This is a guest post by Gus Van Harten, professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School and author of Sold Down the Yangtze: Canada's Lopsided Investment Deal with China. This post originally...
You may know the Canadian actress for her tough-girl roles in Lost or The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. But Evangeline Lilly has a battle – besides those with orcs and island smoke monsters – to fight: the battle for Canada’s scientists.
Lilly first heard about the defunding and muzzling of Canada’s federal scientists when she was reading DeSmog Canada just over a year ago. In a spate of funding cuts, the federal government eliminated some of Canada’s most prestigious scientific institutions, to the dismay of scientists and Canadians across the country. And since the Harper government has been in power, strict communications protocols have prevented scientists from speaking with the public about their research, limiting public awareness of taxpayer-funded science.
Lilly, who now lives in the U.S., said she keeps an eye out for stories about her homeland. And it always concerns her when she stumbles across something so disheartening.
“I think it’s always a little bit scary and astounding when as a citizen of what you consider to be a free nation you discover one day for various reasons…that something awful has been going on under your nose and you didn’t know,” she told DeSmog Canada. “And that happens to me a little more often than I’m comfortable with nowadays.”
Lilly was dismayed to learn that “all over Canada right now scientists are having all their funding pulled,” she said, “especially scientists who are speaking about climate change.”
“We are not muzzling scientists.” - Peter Kent, Canada’s Environment Minister.
I shook my head reading Margaret Munro’s Weekend Vancouver Sun article on freedom of information documents that caught Canada’s Minister of the Environment lying about muzzling scientists.
Kent has repeatedly denied that the government is muzzling scientists. But according to the documents, Kent’s office clearly muzzled Environment Canada researcher David Tarasick, preventing him from speaking to a number of media outlets about an unprecedented hole that appeared in the ozone layer above the Arctic in 2011.
According to Munro, “the documents also say Kent’s office and the Privy Council Office, which reports to the prime minister, decide when and if Environment Canada scientists are allowed to brief the media about anything from wildlife to water quality.”
Why would the Minister of the Environment block public discussion of scientific work that may be important for the health and safety of Canadians and their environment?