Issue 37, Volume 85
April 3, 2013
The Harper government has been muzzling scientists in many federal institutions, including Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Natural Resources Canada, the National Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Department of National Defence. The problem has come to the media forefront again with the passing of new federal regulations.
A complaint filed on Feb. 20 to Canada’s information commissioner stated that federal government policy forces “scientists to jump through hoops before speaking with the media,” which breaches the Access to Information Act.
A 26-page report contained 100 pages of appendices outlining numerous examples of supposed muzzling.
It’s about time that something has been done to stop the muzzling of public servants when their work appears to run afoul of governments.
Governments have platforms to guide the county. They have a responsibility to govern on the platform which was presented to the electorate.
What governments don’t have is the right to stifle debate and discussion when they fear the work of public servants could counter their own internal platforms and plans.
And it’s not just scientists.
The government decreed that federal librarians who attend classrooms, conferences or speak at public meetings are taking part in “high risk” activities which may provide a risk to Library and Archives Canada. These events will now need to be cleared by managers.
Give me a break.
To make matters worse, in an Owellian tum of events, the new code of conduct conferred upon librarians stresses the fact that federal employees have a “duty of loyalty” to the “duly elected government.”
While all public servants certainly are intimately connected to the government, to make such assertions is reminiscent of a cold, controlled and closed society.
The question truly becomes: Why would a government want to silence its scientists and librarians?
The first part of the question is quite obvious. Scientists conduct science and there is a lot of science which condemns current government programs and agendas (think Alberta tar sands and global wanning).
Silencing librarians could be effective if an administration was seeking to limit the promulgation of information, as the key role of librarians is to guard over information of all fronts and help advance society on all fronts through their work.
It’s despicable that the current government is muzzling federal employees who are paid for by you, me and every other taxpayer across the country.
The information that these scientists and librarians collect and analyze is not owned by the Harper government. It’s owned by citizens and should be accessible to all.
It’s heartening to know that a probe into this matter has been launched as all citizens should begin to take note and potentially harbour fear when the federal government begins to launch an attack on the incredibly dangerous actions of scientists and librarians.
Jon Liedtke was the Features and Opinions Editor, Associate News Editor, Advertising Manager and Deficit Consultant at the UWindsor Lance.