Information Commissioner to Investigate ‘Muzzling’ of Federal Scientists

The Federal Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, is requested to inquire whether the Harper government has been “muzzling” federal scientists or not. The Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria and Democracy Watch, i.e. a national non-profit group, forwarded the request on Wednesday, along with a report on the government’s “systematic efforts” to bound access to the researchers.

The official request alleged that “there are few issues more fundamental to democracy than the ability of the public to access scientific information produced by government scientists – information that their tax dollars have paid for.” It explained that “we as a society cannot make informed choices about critical issues if we are not fully informed about the facts.” This formal request of an investigation has been submitted after years of debate regarding the silence of federal scientists, who were previously encouraged to publicize their research on everything from melting permafrost to pesticide pollution. The of 128-page report accompanying the formal request is entitled as “Muzzling Civil Servants: A Threat to Democracy?”.

The report points out that the Harper government has generated national and international headlines to avoid government researchers from discussing their studies on prehistoric floods, the unprecedented 2011 Arctic Ozone hole, and snow research in Ontario. Additionally, it accuses the government for implementing policies that now “routinely require political approval before scientists can speak to the media about their scientific findings.” It claims that government scientists are “routinely instructed to not speak publicly – or to respond with pre-scripted ‘approved lines.”

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