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Canada Government The Media Science

Muzzled Canadian Scientists Can Now Speak Freely With Public (thestar.com) 197

Layzej writes: Over the last 10 years, policies were put in place to prevent Canadian scientists from freely discussing taxpayer-funded science with the public. "media relations contacts" were enlisted to monitor and record interactions with the press. Interviews and often the questions to be asked were vetted ahead of time, and responses given by scientists frequently monitored or prohibited. Nature, one of the world's top science journals, called the policy a "Byzantine approach to the press, prioritizing message control and showing little understanding of the importance of the free flow of scientific knowledge."

The new government in Canada is lifting these restrictions. Scientists at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans were told Thursday they can now speak to the media. In a statement on Friday afternoon, Navdeep Bains, Canada's new minister of innovation, science and economic development said "Our government values science and will treat scientists with respect. This is why government scientists and experts will be able to speak freely about their work to the media and the public."

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Muzzled Canadian Scientists Can Now Speak Freely With Public

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  • Deja vu (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Saturday November 07, 2015 @09:35AM (#50882891)
    Remember those old cold war films where a KGB agent who accompanied seemingly everyone to make certain they toed the line?

    Here in the frozen Tundra was a real life example.

    Scientists must really be on to something if they aren't allowed to talk about it.

    Oh... Canada.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 07, 2015 @09:42AM (#50882915)
    Not only were scientists muzzled, the media wasn't allowed to question the government either. Any kind of press was carefully preplanned, scripted and designed with the best interests of the Conservative party in mind.

    I strongly disagree with the Conservative Party of Canada. Don't forget, these aren't the "Progressive Conservatives" that won votes on policy, these are the hard right Reformers who campaign on fear and divisiveness.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 07, 2015 @09:56AM (#50883003)
      That sounds suspiciously like the beginnings of a totalitarian regime. Probably why the liberals got a 'surprise' win ... I think Conservatives assume all other people are as stupid as they are. I'm in the US, but once I realized how conservatives here reject solid scientific conclusions based on hard evidence of many things, even when the logic is undeniable (to a rational person) ... I realized how irrational they really are. I'll never vote for another one as long as I live. This covers a myriad of topics, but I use Creationism as my litmus test. Anyone that believes the earth was literally created in 6 days a few thousand years ago is not mentally equipped to be making policies or laws that will affect me.
      • by Maow ( 620678 )

        That sounds suspiciously like the beginnings of a totalitarian regime. Probably why the liberals got a 'surprise' win

        Actually, in the previous election, Harper Regime told the national media that they were limited to five (5!) [thestar.com] questions [theglobeandmail.com] per day.

        In that election, the media barely squawked about it, and the Globe and Mail ("Canada's National Newspaper") even endorsed the party that told them that!

        Worse, Canadians gave them a majority win putting them into a far, far stronger position than they'd been in prior to them being found in Contempt of Parliament - which triggered that election.

        I guess my point is that not only sho

      • by Sibko ( 1036168 )

        I certainly don't disagree with you with respect to conservatives, particularly in the US.

        But if you think the liberal parties haven't been doing the exact same thing, particularly in the US, you are out of your mind.

  • by David Kibodeaux ( 4324285 ) on Saturday November 07, 2015 @09:59AM (#50883015)
    In related news, a flood of new scientific data was released on the subject of maple syrup.
  • Yay! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nintendoeats ( 1370249 ) on Saturday November 07, 2015 @10:01AM (#50883021)
    This is more or less the main thing I voted against Harper over. Yes, he was terrible in many ways but this was the most blatantly anti-public-interest. Unfortunately according to former members of the NRC, rebuilding what Harper dismantled could take decades.
  • by substance2003 ( 665358 ) on Saturday November 07, 2015 @10:02AM (#50883029)
    ... it was long overdue. I'm not a fan of the Liberals but this is a good 1st step in the right direction.
    Thank you must also be given to the voters who finally were able to rally and kick out the Conservatives.
    Too often we do not feel our votes make a difference but it did make one here.
    Now the only question to us is, how far will these changes go? We'll see over time.
    • The main reason you can put them out of power is that you use paper and pencil voting. If you convert to e-voting, your ability to annoy business interests by voting them out of power will be, um, problematic. As they kinda own those systems.

      Stick with the paper.

  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Saturday November 07, 2015 @10:18AM (#50883085)

    "Government doesn't work - it CAN'T WORK!"

    "What about all those countries where it mostly does and, um, all of human history, eh?"

    "Oh really? Sheesh! Listen - I'll just do a little governing here, and governing there - and BAM - doesn't work anymore. See - governing ruins everything!"

    "Doesn't that just mean YOU ruin everything?"

    "Wait - wait - I'll prove it some more. Give me more time and I'll REALLY prove it!"

  • ... from speaking with the public exactly? Were all scientists that might have showed inclination about speaking on the matter put under house arrest for the past 6 years or something, and all internet and phone communications monitored? I find numerous mention of so-called strict rules in the past, and while I don't dispute their existence, I can't find any info at all on exactly how those rules were enforced.
  • by Maury Markowitz ( 452832 ) on Saturday November 07, 2015 @12:00PM (#50883557) Homepage

    A friend of my wife was personally effected by all of this. She researches epidemics and was going to present a paper [the details of which I will not specify]. However, all appearances at conferences for any reason had to be cleared by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). As there was an election taking place, the PMO couldn't be bothered reviewing anything, they were too busy with important stuff (you know, not epidemics). So she didn't get to go.

    I can't imagine a more dystopian fiction. At least in 1984 they had a reason to spy on everyone, it was part of their basic philosophy. But in this case, the only reason for any of this was Harper's deathly fear of bad press. So everyone had to follow the Party Line, including people who's only affiliation with the party was getting funding from the government.

    And, in the end, *that* was what led to their downfall. The constant repression of information and dissent, especially within his own party, was eventually too much for anyone to take. The mechanism they put in place to protect the PM from the planet was ultimately the very device that destroyed them.

    This is not a "conservative" problem. Conservatives have been excellent communicators overall. Hell, Churchill *lived* for the debate, and I strongly suspect he deliberately let people talk about anything just so he could off a clever quip in response. This was an anomaly. Let's hope it does not happen again.

    • by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Saturday November 07, 2015 @03:30PM (#50884661)

      It's not a conservative thing, it is an authoritarian thing. Authoritarians can show up under any parties banner though in democracies they do seem to be on the right side of the spectrum as often as not.
      Harper was such an authoritarian that he didn't even let his own party members talk so we had an election where the Conservative candidate wouldn't even show up to town hall type all candidate meetings.

  • Canada was recently rated as the "most free" nation on Earth [mtlblog.com]. This is also the country that dragged Mark Steyn into court for having the temerity to "insult Islam".
  • While you're at it, Canada, let her resume her research in Baffin Island.

    She was fired because of the complaints of some thin-skinned lowlings who don't have what it takes to work with someone like her.

    If you have to scold her, if you have to tell her to chill out, do so. But don't shut down scientific research just because of stupid personal problems.

  • It's funny for liberals to be praised for transparency, because: 1) they opposed natives execs to disclose their income, and 2) they successfully barred Harper to impose economic transparency for unions...
  • Take _any_ institution that has employees, or limit it to say, IBM or NASA. Any media queries to each of those comes through a media relations department. The Canadian government doesn't really have one at the scientific levels so the responsibility is for supervisors at those levels to play the role. Was it "muzzling" for a person to need to let their supervisors (and on up the chain) know that they would be speaking to media? No. Simple reason: the publication of what those persons say, is taken to r

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian

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