Information Commissioner to investigate Harper Government over Muzzling

BIG NEWS: Canada's Information Commissioner will be investigating the Harper Government over reports that it has been muzzling its scientists.

The investigation follows a complaint that was filed by Democracy Watch and University of Victoria's Environmental Law Clinic in February.

At first glance the case would seem pretty cut and dried. There are a number of famous cases of muzzling, including the silencing of DFO fish scientist Kristi Miller, EC ozone scientist David Tarasick, and NRC scientist Scott Dallimore. In the case of Dr. Tarasick, documents showed he "was keen and available to discuss the remarkable changes seen in the Earth’s protective ozone layer, but Kent’s office would not permit him to speak to journalists when the study came out." The case of Dr. Dallimore was particularly bizarre: he was not allowed to discuss a flood that swept across northern Canada 13,000 years ago.

There have been other, more general cases of muzzling. At last year's International Polar Year conference in Montreal, the Harper government sent media "minders" to follow around EC scientists and monitor and record interactions with the media. Lawrence Martin commented "This is the type of thing I used to see when, back in the 1980s, I reported from the Soviet Union."

The muzzling goes back all the way to the start of Harper's reign and the introduction of new controls over how government scientists interact with the media. The impact was immediate. Environment Canada documents that surfaced in 2010 revealed "Media coverage of climate change science, our most high-profile issue, has been reduced by over 80 per cent." Mission accomplished?

See also:

The Star: Muzzling of scientists subject of 'unique' probe by Canada's information watchdog

CBC: Scientist muzzling probed by information commissioner

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