Dear Minister of Science: Here’s What Canada Needs to Get Back on Track

Today is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first day in office and when it comes to science, his new cabinet appointees look like a step in the right direction.

On top of naming Catherine McKenna the first ever Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Trudeau also appointed a Minister of Science, Kirsty Duncan, as well as a Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains.

Duncan has a doctoral degree in geography, previously taught meterology, climatology and climate change at the University of Windsor and was a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

These appointments combined with Trudeau’s point blank response to questions about his 50 per cent female cabinet mandate (“Because it’s 2015”), his inclusion of indigenous leaders and his collaborative approach to the upcoming Paris climate talks have inspired a lot of hope in the new Prime Minister.

But with an abundance of commitments about science, electoral reform and transparency some Canadian scientists are left wondering if Trudeau will be able to live up to the promises.

Minister Duncan, we've done some of the intelligence gathering for you and here's what Canadian scientists say they hope to see from the new government.

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.

Canadian Scientists Must Speak Out Despite Consequence, Says Andrew Weaver

If people don’t speak out there will never be any change,” says the University of Victoria’s award-winning climate scientist Andrew Weaver. 

And the need for change in Canada, says Weaver, has never been more pressing.

“We have a crisis in Canada. That crisis is in terms of the development of information and the need for science to inform decision-making. We have replaced that with an ideological approach to decision-making, the selective use of whatever can be found to justify [policy decisions], and the suppression of scientific voices and science itself in terms of informing the development of that policy.”
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