CCJFE is extremely concerned by the Canadian government’s continued muzzling of Canada’s federal scientists and failure to support and disclose important research in the public interest. Numerous actions and government policies are actively hindering the ability of scientists to conduct and widely share their research findings with the public, which not only poses a serious threat to the ability of scientists to perform their work, but also impedes the Canadian public’s right to know.
CJFE is a member of the coalition of organizations supporting the Write2Know campaign, a call to unmuzzle Canada’s federal scientists and support research in the public interest.
The past few years in Canada have seen hundreds of research programs cancelled, thousands of scientistsfired, libraries and archives closed, and scientists prevented from speaking to the media and public about their work due to government communications policies.
Crucial scientific questions are going unanswered as a direct result of these funding cuts and restrictions on access to federal research. Research on a wide number of issues is being impacted, but the Write2Know campaign is focusing specifically on the following:
- • the impacts of oil sands on water quality, resource extraction industries on ecosystems, and marine plastics on our food chain;
- • how climate change research is shaping Canada’s forestry policy;
- • the elimination of previously compiled data and information by closing libraries and archives across the country;
- • the safety of Aboriginal communities in the Far North from the effects of concentrated contaminantsfrom development and research initiatives;
- • how Aboriginal expertise, opinions, lived realities, values, and traditional practices will be included inpublic health research; and,
- • how the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls can finally and decisively be stopped.
The muzzling of Canadian scientists has been recognized outside our national borders, and has already hurt the country’s position on the international stage. A report released in February from the Council of Canadian Academies found that Canada is falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to the digital preservation of archives and public data. In October 2014, hundreds of scientists around the world signed an open letterasking you to end the “burdensome restrictions on scientific communication and collaboration faced by Canadian government scientists.”
CJFE has been tracking the disturbing number of events that have contributed to the muzzling of scientistssince 2012 and the timeline by Scientists for the Right to Know extends back to 2007. The breadth and significance of the problem is undeniable.
When long-term data is lost, it simply cannot be recovered. The research being conducted by federal scientists with Canadian tax dollars forms a bedrock of data, information, and knowledge about the health and safety of humans and our environment. A chronological break in Canada’s collective memory of scientific, social, and cultural knowledge poses a threat to current policies and practices, as well as future research. Information is critical to ensure that citizens can engage fully in the democratic process and make informed decisions about their own and their families’ lives. Without it our fundamental right to free expression, guaranteed under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, cannot be fulfilled.
CJFE calls on the Canadian government to critically examine all of its policy decisions that affect federal science programs and institutions, and commit to holistic changes that will stop the muzzling of its federal scientists and support the research and dissemination of critical issues in the public interest.
This letter of concern was sent to The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada.
Cc: The Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology)
The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minster of the Environment
The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health
The Honourable Niki Ashton, Official Opposition Critic for Aboriginal Affairs
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Liberal Critic for Aboriginal Affairs
The Honourable Dennis Bevington, Official Opposition Critic for Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
The Honourable Ribert Chisholm, Official Opposition Critic for Fisheries and Oceans
The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Liberal Critic for Status of Women
The Honourable Mylène Freeman, Official Opposition Critic for Status of Women
The Honourable Hedy Fry, Liberal Critic for Health
The Honourable Ted Hsu, Liberal Critic for Science and Technology
The Honourable Yvonne Jones, Liberal Critic for Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Northern Development
The Honourable Dr. K. Kellie Leitch, Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women
The Honourable Megan Leslie, Official Opposition Critic for the Environment
The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Liberal Critic for Fisheries and Oceans
The Honourable Wayne Marston, Official Opposition Critic for Human Rights
The Honourable Elizabeth May, Leader, Green Party of Canada
The Honourable John McKay, Liberal Critic for the Environment
The Honourable John Rafferty, Official Opposition Critic for Federal Economic Development Initiative in Northern Ontario
The Honourable Murray Rankin, Official Opposition Critic for Health
The Honourable Geoff Regan, Liberal Critic for Natural Resources
The Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of Natural Resources
The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
The Honourable Kennedy Stewart, Official Opposition Critic for Science and Technology
The Honourable Philip Toone, Official Opposition Deputy Critic for Fisheries and Oceans (Atlantic)
The Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development