Information Commissioner to investigate muzzling of government scientists

Monday, April 1, 2013

By Laura Tribe

In a letter dated March 27, 2013, the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada announced that it would be launching an investigation into the government practices restricting scientists’ abilities to speak about their work.

The decision comes in response to a joint request by the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre and Democracy Watch, which asked the Commissioner’s office to investigate six government departments for their policies surrounding scientists speaking to the media. The departments mentioned were the Department of the Environment, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Department of Natural Resources, the National Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the Department of Natural Defence.

In addition to these six departments, the Office also added the Treasury Department to the list of those to be investigated, “because of its role in relation to the development and implementation of government policies.”

CJFE supported the original request by Democracy Watch and the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre, as an open discussion of these issues is critical for an informed public. The announcement of this investigation is welcome news.

More information:

· Democracy Watch | Information Commissioner to investigate muzzling of federal scientists after complaint and letter-writing campaign
· Office of the Information Commissioner | Letter in response to Democracy Watch and the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre’s Request (March 27, 2013)

Background:

· CJFE | Information Commissioner asked to investigate government muzzling of scientists

In the News:

· CBC | Scientist muzzling probed by information commissioner
· The Globe and Mail | Information commissioner right to investigate ‘muzzling’ of scientists
· Macleans | Information Commissioner to investigate muzzled federal scientists: report
· National Post | Information commissioner to investigate Harper government’s ‘muzzling’ of federal scientists
· Toronto Star | Muzzling of scientists subject of 'unique' probe by Canada's information watchdog