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The Harper Government’s Approach To Scientists: Control The Pests



Although Rick Mercer treats the current situation regarding control of scientists and their tax-payer funded research in Canada with humour, unfortunately it is no laughing matter when the government of a democracy goes to great lengths to suppress information that doesn’t line up with its agenda. In fact, it doesn’t sound like a democracy anymore.

The website Skeptical Science,whose Australian creator John Cook was given a Eureka award for the advancement of climate change knowledge by New South Wales Government, took a good look at the Harper government’s anti-science, anti-transparency stance recently:

At Skeptical Science we consider the findings of science to be an indispensable part of the foundation upon which public policy should be based. Sadly, the Harper Government evidently sees science as an obstacle to its wider political agenda.

Skeptical Science then goes on to list the reasons why the current suppression of science in Canada is no laughing matter:

  • In 2006, an Environment Canada scientist in Ottawa was blocked from speaking about his novel on climate change at the National Press Club by the Environment Ministry as discussed here.
  • In 2008, The Harper GovernmentTM abolished the National Science Advisor position, read more about it here.
  • Again in 2008, the head of the Canadian Nuclear Comission was fired by the Federal Natural Resources Minister for closing down a nuclear reactor used for medical isotopes after it failed established safety protocols. Discussed at CBC here.
  • In 2010, team of British and Canadian researchers published a paper in Nature on the outburst flood path of Lake Agassiz in the Younger Dryas 13,000 years ago. This study has relevance to the factors that influenced the sudden paleoclimate shifts observed at this time. Journalists were unable to interview one of the co-authors of the study, Scott Dallimore, an employee of Natural Resources Canada, without first getting a minister’s approval, a lengthy process requiring the scientist to submit the questions and answers to Ottawa for approval. This incident was covered by two Nature articles here and here.
  • Last year, the Canadian Government announced that hundreds of science and staff positions at Environment Canada would be eliminated; for example, see this article by Stephen Leahy in the Guardian. These cuts will severely limit Canada’s ability to monitor ozone depletion in the stratosphere and pollution in the troposphere, as recently highlighted in a recent letter to Eos by American scientists.
  • These cuts also reached deep inside Environment Canada’s different climate change working groups with Nobel winning IPCC scientists being retasked or having their jobs cut as discussed here by a student at one of these labs.
  • In addition to job cuts, the Harper GovernmentTM cut funding to the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS) after six years of adding no new federal funding, see a CFCAS statement here.
  • Over the last year an ongoing controversy has emerged where Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) glaciologists were told that due to budget cuts and changing priorities they would be forced to destroy Canada’s collection of ice cores from the Canadian Arctic as discussed in Macleans Magazine. Also discussed by Nature here.
  • The Harper GovernmentTM recently labelled those who oppose its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline as “radicals” backed by foreign money. Internal government memos related to the topic refer to pipeline opponents as “enemies of Canada”. Discussed by Reuters here
  • In the past few days, news reports have revealed that the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in Eureka, Nunavut will be closing due to lack of funds. PEARL had received three quarters of its funding from CFCAS which recently had its federal funding discontinued. Read full article on Skeptical Science.

It’s hard to know what to feel as a Canadian who values science, democratic rights and freedom of speech, as well as a stable climate, clean air and clean water. Incensed? Appalled?  Embarrassed? All of the above?  Here’s hoping that in Stephen Harper’s complete and utter disregard for democracy he will have sown the seeds of his own, and his party’s, political destruction.


Photo via the Union of Concerned Scientists, used with permission


In response to the Harper government’s recent announcement regarding the closure of the PEARL research and monitoring station in the Arctic, regular Canadians are reaching into their pockets to keep this important program going. To donate, go to the Canadian Foundation For Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, click on the donation button and in the comments write “To keep PEARL operating”.

More links:


Union of Concerned Scientists: Best Of Science Idol

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Barry Beaupre permalink
    2012/03/09 10:49 am

    Well done piece–needs to be shared far and wide. This is the kind of information which should be referenced by the regular media–yeah, dream on!

    • 2012/03/09 7:26 pm

      There have been reports of this in the msm, Barry, but I haven’t seen anybody put it together the way Skeptical Science did (which, btw, was written by 4 Canadian scientists/science students).

  2. Joanne Light permalink
    2012/03/09 5:22 pm

    Let me rhyme of Harper’s Hell,
    A place I wouldn’t choose to dwell:
    but here I am with all of you
    watching as it all comes true.

    Whose capital has no poet called
    “laureate;”cuz words are walled
    within speech waxing creepily
    while waning souls soak sleepily

    in his deadly leach of propaganda
    to whose over lord he must “pandah.”
    The large percent of us must go
    to the underclass for we’re the foe!

    While stats’ trends cease; facts fade away;
    will never see the light of day;
    no more that NPOs are able
    to keep their centres’ funding stable

    and science data we won’t know:
    of climate’s change on melting snow.
    No more will Ellesmere Island’s lab
    Keep the records; add the tab.

    For in this hell, art, science die
    knowledge flowers flake and fly.
    Eternal dictum: love’s bouquet
    will drop its wondrous world display.

    The program for First Nation’s youth,
    Wapikoni: gone. “Bye, Truth.”
    Don’t help a way for voice to fill
    the empty void; the life to spill

    in film and song, their stories roaring.
    With this project, their hearts soaring.
    Dan George’s words fall on deaf ears
    In Harper’s Hell there’re only fears.

    Don’t worry, though, there’ll be big jails
    To hold those youths when all else fails.
    But there’s nothing else, it’s all gone;
    Canada’s story now a Con.

    And placed upon Harp’s empty desk
    the frame of Laureen’s picture rests.
    She’s gone too, apart from Stephen,
    to find a heart; she needs a heaven.

    Listen closely; his mouth brings
    wooden words “con” “trolled” by strings.
    The ventriloquist on our Hill’s hell?
    Just follow the money and we’ll all burn well.

  3. 2012/03/09 7:27 pm

    Wow. Thanks Joni.

  4. Dean Chatterson permalink
    2012/03/13 10:52 pm

    Just one of the many initiative Harper is taking to remake Canada. he’s proving to be just as scary as we said he was 7 years ago. and you ain’t seen nothin yet!

  5. Maggie Sherlock permalink
    2012/03/14 6:06 pm

    I am deeply concerned about these science-suppression moves by Stephen Harper and about his lack of respect for democracy. Keep me posted. I am spreading the word.

    • 2012/03/14 9:09 pm

      Thanks for sharing your concern, Maggie, and for your commitment to spreading the word. The antiseptic light of public scrutiny is one antidote to this government’s repressive habits.

  6. Kay Davies permalink
    2012/03/16 2:50 pm

    These are serious concerns for all Canadians. There is a lack of respect for the genuine reactions of informed citizens of all political leanings, certainly including conservatives.

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