muzzling

Thu, 2014-10-09 09:25Chris Rose
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Report: Federal Departments Muzzling Scientists, Engaging in Political Interference

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Media policies in most Canadian government departments do not effectively encourage open communication between federal scientists and journalists, says a report released Wednesday.

Published by Evidence for Democracy (E4D) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), the report said more than 85 per cent of the 16 departments studied were assessed a grade of C or lower in terms of openness of communication, protection against political interference, rights to free speech, and protection for whistleblowers.

The 22-page report also said that when compared to grades for U.S. departments (scored by the Union of Concerned Scientists), all but one Canadian department performed worse than the U.S. average.

Overwhelmingly, current media policies do not meet the basic requirements for supporting open communication between federal scientists and the media,” Katie Gibbs, E4D’s executive director and an author on the report, said in an accompanying media release.

These policies could prevent taxpayer-funded scientists from sharing their expertise with the public on important issues from drug safety to climate change,” Gibbs said.

Tue, 2014-09-16 14:49Carol Linnitt
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Over 400 Academics Request End to CRA Audit of Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

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A group of 421 academics are requesting the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) end its audit of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), a group that describes itself as “an independent, non-partisan research institute concerned with issues of social, economic and environmental justice.”

As the Canadian Press recently reported, an internal CRA document stated the audit was the result of the CCPA being “biased” and “one-sided.”

In a letter to revenue minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay the group states it is “perplexed at CRA’s decision to perform the audit…on the groups that [the CCPA] allegedly engages in politically partisan, biased and one-sided research activity.”

The CCPA is an internationally-recognized and respected research centre, built on a solid tradition of critical analysis,” the letter states. “Indeed, the CCPA plays a vital role by supplying much needed reflection on a number of policies, which it has always done in a fair and unbiased way, and which respects the fundamental tools of sound research.”

The group also criticizes the CRA, suggesting that by undertaking the audit, the CRA “fails to understand the nature of what academic research is all about.”

Fri, 2014-09-05 13:31Carol Linnitt
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Canada Singled Out in International Report on Endangered Science

muzzling of scientists zack embree

A push to prioritize economic gains over basic research is endangering science and academic freedom in countries around the world, according to a new report published by a leading researchers union, the French National Trade Union of Scientific Researchers (SNCS-FSU).

The group surveyed higher education and research unions in 12 countries including France, Argentina, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.

The research union found governments internationally are pushing for policies “geared towards innovation in order to spur consumption and competitiveness,” according to Patrick Monfort, secretary-general of the SNCS-FSU. “Budget cuts are often blamed for our problems,” he said, “but they are only part of the picture.”

Monfort told the prestigious journal Nature that scientists in Canada have been particularly hard hit, not only by broad funding cuts, but contentious communications protocols that prevent their freedom of expression.

Mon, 2014-07-21 11:26Carol Linnitt
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Charities Bullied Into Muting Their Messages: Researcher

gareth kirkby, canadian charities, audits

Canada’s charitable sector — the second largest charitable sector in the world, after the Netherlands — has come under threat from federal policies that hinder advocacy groups from doing their work, according to new research.

As DeSmog Canada and other outlets have reported, numerous charities — ranging from development organizations to women’s rights groups — have lost their funding from the federal government during the last several years.

Most recently, in June of 2012, the federal government announced $8 million would be devoted to investigating and auditing charities to ensure their activities comply with Canada Revenue Agency rules. (DeSmog Canada recently revealed through Access to Information legislation that, in fact, more than $13 million has been dedicated to these audits).

Several individuals and organizations have criticized the audits as politically-motivated.

So far, we haven’t heard much from the charities themselves under audit, because, with resources already stretched thin and sometimes multiple federal auditors scrutinizing their work, speaking out has been seen as too much of a risk.

But what charities haven’t been able to say for themselves is now outlined in a new analysis by former journalist and graduate student Gareth Kirkby. His research on the ‘chill effect’ that resulted from the ongoing audits was brought together in his thesis (attached below), recently submitted to faculty in the public communications department at Royal Roads University.

Fri, 2014-06-06 09:38Mike De Souza
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Top 10 Quotes from Canada's Muzzled Scientists

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This article is part of DeSmog Canada's ongoing series “Science on the Chopping Block.”

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a strong case for parents to accept scientific evidence about the effectiveness of vaccines.

We do have scientists and medical professionals who do great work and verify this and I just think its a tragedy when people start to go off on their own theories and not listen to the scientific evidence,” he told the CBC in an exclusive interview.

Don’t indulge your theories, think of your children and listen to the experts.”

Within his own government, scientists and professionals who do research and gather evidence, are urging the prime minister to take a second look at his own theories.

Mon, 2014-06-02 06:09Mike De Souza
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Environment Minister Calls Muzzling Allegations "Absolutely Ridiculous" in Parliament

muzzling of scientists, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq

This post originally appeared on MikeDeSouza.com and is republished here with permission.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is describing fresh allegations of muzzling as “absolutely ridiculous.”

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Canadian Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq rejected criticism from opposition New Democratic Party MP Megan Leslie who said the government “will stop at nothing to hide the consequences of climate change.”

Leslie raised the issue in the Canadian House of Commons following comments from Environment Canada explaining that its meteorologists were not supposed to talk about climate change in media interviews.

Climate change is real,” said Leslie, the NDP’s environment critic and deputy leader. “While media cannot contact most government scientists, it does have 24-hour-a-day access to meteorologists. Yet draconian government rules and fear of losing their jobs puts a gag on these meteorologists. They are avoiding talking about the crucial and scientific connection between weather patterns and climate change.”

Some recently-released quotes from a union survey included comments from a meteorologist who expressed concerns about publicly speaking about climate change and described it as a “career-limiting move.”

Thu, 2013-12-12 12:53Carol Linnitt
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Environment Canada Letter to Federal Scientists Acknowledges 22 per cent of Interviews Denied in 2013

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An open letter to Environment Canada staff from Deputy Minister Bob Hamilton and Associate Deputy Minister Andrea Lyon says science done at the department has become an “issue…receiv[ing] attention recently,” prompting the letter to provide official “perspective” on the matter.

Throughout 2013 22 per cent of media requests for interviews with scientists were denied while requests in the past five months have increased by 50 per cent, the letter states. In total Environment Canada received just 316 media requests in 2013, of which 246 (78 per cent) were approved.

Climate scientist at the University of Victoria and Green party MLA Andrew Weaver says the fact that Environment Canada is giving such a small amount of interviews is “shameful.”

If a federal organization, comprising thousands of scientists across the country is giving 246 media interview in a year, that’s not too dissimilar to what I was doing as an individual faculty member at the University of Victoria,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. That’s way down from what it used to be.”

Wed, 2013-10-23 11:32Tim McSorley
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The Big Chill: "Scientists Can't Do the Job They Were Hired to Do"

The Big Chill report highlights the muzzling of scientists in Canada

A new survey of federal researchers and scientists reveals the startling degree to which they are limited in their ability to share their research findings with the public, including in cases of the public good, and for the first time gives a clear view of the degree to which scientists feel political interference determines how their work presented.

The study, called The Big Chill, reveals that 86 percent feel they would be reprimanded if they spoke out to the media in a situation where a decision by their department goes against what their research finds to be in the public interest.  A full 90 percent also said they are simply not allowed to freely speak to the media about their work.

In more concrete terms, 37 percent say that, within the last five years, they have been directly stopped from sharing their expertise in response to a question from the media or the public, and nearly one quarter have been forced by government officials to modify conclusions of their research for non-scientific reasons.

Thu, 2013-09-26 09:58Guest
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In the Soviet Era as in Canada: Science Suffers Under Authoritarian Rule

Stand up for science rally by Zack Embree

This is a guest post by Richard Kool, Associate Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University in Victoria.

Back in the 1930s, the Soviet ruler Josef Stalin had a problem with genetics; as a result, geneticists were branded traitors (“Trotskyite agents of international fascism”), stripped of their positions at government laboratories and universities, sent to prison, or even executed. Soviet biological sciences were hindered for more than a generation. The story of the Soviet geneticists has a distant resonance to the story of what is happening to government-sponsored environmental science in Canada today.

Fri, 2013-09-13 11:32Tim McSorley
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'Stand Up for Science' Rallies to Gather Lab Nerds, Defenders of Democracy

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Last year, Canadian scientists and their supporters mourned the “Death of Evidence” in Ottawa. This year, though, they are being asked to stand up and be heard.

On Monday, “Stand Up for Science” rallies will be held in 14 cities across Canada, calling on the federal government to better support science done in the public interest.

Many of the problems that were impetus of the Death of Evidence rally last year are still there, and if anything, things have continued to get worse,” said Dr. Katie Gibbs, one of the organizers of both Monday's rally and last year's Death of Evidence protest, in an interview with DeSmog. “This rally, we're focusing more on making suggestions for how the government could start to restore public science.”

Those suggestions include: supporting the open communication of publicly funded science to the public; using the best available science and evidence to make the best decisions; and funding scientific research from basic science through to applied.

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