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Censorship Canada Government Science

Canadian Government Muzzling Scientists 352

Posted by Soulskill
from the implausibly-impolite dept.
IllogicalStudent writes with this excerpt from The Vancouver Sun: "The Harper government has tightened the muzzle on federal scientists, going so far as to control when and what they can say about floods at the end of the last ice age. Natural Resources Canada scientists were told this spring they need 'pre-approval' from Minister Christian Paradis' office to speak with journalists. Their 'media lines' also need ministerial approval, say documents obtained by Postmedia News through access-to-information legislation. The documents say the 'new' rules went into force in March and reveal how they apply not only to contentious issues, including the oilsands, but benign subjects such as floods that occurred 13,000 years ago. They also give a glimpse of how Canadians are being cut off from scientists whose work is financed by taxpayers, critics say, and is often of significant public interest — be it about fish stocks, genetically modified crops or mercury pollution in the Athabasca River."
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Canadian Government Muzzling Scientists

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:55PM (#33564122)
  • sound like more mass covering laws that do good but have lots of dumb / real old stuff that just fails under them.

    Sound like copyright with lot's old abandonware failing under it as well.

    • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:06PM (#33564280)
      How do they do "good"?

      When Government starts restricting information it means they are hiding something.

      My only guess is that some of the Canadian Federal scientists have discovered things about climate and the oil sands that the Canadian Government is terrified of releasing. It's obviously a conspiracy among the Canadian big shots.

      The Canadian people should demand all of their resignations and get a new PM in there pronto before what's ever going on the we don't know about happens and destroys Canada and possibly the World!

      • can they use this to by pass candian's EPA type office.

        So you can fast build stuff with out needing to wait for ever for EPA type stuff.

      • by oldspewey (1303305) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:18PM (#33564434)

        The core of the problem is that the conservative party currently in government is insanely partisan. Their entire MO is about "message management," with actual governing coming in a distant second or third. So of course they are going to try to muzzle scientists, and the actual research they are muzzling doesn't even need to make sense - it's done more as a Pavlovian reflex without taking the time to analyze whether the information is even sensitive or not.

        The hypocrisy of it all is astounding considering this same party campaigned on the promise of "transparency and accountability" during the 2006 election.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The answer is actually almost more simple than that.

        I'm Canadian by the way and I'm really ashamed and pissed off by my government...

        First of all, the Conservative Party of Canada is much more like the former Reform Party than the Conservative Party of the old days. There is a very strong base of religious nuts and redneck in the party who would do anything to deny actual scientific fact about too many things. Be it of religious reasons when it comes certain topics like geology/archeology/astronomy etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:04PM (#33564236)

    Canadians voted for Harper and he is simply giving them what they asked for. Everybody knows scientists just take money from the government by ginning up fear and give us nothing tangible in return. It's time somebody stood up to them.

  • by kawabago (551139) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:06PM (#33564262)
    They criticize the Chinese about freedom of the press and then do everything they can to prevent truth escaping into the wild in Canada. Unfortunately by trying to hide the truth they highlight that this is good area to look for whatever they are trying to hide. Which highlights another Conservative trait, they aren't very bright.
    • by mevets (322601) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:16PM (#33564422)

      but they make up for it in viciousness.

      "Slower traffic keep right" - Canadian road sign or political joke?

    • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:24PM (#33564534) Homepage

      They criticize the Chinese about freedom of the press and then do everything they can to prevent truth escaping into the wild in Canada.

      Forget that, they ran on a platform of transparency. Hell, one of their primary talking points was that the Liberals were corrupt and secretive. And then we see this bullshit. Gotta love the hypocrisy...

      • by jd (1658) <imipak@@@yahoo...com> on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:38PM (#33564762) Homepage Journal

        It's so transparent the policy is now invisible. How much more do you want from them?

      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:40PM (#33564774)

        Same shit here in the US. Bush ran a very secretive government, and pulled the "We don't have to justify it to you," card to the other two branches often. Obama promised to change that... And really hasn't. The states secrets thing is getting pulled out, few changes are being made, etc.

        Politicians don't like it when their opponents have secrets, but they love it when they do.

        • by hedwards (940851) on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:05PM (#33565098)
          That's not really the same thing. Bush scared the crap out of a substantial number of Americans. I'm not sure that McCain or anybody else would've been able to do anything else. Regardless of what he does he's screwed. If he fixes all of it then he loses the independent vote that's necessary to keep his party in power and if he doesn't he gets idiot conservatives claiming that he's as bad as his predecessor.

          But at the end of the day, Bush fucked things up to the point where there isn't really any good way of fixing a lot of this. If he doesn't keep it secret, it's just going to embolden the terrorists, and if he does he's going to face well justified criticism for being secretive.

          I can't blame him for playing it safe a terrorist attack now would keep the Presidency out of democratic hands for a long time.
          • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Monday September 13, 2010 @05:25PM (#33565990)
            The question is: When does it become safe to say things again? When terrorists no longer target the United States? That could be a very long time indeed and at that point people may be accustomed to a government that operates on a "need to know" policy.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              The question is: When does it become safe to say things again? When terrorists no longer target the United States? That could be a very long time indeed and at that point people may be accustomed to a government that operates on a "need to know" policy.

              In terms of actual danger, terrorism in the US is at the bottom of the list, and it certainly does not justify the decrease in Govt. transparency (almost nothing would) that has occurred. I mean even here in New Zealand we got our own terrorism act, and exactly how much domestic terrorism have we had? None. It's just an excuse to make life easier for the Police and the Intelligence service, at the expense of justice.

      • by radtea (464814) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:49PM (#33564904)

        Forget that, they ran on a platform of transparency.

        I'm advising a friend who is running for office (city council in a smallish town) and she's been hit with a lot of questions about what her platform is, whereas she's really a pragamatic problem solver with a great record of listening to people and using the best factual information available to fix stuff.

        I told her to reply to questions about her platform by saying, "Platforms are what politicians say before they're elected, and we know how that works out. The Harper government ran on a platform of greater transparency. So I'm not going to make you any grand promises, except to say that I'll listen to the voices of my constituents and do my best to find practical, affordable, sustainable solutions to their problems."

        The number one issue in the district where she's running--based on talking to the people there door-to-door--is quality of roads and sidewalks, which are not mentioned in anyone's platform.

        The whole media circus of political platforms is old and tired and will hopefully be dead soon. We've all seen how it ends far too often. Time to stop listening to politicians lies and start asking them, "Why should we think you're going to respresent us rather than your party after we vote for you?"

  • no surprise (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I spent much of my youth - including 2 different highschools - in Canada and it has to be one of the most government controlled propaganda using places ever - honestly you would think that they single handedly won WW2, that the bush pilot is a significant figure in world history and *everything* was invented in Canada.

    • Re:no surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MachDelta (704883) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:33PM (#33564666)

      It's not propaganda. Canadian schools simply have a strong focus on Canadian content, especially because most Canadians are bombarded with American culture/news/history on a daily basis. If we didn't give a shit about the things we've done ourselves as a country, we may as well just roll over and officially become the 51st state.

    • Re:no surprise (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kitkoan (1719118) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:36PM (#33564712)
      Having lived and gone to school in both the US and Canada, I have to call complete BS on this. I've also worked for the Canadian government in and around historical monuments and sites and it is nothing like what your trying to declare. Canada always declares that "the Allies" not "Canada" helped win WW2, that the Bush plane (not pilot...) [wikipedia.org] while is a well known plane is not the be all end all of anything in history, nor do they declare "everything" was invented in Canada. While in the US though, I found that things like the Vietnam war are altered and edited (my history text books enter listing of that war was "The US entered Vietnam, fought the rebels, then the war protests happened, and then in the 80s..." completely removing any mentioning of the end of the Vietnam war, the removal of troops, the fact that the US lost that war (the teachers aren't to mention this)). The US also always wants to declare that WW2 only started after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, and not in 1939 (since the US was supplying both sides with weapons and supplies) and that the US single handedly ended the war. That they are the center of the world, ect...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Skjellifetti (561341)
        The U.S. did not lose the Vietnam War. We signed the Paris Peace Accords, withdrew, and then South Vietnam lost to North Vietnam.

        More seriously, do you have a cite on the U.S. supplying both sides of WWII between 1939 and 1942 (no, Catch 22 doesn't count)? I've heard this before, but every time I've looked closely, it turns out that the U.S. owned factories in Germany that were the basis for the claim had, in fact, been appropriated by the Germans at gunpoint.
        • Re:no surprise (Score:4, Informative)

          by Kitkoan (1719118) on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:43PM (#33565532)
          The US was selling weapons to other nations by the Neutrality Act of 1939 [wikipedia.org] which allowed the US to sell weapons and supplies until the middle of 1941 helping to pull the US completely out of the last bits of the Great Depression. As for the US owning factories in Germany, those are IBM's factories that were legally allowed to sell the Nazi's the equipment until 1941, when the US offically entered the war, 2 years after it started. [palgrave-journals.com]
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by bsDaemon (87307)

          Well, its a fairly well known fact that the US supplied petrol and credit to Franco and the Nationalists in Spain, who were allied with Hitler and Mussolini, who used the opportunity to try out various techniques and new weapons systems, as well as to feel out the state of Soviet technology -- Soviet tanks and armored cars with light artillery having been supplied to the Republic. The Spanish Civil War was basically the dress rehearsal for WWII.

        • Re:no surprise (Score:4, Informative)

          by plcurechax (247883) on Monday September 13, 2010 @05:16PM (#33565890) Homepage

          Besides Standard Oil [wikipedia.org], General Motors [wikipedia.org], and of course IBM [amazon.com] (too lazy to bother, see the 2001 book IBM and the Holocaust?

          I don't think any US based facilities of GM, and the Seven Sisters from the Standard Oil breakup, were taken by gun point. I also don't know if any US firearm and other weapon manufacturers supplied the Nazi Germany.

          I'm not trying to vilify USA during this time period, many countries and companies made some embarrassingly cruel political and economic decisions. Germany was not alone in its anti-Semitism.

        • Re:no surprise (Score:5, Informative)

          by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday September 13, 2010 @05:39PM (#33566122) Journal

          The U.S. did not lose the Vietnam War. We signed the Paris Peace Accords, withdrew, and then South Vietnam lost to North Vietnam.

          The whole point of U.S. war in Vietnam was to prevent South Vietnam from being overrun by the commies. That objective was, ultimately, not achieved. That's what we call "losing a war".

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by ceoyoyo (59147)

            Kind of like when they tried to take over Canada and didn't. Somehow that war wasn't lost either.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dkleinsc (563838)

          I'm not sure about weapons, but there's clear evidence that IBM supplied the Nazis with a sophisticated punch card system to keep track of their prisoners. Clear evidence as in: The punch card records say "International Business Machines" on them, and contracts with the signature of Thomas J Watson Sr.

  • Shame (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:12PM (#33564348)
    I have never in my life been ashamed to be Canadian. Until today. Thanks Stephen, you stupid ass!
  • The Name (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:14PM (#33564374)

    In Christian Paradis's Canada, science is under the inquisition? Irony and whatnot...

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:15PM (#33564394) Homepage
    Is this control of them being able to speak to the media, or control of what they say once they can speak ? I suppose that it is probably moot since a scientist who says something that differs from what the govt wants them to say will never get permission to speak again.

    When, years ago, the soviets did this they were, rightly, lambasted.

  • Heh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:18PM (#33564440)

    Why don't I have the feeling there's about to be a flood of, "That's it, I'm moving to the U.S.!"

  • No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dskoll (99328) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:24PM (#33564542)

    This is the same government that has destroyed the accuracy of the Census [theglobeandmail.com] under the smokescreen of "privacy rights." (We all know why the Conservatives don't like accurate census data; it makes it harder to spend money based on ideology rather than on real need.)

    The Canadian government has always been notoriously non-transparent; even the Liberals have muzzled a scientist [wikipedia.org] in the past.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kenshin (43036)

      The whole census fiasco was an custom-engineered crisis. Who knows what the hell Harper was trying to accomplish with it, but he likely succeeded. As a bonus for him, it's in the public mind now, so it's a can of worms that can't easily be closed. Even if a new government comes in and tries to undo it, the right wing rabble will still foul the census in protest.

    • Re:No surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ubergrendle (531719) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:49PM (#33564914) Journal
      I'm going to call BS on this one. The story is pretty straight forward -- ~200,000 citizens did not fill out the long form of the census during the last approach. According to the current laws, this was punishable by substantial fines and mandatory imprisonment. The census bureau *never* pursue these fines or penalties. On the basis that a) the law was never enforced, and b) a strong libertarian minority within their supporters were railing against oppressive government, they removed the law.

      While all the complaints around the accuracy of the data, the importance of the census, are valid.... this is still about simplifying the reach and authority of government -- something the slashdot community normally endorses. Had this been about liberalisation of pot laws, or eliminating government enforcement of copyright, etc... we've be hailing them as heros.
      • Re:No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ArtDent (83554) on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:43PM (#33565534)

        Hundreds of businesses, governments, and organizations have now testified that they rely on the data produced by the long form census. It is useful and important information.

        The intrusion of the census is minimal. It's a minor inconvenience at worst.

        If the government wanted to eliminate the threat of imprisonment, they could have done that. They didn't. They opted, instead, to corrupt the data.

  • by FlyingOrca (747207) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:31PM (#33564638) Journal

    My parents are retired scientists of world-class standing, previously employed by the Canadian federal government, with extensive networks of colleagues around the world as well as here in Canada. The current government's efforts to muzzle and control what scientists say is widely viewed as completely unacceptable by the scientists themselves, but the highest levels of the departments which employ them have long been taken over by bureacrats.

    I would not be concerned with bias toward government goals on the part of the scientists, though. The government's attempts to vet and spin their public communications speaks quite eloquently to the scientists' integrity... and to this government's perfidy.

  • by OutSourcingIsTreason (734571) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:38PM (#33564744)
    It's obviously a cover-up of climate change data, ordered by lobbyists for the planet-raping carbon industry. Those other restricted topics are only there to make the climate change cover-up a bit less flagrant.
  • Free Speech (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:45PM (#33564858)

    Harper, in his attempts to create a "Fox News" in Canada blasts those opposed to it using "Free Speech" arguments.

    Harper is a hypocritical creep who has NO interest in the good of the people. He is interested in dumbing them down, propagandizing at them and limiting knowledge.

    Propaganda is not an attempt to communicate. Rather, it regards people not as people but as little machines which can be programmed using the right strings of words and images calculated to illicit desired behavior. The moment somebody intends to manipulate, the act of communication has ended and the act of programming has begun. Freedom of speech laws were designed with the idea in mind that people fundamentally respected the humanness of their peers. They didn't have to respect one another's opinions, but the underlying assumption is that we are appealing to the soul and intelligence on a personal level and not a cynical machine-programming level. Put another way, humans must treat each other as humans and not as lab rats.

    Propaganda doesn't respect fundamental humanity and therefore should not be brought under the protection of freedom of speech. Same with advertising.

    -FL

  • by JMZero (449047) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:51PM (#33564934) Homepage

    This isn't just Canada by any stretch - it's everywhere. And scientists are just the newest people being affected.

    The problem is media. Not left-wing media, not right-wing media, but scandal happy media. From my perspective (in Canada), media have lost all desire to fill people in on what's happening, all they want is a scandal - something they can sell right now. They want to catch a politician (or a scientist) making a mistake or saying anything that a significant number of people will disagree with. And it's been getting worse for decades.

    Now, sure, it makes sense that - to a certain extent - the media needs to maintain a bit of an adversarial role toward government. Media is an important check on the power of government. But that needs to be balanced by a desire to be informative rather than sensational and a desire to inform people with both sides of an issue.

    How it is now, we've reached the point that, to be safe, politicians just don't say anything of any interest - and the only information we'll get will be vacuous and committee-written. Nobody wins in this situation.

    To me, politicians and media share the blame on this one. Politicians need to be open, but media needs to ease off the trigger a bit so that being open isn't quite so suicidal. The best summary I've seen of this is here [youtube.com] (David Mitchell).

  • Gary Goodyear (Score:5, Informative)

    by florescent_beige (608235) on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:02PM (#33565040) Journal

    No story such as this would be complete without pointing out that the Minister of Science and Technology is a creationist [boingboing.net].

    To the Conservatives, "science" means "whatever we say". No wonder they want to control what actual pesky scientists say.

  • Censorship (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `todhsals+nysyaj'> on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:05PM (#33565094) Homepage Journal

    Hey a Slashdot censorship article that is actually about government censorship!

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:06PM (#33565116)

    The Conservative government in Canada is similar to the Republicans in the USA.

    And in the immortal words of Stephen Colbert:

    "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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