A War on Science in Canada?

By Chris Mooney | September 17, 2010 1:40 pm

See here. This story sounds strikingly like the Bush administration–only, it’s the Canadian Harper government:

“We have new media interview procedures that require pre-approval of certain types of interview requests by the minister’s office,” wrote Judy Samoil, NRCan’s western regional communications manager, in a March 24 email to colleagues.

The policy applies to “high-profile” issues such as “climate change, oilsands” and when “the reporter is with an international or national media organization (such as the CBC or the Canwest paper chain),” she wrote.

Samoil later elaborated, saying “the regional communications managers were advised of this change a couple of weeks ago.”

The documents show the new rules being so broadly applied that one scientist was not permitted to discuss a study in a major research journal without “pre-approval” from political staff in Paradis’ office.

And on it goes. The story quotes top Canadian climate scientist Andrew Weaver:

“The sad reality is that these guys in Ottawa think federal scientists work for them,” says Weaver. “They don’t, they work for the people of Canada.

“This is science funded by Canada for the public good,” he says. “It is not science funded to produce briefing notes for ministers so they can get elected in the next federal campaign.”

Our northern friends usually have saner politics than ours, I tend to think–but this is not one of those occasions.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics and Science

Comments (10)

  1. Yes, well at the end of the day politicians are more worried about their own agendas than science. Actually Chris you can add this to your list of why we never make it the “enlightenment”. (In addition to the other reasons you named on an earlier post.) Science will probably always come in second to political agendas for a long time to come.

  2. jaykay20102

    You only think we have saner politics :) Unfortunately since Harper came to power there have been some pretty scary anti-science things going on. for example, getting rid of the long-form census.

    Commentary from the Toronto Star regarding the census:
    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/census/article/839660–why-the-long-census-matters

  3. CW

    According to a recent podcast episode of Science Weekly (3-4 weeks ago, I think), one of the panelists stated that governments are very protective of some of the research/data that it funds, not because they are trying to keep information from getting to the public – but are looking to sell it.

    Could this be part of the issue?

  4. FUAG

    It’s almost like they are protecting themselves from “The Science War on Republicans.” Hey, that could be a book!

  5. Jon

    Call Dick Armey and get him to write you a book contract, FUAG.

  6. peter

    Harper crawled out of Bush’s arse and the smell still surrounds him.

    He and his gang of holy warriors are just showing their true faces, again. Fortunately they are somehow restrained by the fact that they only govern as a minority, so cannot do the full damage to democracy and our social network that GWB so nicely shredded in the US.

  7. Thomas

    Here is an amusing misunderstanding of this story that I’ve seen linked too on contrarian blogs:
    http://co2insanity.com/2010/09/13/climate-nazis-invade-canadian-science/

  8. Nullius in Verba

    Reminds me of this story.
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2010/07/10/keep-a-distance-from-the-media/

    So that one would be “a war on science” by…

  9. Chris,

    Unfortunately, this has been a bit of a trend with our current minority government. There have been several incidences of burying reports and shutting web-sites. Here’s an example from 2008:

    http://simondonner.blogspot.com/2008/07/canadian-government-hiding-climate.html

  10. GregH

    “Harper crawled out of Bush’s arse and the smell still surrounds him.”

    I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t think this is true. I think Harper is a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool Canadian Neoconservative (or Neoliberal, if you prefer). Harper, and his guru Tom Flanagan, are followers of Leo Strauss (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Strauss) and have their own agenda for the transformation of Canada.

    Here is an article that proposes an underlying agenda for Harper and his party:
    http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2010/07/29/WhyAttackCensus/

    I don’t know if I believe this entirely, but I fear that much of it is correct.

    Realistically, I think it’s dangerous to base your ideas about Harper on a comparison with GW Bush. Harper represents a home-grown Christian constituency which sees clearly the mistakes made in the US, and who are pursuing their own long-term plan to convert Canada into a Christian/Libertarian democracy. Yes there is a smell, and it comes from Harper himself.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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