The Canadian government has a sickening recent history of persecuting whistleblowing scientists who were working hard and with integrity to protect the safety of the food supply (see here and here), then abusing the legal system to deny justice, all at taxpayer expense of course. (Their record on whistleblowers in general is also terrible.) The Canadian government’s muzzling of scientists has been prominently publicized (also see the follow-up here) at the annual meeting of the AAAS in Vancouver this past week (thanks to my friend Jim Slominski for the link).
The allegation of “muzzling” came up at a session of the AAAS meeting to discuss the impact of a media protocol introduced by the Conservative government shortly after it was elected in 2008.
The protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories.
Sources say that requests are often refused and when interviews are granted, government media relations officials can and do ask for written questions to be submitted in advance and elect to sit in on the interview.
Andrew Weaver, an environmental scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, described the protocol as “Orwellian”.
The protocol states: “Just as we have one department we should have one voice. Interviews sometimes present surprises to ministers and senior management. Media relations will work with staff on how best to deal with the call (an interview request from a journalist). This should include asking the programme expert to respond with approved lines.”
Professor Weaver said that information is so tightly controlled that the public is “left in the dark”.
“The only information they are given is that which the government wants, which will then allow a supporting of a particular agenda,” he said.
Shame on the Canadian government, where ideology is regularly trumping reality. (And the mayor and city council of our largest city, Toronto, is evidently cut from the same autocratic cloth.) For those of us who have never experienced life under the thumb of a KGB-like apparatus, there is apparently no need to move to North Korea or Iran. All we have to do is wait here for the control freaks who run our country to stealthily grind us down into a parallel prison.
ps. Video of the AAAS symposium “Unmuzzling Government Scientists: How to Reopen the Discourse” (along with some recent actions along these lines) is available here.