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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 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!

  • Re:Shame (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kitkoan (1719118) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:19PM (#33564454)
    I was ashamed too when Harper was elected to become the next PM. He keeps doing the same BS that George Bush did a few years ago [ipsnews.net] so much and so often he is known as Mini-Bush for a reason.
  • Re:Shame (Score:1, Informative)

    by dpolak (711584) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:19PM (#33564456) Journal
    God forbid he ever gets a majority government!

    It's unfortunate, there isn't a single party worth voting for. We're fucked with whatever one we do get. Liberal, NDP, Conservative, then there is the Bloc who's only point of existence is to destroy Canada. How they ever became a national party is beyond me!

    Time to move!!
  • 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...

  • Re:Seems reasonable (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:26PM (#33564574)

    yeah, I should have put it in quotes. Not really my view.

  • by camperdave (969942) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:27PM (#33564592) Journal

    Natural Resources Canada (NRC) scientists were told this spring they need "pre-approval" from Minister Christian Paradis' office to speak with journalists.

    Lots of places have policies about who can talk to the press, and who can't. This seems pretty standard to me.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:30PM (#33564632)

    This is a myth. Humans have known the earth to be round since at least the Greeks. Anyone who has ever been on a ship would have noticed the horizon and land seemingly disappearing over it.

    The objections to Columbus was that he was bad at math and could not possibly get all the way to India with his supplies that way. He just got lucky that he ran into the Americas, otherwise he probably would have starved after running out of supplies.

  • Re:Eh? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Cockatrice_hunter (1777856) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:31PM (#33564640) Homepage
    I think that there is a misconception here. The Canadian government didn't suppress the publishing of the results, rather they prevented the scientists from contacting the media. Also, in response to the statement that only government supported claims would be published, even were that true a paper has to go through various hoops in order to get published. This includes peer review to make sure that the science is legitimate. There will always be other scientists who disagree and they are welcome to publish rebuttals.
  • Re:Eh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hatta (162192) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:32PM (#33564658) Journal

    Research professors get salaries that generally come directly from federal grants. They work for the government.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:33PM (#33564670)

    As an American, trust me you do not want a two party system. You get only corporatists.

  • 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.

  • Re:Eh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trepidity (597) <.delirium-slashdot. .at. .hackish.org.> on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:41PM (#33564798)

    This rule appears to apply only to scientists who directly work for a government agency as employees, though, not to professors who are funded by federal grant money, or even professors who teach at public universities.

  • Re:no surprise (Score:3, Informative)

    by Skjellifetti (561341) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:55PM (#33564982) 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.

    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.
  • 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.

  • Re:no surprise (Score:3, Informative)

    by MachDelta (704883) on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:21PM (#33565300)

    It's not propaganda because it's purpose is to inform, not persuade. OP was using hyperbole. And anyways, every other country in the world teaches it's children about the history of their home country first and foremost. So why should Canada be any different?

  • Re:Eh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by RJHelms (1554807) on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:28PM (#33565378)

    Yup, exactly this. The Harper administration has for the past few years been increasingly exerting control on how the public service disseminates information to the public. In the past (before 2007) a bureaucrat usually only needed the approval of their direct supervisor to respond to media inquiries, unless the topic was particularly sensitive. Now it the system of Message Event Proposals created in 2007, approval frequently needs to come directly from the Prime Minister's Office, even for totally routine and innocuous communications.

    I think the biggest problem is, reports on the last ice age might offend the Conservative Party's core supporters - who know that there's no such thing as 13,000 years ago, and even if there was there'd be both dinosaurs and cavemen at the same time.

  • 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]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:49PM (#33565608)

    Scientists very rarely drive out dissenting views. Science is based on the idea that if a theory is any good, the bulk of it will survive being stress-tested and the bits that do fail needed replacing anyway.

    Theoretically that's the case, but I suspect that in practice there is a lot of driving out of dissenting views.

    One of the most blatant examples would be string theory vs supergravity debates a few decades ago. Scientists who believed in supergravity were called crazy. Students were told that if they did research on supergravity, they would never be able to get a job in the industry. (Or so I've heard.)

    Scientists have a lot at stake in their core ideas being right. Any human would be resistant to being told that they're wrong and I doubt scientists are any exception.

  • Re:no surprise (Score:3, Informative)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:55PM (#33565670)

    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.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday September 13, 2010 @05:20PM (#33565948) Journal

    The vast majority of libertarians that I knew in my life were in college.

  • Re:Eh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by yankpop (931224) on Monday September 13, 2010 @05:26PM (#33566000)

    What has peer review got to do with this? Peer review is to ensure that what does get published is valid, but this story is about what doesn't get published. Nobody peer reviews a paper that is never released.

    You're confusing two different issues here. The paper did get published in a peer reviewed journal. The government didn't interfere with that process at all. There is no evidence that the science was influenced by government agenda.

    The government didn't step in until after the peer-reviewed paper was published, and only then did they refuse to let their scientists talk with the media. Even then, the media story wasn't suppressed, it went forward, based on information published in the peer-reciewed literature and interviews with co-authors who were not Canadian government employees.

    The sum total of the government interference was to prevent their own scientists from talking directly to the media. Which is pretty darn stupid, without a doubt, but it's not the same as the government burying the data.

    yp

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday September 13, 2010 @05:27PM (#33566004) Journal

    Are Canadians just screwed? I mean do they have guns to vanquish the tyrants?

    Last I checked, Canada still had free and fair elections.

  • 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:no surprise (Score:3, Informative)

    by MachDelta (704883) on Monday September 13, 2010 @06:19PM (#33566572)

    Godwin strikes again.

    Hitler's propaganda was written for the express purpose of harming the Jewish people. That is what defines it as propaganda - persuasion of some set of facts (real or imagined) about Jews. Historical fact is not normally considered propaganda because it typically does not contain a persuasive argument. This is a case of "all propaganda is information but not all information is propaganda".

    Now one can argue endlessly about what constitutes propaganda and what doesn't, but generally those arguments slip into absurdity where anything a person has ever read or heard can be classified as "propaganda" because it invariably contains some degree of presenter bias.

    At the end of the day, Canadian schooling has a strong focus on Canadian content not only because it is the global norm to learn about where you live, but particularly because we Canadians live in the worlds largest cultural shadow. If we didn't attempt to protect our own identity (through history, etc) then we would find ourselves very quickly slipping into the enormous cultural pull of the USA. Some may argue that has already happened, but the point of past and current efforts is to reduce or reverse that trend, not to breed a nation of brainwashed zombies nourished on propaganda and lies. At least, that is my opinion. YMMV.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday September 13, 2010 @06:46PM (#33566874) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, and you still vote Republican. And chant Teabagger nonsense like "Clinton caused the housing crash" because you hate minorities but love bankers.

  • by Raenex (947668) on Monday September 13, 2010 @07:11PM (#33567132)

    He disputes the alarmist view that says we need to take action now. The global warming camp says the opposite. He explicitly says that scientists have fallen under pressure to endorse global warming:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptoBGW3hU-g [youtube.com]

    There are tons of other videos from him on YouTube.

    And from the paper you cite:

    "The main point of this paper is simply to illustrate why serious and persistent doubts remain concerning the danger of anthropogenic global warming despite the frequent claims that 'the science is settled.'"

    Also, the Wikipedia article is sourced.

  • Re:Eh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dogsbreath (730413) on Monday September 13, 2010 @07:26PM (#33567254)

    Well, it is the ridiculous nature of the process and it is another example of the control freak we have as a PM. The example given in the article is a scientist who published a paper in Nature about the glacial flooding at the end of one of the ice age periods. The government did not allow him to be interviewed about the article until the deadlines had passed. The OK had to come virtually from the PM. We are not talking about anything controversial here: nothing that would be tied to present day issues. This pre-historic science and has nothing to do with contrarian views.

    This will shock everyone, I know, but it is an example of the hypocrisy of the govt which came to power partly on the platform of being open. Sigh... meet the new boss same as the old boss.

  • Re:no surprise (Score:3, Informative)

    by blackraven14250 (902843) on Monday September 13, 2010 @08:17PM (#33567698)

    Hitler's propaganda was written for the express purpose of harming the Jewish people

    Not if you consider that Hitler believed all of his falsehoods to be true. Then, he was just informing the German people about the truth behind the Jews, and propaganda was his method. All propaganda consists of is presenting facts (again, real or imagined) while harboring a bias.

    Oh, and of course there's going to be a Godwin strike or two. It's a discussion invoking propaganda.

  • Re:Eh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Stephen Samuel (106962) <samuel AT bcgreen DOT com> on Monday September 13, 2010 @10:00PM (#33568340) Homepage Journal
    Scientists have been prevented from considering certain possibilities, and researching in various directions. Given that speaking out on something as trivial as a 13,000 year old flood took days, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that papers that didn't support the Government's position on more contentious issues have been suppressed.

    Actually, if you listen to the comments of some DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) scientists when asked about their thoughts on the (many years) raging 'controversy' over whether or not sea lice and other contaminants have been (drastically) affecting salmon runs their answers (or lack thereof) seem to make it pretty clear that they're not allowed to even think about the answers to those questions.

    A few weeks ago, the Canadian Government decided that filling out 'long form' census questions would no longer be mandatory. They declared that Stats Canada scientists had assured them that this would not affect the quality of the data collected. The head scientist of Statistics Canada [www.cbc.ca] had to quit his job [www.cbc.ca] in order to counter the lies spoken by the Prime minister and his Cabinet.

    Given the kind of control that they've taken over what government scientists can say, I have little question that some political hack is going to declare that submitting a paper to a scientific journal about a contentious issue is going to fall under this new policy.

    Personally, I think that this is a flagrant violation of scientists' rights to free speech, but that's a matter for the courts to decide.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @01:51AM (#33569970) Homepage Journal

    Some libertarians are anti-corporation too. They fear centralization of power either in government or quasi-governments (large corporations) as dangerous to individuals.

    I believe you, but I have to note that very few people who self-identify as libertarians bother to talk about this issue. It's pretty much "all government-is-bad, all the time." A little more acknowledgement that Big Anything is bad -- Big Government to be sure, but also Big Business and Big Religion -- and that playing the various Bigs off against each other can make things go a lot more smoothly for the rest of us, might do a lot to help the LP broaden its base.

  • by chrish (4714) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @09:16AM (#33572636) Homepage

    I miss the good old days when our Prime Ministers would personally beat protesters [wikipedia.org].

    Seriously. Remember when we didn't have an enormous US-style federal deficit for 12 years?

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