait a week or more for permission to talk to the media about a specific piece of news, the media may have moved on to a different story. So the effect was censorship.

The US turkeys were also concerned about being surprised by media attention to some story, and about controlling science information being posted on websites. Baird doesn’t seem to be concerned about websites, but then I think Envi Canada’s website may be already controlled by the Conservatives who have uglified all the Canadian government websites, and who added a link to the last Throne speech on the Envi Canada page. Will they do that again? I bet yes.

Other Departments have muzzled scientists while allowing those who push the pseudo-science agenda get to say what they want.

A certain Shane Morris is involved in an international row over Genetically Modified Organisms. Michael Meacher, a past UK environment minister, has raised questions in the British parliament about the behaviour of Shane Morris. Morris is best known for his fraudulent paper on GM and wormy corn (which actually won an award even though many scientists have asked for the award to be withdrawn).

Morris has also been lobbying the opposition party in Ireland against banning GMO’s. Morris is an employee of Agriculture Canada.

Here is a quote from Meacher’s letter to the Canadian High Commissioner in London:

“A colleague of Powell and Morris at Guelph, Dr. E. Ann Clark, has even referred to what was going on there as ‘not far removed from the proclamations of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth’. Given this, some might find it surprising if the Canadian Government failed to recognise who they were offering employment to.

You mention that Mr. Morris is not an officially designated spokesman for either Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada or the Government of Canada, and that his views do not represent the views of the Government of Canada, but does the Government of Canada always grant such leeway to its employees to lobby for whatever causes they wish regardless of the political and other repercussions? As you will be aware, others in the Canadian bureaucracy are alleged to have got into considerable trouble for expressing their views. In the case of Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon and Gerard Lambert, the Canadian Government is accused by some of having gagged and eventually sacked them because of their public statements. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that perception, it does make it surprising if a public servant embarked on such a vigorous and controversial public campaign as that of Mr. Morris without the reassurance that his superiors were at ease with his actions. Or to put it another way, given that Canada is a major GM crop exporting nation, would a Canadian government employee have dared promote scepticism about GMOs as aggressively as Mr. Morris has sought to undermine and attack those opposing them?

Mr. Morris’s behaviour also raises interesting questions of sovereignty. While I understand that Mr. Morris is still an Irish citizen, it is, I would have thought, unusual to have an official of the Canadian Government apparently briefing the main opposition Party in Ireland on how to create difficulties for Irish Ministers over Government policy. This is particularly the case when their policy of seeking to create a GM-free island of Ireland clearly runs directly counter to Canada’s economic interests and the mandate of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada”.

The complete letter can be found at:

http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=8709

I seems as if the muzzling is only for people who are honest scientists who want to discuss the truth. If you want to spread lies and distortions which supports the government agenda then go ahead we will back you up.

This is just deplorable.

Ian Forrester

The attachment here says the protocol was based on consultation with Agrifood and Agriculture Canada.

Has the mainstream media reported on Morris?

So much for those denialist “mavericks” who, like Galileo, are being persecuted in invisible ways by the Worldwide Satanic Conspiracy of the Scientific Establishment. Boo hoo.

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Frank Bi, http://globaldumbing.tk

This policy of strangling communication from government scientists to the public and the media is not new. This is just the latest, most extreme action in a long trend towards stifling independent advice that might go directly to the public instead of being laundered through political channels first. This policy extends back to at LEAST late 1999 or 2000 in areas I am familiar with. Through the press, we have all also heard of many fairly horrendous examples of this kind of thing from Health Canada, where scientists basically blew the whistle on apparently politically-motivated issues.

Even way back in the very early 90’s, the decimation of the Atlantic Cod was hardly a secret within research science circles but communication with the public was tightly controlled.

This is not exactly a landmark worsening of the situation, more like another degree rise in a situation that was already really bad.

I don’t like defending the Conservative government but we should avoid treating this change as an opportunity for “two minutes hate”. It makes us look like we care more about politics than reality. Instead, I am lamenting the fact that the Conservatives, who supposedly believe in things like less regulation and more freedom, have instead done what their neocon counterparts in the US have always done: reduce both to the detriment of the public interest. Not only did they miss an opportunity to do something right - not that surprising, given their contempt for science - they made a bad situation worse through gross hypocrisy.

Typical.

-JTK

It’s more serious; it’s part of the Conservative war on science, but also part of their war on the public service. Look at how they fired Linda Keen and appointed someone who would not block the selling of AECL. They have been transforming the public service across the board, and the feeble Liberals have been letting them do it. It’s all part of reducing our regulations and standards to the US level and pushing the SPP. http://tinyurl.com/2oaeky

Let’s not imagine that this is anything new or confined to the scientific departments. I worked for a number of years for Parks Canada, and it was clearly understood that no one could speak to the press or make public pronouncements that might be construed as an official Parks position. I am sure restrictions apply in every department, and to a point it makes sense. As for transforming the public service, anyone who has worked for the government will tell you that is an ongoing process, and it always has been through government after government, Liberal & Conservative alike.

I am not defending what is going on right now – far from it – merely pointing out that this sort of thing is systemic and very difficult to overcome. That is why there are whistle-blowers.

Fern Mackenzie

Like Linda Keen, who has been replaced? Look at the whole transformation Canada is undergoing. We used to be proud of our peacekeepers, now the Conservatives are making us warmongers and the Liberals are just as bad. Harper is giving us away to the Americans piece by piece, one little secret agreement after another. It’s not business as usual.

I don’t mean to suggest it’s “business as usual,” more like a fire sale of our foreign policy to the United States! The trouble is we’ve been sliding into this kind of thing for years, and now that it really matters, we’re stuck with a system that makes it easy for them.

Harper and his Parcel of Rogues are a national disgrace. They need to step outside of the American bubble and look at Canada they way the rest of the world sees us, with a reputation for diplomacy and “sobre second thought.” This is a time for statesmanship, and there are no statesmen left.

Fern Mackenzie

You’re right; we don’t seem to have any good leaders.

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity…”

Can anyone actually demonstrate a scientist who has been “muzzled”?

Can an RCMP officer speak out about anything? No.

Can a doctor speak out about anything? No.

Can a teacher speak out about anything? No.

It is interesting that the government has brought this policy in specifically for employees of Environment Canada. Considering no other employees of any other department are allowed to freely speak on any matter, is there something different about Environmnet Canada scientists?

Are some scientists attempting to improperly use their taxpayer paid position to advocate beyond the norms of science and beyond the limitis of the job these scientists were hired to do? It is a worthwhile question to ask.

Paul S/G once again is offering opinions based on a complete lack of knowledge.

He said: “Are some scientists attempting to improperly use their taxpayer paid position to advocate beyond the norms of science and beyond the limitis (sic) of the job these scientists were hired to do? It is a worthwhile question to ask.”

That is not what is being discussed. What is being discussed is scientists who are prevented from telling the taxpayers, who have actually paid for the science and research, what their dollars have uncovered, especially when it embarrasses the government.

If I, as tax payer, have paid for research then I should be able to find out what my dollars have discovered. Only people who are not rational would think otherwise.

Ian Forrester

Scientists do not speak for the government and certainly are not hired to embarrass the government. And like other workers, must obtain permission before speaking publicly on matters relating to their job. That is normal policy everywhere and workers for Environment Canada should not be given special treatment.

Paul S:

“Scientists […] certainly are not hired to embarrass the government.”

Wrong, dude. Scientists aren’t hired to _not_ embarrass the government. Scientists aren’t hired to make John Baird look good.

Are you suggesting that the concept of an “official government position” is somehow part of the scientific method? Or that scientists should only be allowed to arrive at findings which they’re “hired” to arrive at?

And who “hires” them exactly? Whose money do they get paid out of? John Baird’s? Or the taxpayers’?

- - -

And what happened to all the denialists crying “Galileo! Galileo! Galileo!”, I wonder? Where are they now?

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Frank Bi, http://globaldumbing.tk

You are confused Frank. The issue is about how employees, some being scientists, relate with the media.

Please explain to me how talking with the media and/or appearing on TV is part of the scientific method.

“Please explain to me how talking with the media and/or appearing on TV is part of the scientific method.”

It’s called `sharing data and results’.

Why should scientists limit themselves to publishing in scientific journals, while cranks and liars are allowed spew whatever garbage they want to anybody they wish? What’s the idea here exactly? You’re allowed to speak to the media as long as you’re not speaking science?

And I still wonder what happened to all the Galileo-screamers…

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Frank Bi, http://globaldumbing.tk

Funny that Paul S pretends to be a libertarian when it comes to cutting emissions, but his authoritarian beliefs come out now. So you prefer censorship to free speech, Paul S?

As for an Environment Canada scientist who has been muzzled in the past, see here: http://tinyurl.com/ypyhed

More: http://www.sqwalk.com/blog2006/000753.html

As for the ones being muzzled now, of course we aren’t hearing from them. But what will happen is more leaks despite the Conservative jackboots:

And then there was Jeff Monaghan, as described by Greg Weston:

In the latest chapter of Stevie in Wonderland, the Conservative promise of open and accountable government is fulfilled by RCMP goons slapping handcuffs on a young federal temp and hauling him off in front of his co-workers, all over a leaked piece of Tory propaganda.

If nothing else, the incident befitting any friendly police state should certainly help Stephen Harper convince voters that the Conservatives have no hidden agenda…

…But an RCMP raid, handcuffs, and the threat of prison time are, as Monghan said, “without precedent in their disproportionality; they are vengeful; and they are an extension of a government-wide communications strategy pinned on secrecy, intimidation and centralization.” http://tinyurl.com/2tukqs

VJ, you do not understand “conditions of employment”.
Mark Tushingham was not “muzzled”. He was attempting to inappropriately use his employment at Environment Canada to promote his own book.

And Jeff Monaghan? What about him? No one elected him. He took his job of his own free will. He’s not a whistleblower. He’s a boring anarchist desperately seeking attention.

Using a cushy government job to promote your own financial or other interests is not free speech, it is an abuse of conditions of employment.

Paul, do you even know what it is to be employed?

Why didn’t stupid incompetent Ambrose simply tell Tushingham to make it clear that he was speaking for himself? Do you really think the Minister of the Environment has the right to exert mind control?

About Monaghan, do you not think the police response was excessive to the point of fascism? No, let me guess, you probably wish he had been tasered to death, like other innocent people.

Ian is right, you are pathetic.

Do you understand the rights of employment and obligations of employment VJ?

Do you have the freedom to chat to the press anytime you want on your job?

I didn’t think so.

VJ, do you see “fascism” on a regular basis? On a daily basis? Often before lunchtime? Or do you just trot out the “fascism” argument whenever you are losing an argument? (Like about now :P )

If I was a scientist who was asked to speak about science, I damned well would assume that I had the freedom to speak my mind. Why are you supporting censorship of science, Paul S.?

Scientists share data by publishing it and speaking/sharing it at conferences.

Yakking to reporters whenever a government employee wants without any employer oversight is definintely not part of the “scientific method”.

You’ve totally failed to answer my questions, Paul S:

Why should scientists limit themselves to publishing in scientific journals, while cranks and liars are allowed spew whatever garbage they want to anybody they wish? What’s the idea here exactly? You’re allowed to speak to the media as long as you’re not speaking science?

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Frank Bi, http://globaldumbing.tk

What is your point Frank? What group of employees anywhere gets to speak to the media anytime they want? None do. Rules for scientists interacting with the media must not be draconian, but it is more then understandable that some rules are in place.

Scientists, as citizens, can speak as freely as they want on their own free time, but it is a different matter when they are at work.

“What group of employees anywhere gets to speak to the media anytime they want?”

Certainly Shane “wormy corn” Morris does, but I don’t see you getting all flustered over his lack of protocol, do I?

“Rules for scientists interacting with the media must not be draconian, but it is more then understandable that some rules are in place.”

And these “rules” are based on which libertarian principles of yours exactly? Freedom of speech? Small government? Transparency?

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Frank Bi, http://globaldumbing.tk

Scientists are hired (by all sorts of organizations) to gain an understanding of how certain factors interact in our everyday world. Thus, for example, they investigate how new chemicals and/or medicines affect the human body. You are suggesting that if they find that these chemicals and/or medicines have a harmful effect rather than a beneficial effect the government has the right to muzzle them and prevent the general public from access to this knowledge?

That is being criminally irresponsible and any one found guilty of some thing like that should be admonished and punished publicly (after all it was public money that was spent).

Corporations have been found guilty of hiding publicly damaging information and have been given large fines for doing so. Shouldn’t governments be held to the same standards?

It is interesting to note that the muzzling and censorship is only used to defend one of the government’s big business friends and accomplices.

Once again you just show everyone how foolish and ill-informed you are. Plus you have no feelings towards your fellow humans, let them suffer as long as your stock portfolio does not take a beating. There has got to be a medical name for someone like you.

Ian Forrester

You’re just making stuff up Ian. The govt policy has zilch to with research. It has to do with scientists yakking with the media or appearing on TV without first getting approval from their bosses. Yakking on TV or the radio is not part of Environmnet Canada employees job descriptions.

One Environment Canada employee wanted to use his job to promote his own book for his own financial gain. Stuff like that isn’t right.

Paul S/G here is a quote from a letter signed by a number of prominent US scientists who are disgusted by the way their government is treating science and scientists (the same applies in Canada).

“Therefore, government scientists should, without fear of reprisal or retaliation, have the freedom:

* to conduct their work without political or private-sector interference;
* to candidly communicate their findings to Congress, the public, and their scientific peers;
* to publish their work and to participate fully in the scientific community;
* to disclose misrepresentation, censorship, and other abuses of science; and
* to have their technical work evaluated by scientific peers.

We call on Congress and the executive branch to codify these freedoms, to establish stronger means for gathering scientific advice, and to take concrete steps to enhance transparency, so as to create conditions conducive to a thriving scientific enterprise that will serve our democracy with integrity and bring the full fruits of science to all Americans and to the world”.

The full letter can be found at:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/2tsedh

Now what part of that do you not understand? Why do you hate science and scientists so much? You are pathetic.

Ian Forrester

I agree with all those points. The media policy is to limit abuses by scientists who speak to the media for their own gain or who are speaking outside their area of expertise. Why would you have a problem with that?

Reread all the posts you have made on this subject and you will see that you want scientists completely muzzled. I bet you would like to see them stopped from publishing in the scientific literature if you could. After all, that is where all your lies are exposed.

Did I ever mention that you are pathetic?

Ian Forrester

Did I ever mention that you are pathetic?

Yup. Pretty sure you did.

… you will see that you want scientists completely muzzled. I bet you would like to see them stopped from publishing in the scientific literature if you could. After all, that is where all your lies are exposed.

How did you figure out I am anti-scietist Ian? Who told you? I think a special form of punishment should await scientists who don’t follow my draconian rules, don’t you?

Did I ever mention that you are pathetic?

You have. But it never hurts to repeat it again.

“You are suggesting that if they find that these chemicals and/or medicines have a harmful effect rather than a beneficial effect the government has the right to muzzle them and prevent the general public from access to this knowledge?”

As we have seen recently with anti-depressant drugs, that’s how it works with Big Pharma. Probably the same with other corporations. It looks like Stevie is re-creating government as a corporation. The public interest doesn’t play a role in this model.

They gladly lap up any misinformation, lies and distortion of the truth that people like McKitrick, Patterson et al. spout out to every news outlet that will listen but want the scientific findings of honest scientists to be withheld unless it supports the government policy.

People like Paul S/G are pathetic.

Ian Forrester

Yes, yes Ian. We heard you the first time. Paul S/G is pathetic. No need to repeat yourself guy.

Scientists do not set government policy and are not to speak on policy without approval from their bosses. That is standard for all government employees. Workers at Enviro Canada should not be treated differently.

See my above post, by the way you are pathetic and ignorant of science too.

Ian Forrester

“We are not talking policy we are talking science”

Well said. And policy is set based on science, or at least it should be. There’s no excuse for putting some preconceived “policy” before science, especially when the “policy” is based on ideology and lies from Big Oil.

Nice to see that our libertarian brethren are now such staunch supporters of jackboot “government oversight” when it benefits oil companies.

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Frank Bi, http://globaldumbing.tk

I consider myself to be more libertarian than I consider Paul S to be. I wish people would stop polarizing this issue further by identifying people with opposing opinions or even trolls as (insert political ideology you don’t like) and then calling them stupid or blind or hypocritical.

In Paul S’s case, he puts on his libertarian hat when it’s convenient and his authoritarian hat when that’s convenient.

And you VJ, just wear your silly hat all the time. ;)