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Thread: Canada censors science research

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    Default Canada censors science research

    Admittedly, the article exaggerates a little when imputing "Orwellian" overtones, though not by much. Seriously, what the hell? On top of all the corruption and politicking by the conservative government, this story just takes the cake.

    Tightened muzzle on scientists is 'Orwellian'

    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 (NRC) 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 to 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.

    "It's Orwellian," says Andrew Weaver, a climatologist at the University of Victoria. The public, he says, has a right to know what federal scientists are discovering and learning.

    Scientists at NRC, many of them planetary experts, study everything from seabeds to melting glaciers. They have long been able to discuss their research, until the rules changed this spring.
    "We have new media interview procedures that require pre-approval of certain types of interview requests by the minister's office," wrote Judy Samoil, NRC's western regional communications manager, in a March 24 e-mail to colleagues.

    The policy applies to "high-profile" issues such as "climate change, oilsands" and when "the reporter is with an international or national media organization (such as the CBC or the Canwest paper chain)," she wrote.

    The Canwest papers are now part of Postmedia Network Inc.
    Samoil later elaborated, saying "the regional communications managers were advised of this change a couple of weeks ago."

    The documents show the new rules being so broadly applied that one scientist was not permitted to discuss a study in a major research journal without "pre-approval" from political staff in Paradis' office.

    NRC scientist Scott Dallimore coauthored the study, published in the journal Nature on April 1, about a colossal flood that swept across northern Canada 13,000 years ago, when massive ice dams gave way at the end of the last ice age.

    The study was considered so newsworthy that two British universities issued releases to alert the international media.

    It was, however, deemed so sensitive in Ottawa that Dallimore, who works at NRC's laboratories outside Victoria, was told he had to wait for clearance from the minister's office.
    Dallimore tried to tell the department's communications managers the flood study was anything but politically sensitive.

    "This is a blue sky science paper," he said noting: "There are no anticipated links to minerals, energy or anthropogenic climate change."

    But the bureaucrats in Ottawa insisted. "We will have to get the minister's office approval before going ahead with this interview," Patti Robson, the department's media relations manager, wrote in an e-mail after a reporter from Postmedia News (then Canwest News Service) approached Dallimore.

    Robson asked Dallimore to provide the reporter's questions and "the proposed responses," saying: "We will send it up to MO (minister's office) for approval." Robson said interviews about the flood study needed ministerial approval for two reasons: the inquiring reporter represented a "national news outlet" and the "subject has wide-ranging implications."

    The documents show several communications managers, policy advisers, political staff and senior officials were involved drafting and vetting "media lines" on the ancient flood study.
    Dallimore finally got clearance to talk to reporters from Margaux Stastny, director of communication in Paradis' office, on March 31, a week after NRC communications branch was told the study was appearing in Nature, and two days after reporters began approaching Dallimore for interviews.

    By then, the reporters' deadlines had passed and they had already completed their stories about the ancient flood. Canwest News Service, CBC, ABC, Reuters and other organizations based their reports on interviews with co-authors of the study from universities outside Canada that responded to interview requests promptly.

    This effectively "muzzled" Dallimore by not allowing him to do timely interviews, says Weaver, at the University of Victoria, who says the incident shows how "ridiculous" the situation has got in Ottawa.

    "If you can't get access to a nice, feel-good science story about flooding at the end of last glaciation, can you imagine trying to get access to scientists with information about cadmium and mercury in the Athabasca River? Absolutely impossible," says Weaver, in reference to growing controversy over contaminants downstream from Alberta's oilsands.

    Environment Canada and Health Canada now tightly control media access to researchers and orchestrate interviews that are approved.

    Environment Canada has even produced "media lines" for federal scientists to stick to when discussing climate studies they have coauthored with Weaver and are based on research paid for through his university grants.

    "There is no question that there is an orchestrated campaign at the federal level to make sure that their scientists can't communicate to the public about what they do," says Weaver, adding that the crackdown is seriously undermining morale in federal labs. "Science is about generating new knowledge and communicating it to others."



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    phobic 6w5 sp/so/sx (tri-type: 6w5/1w9/4w5)
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    It was not like this extreme before which is why, for us, it is cause for some alarm.

    There are way too many things wrong with the Harper government.
    Ceci n'est pas une eii.




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    Quote Originally Posted by The Greeter View Post
    It was not like this extreme before which is why, for us, it is cause for some alarm.

    There are way too many things wrong with the Harper government.
    What did you expect from a majority that behaved irrationally?

    Hitler wasn't elected by sane people.

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    canada of all places. that should be an alarm in itself.
    INTp

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    Quote Originally Posted by tcaudilllg View Post
    What did you expect from a majority that behaved irrationally?

    Hitler wasn't elected by sane people.
    Do you know anything about Canadian politics?

    And your second assertion can be argued.
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    I'm not surprised.......Dj is right...I'm sure he likes me saying that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maritsa33 View Post
    I'm not surprised.......Dj is right...I'm sure he likes me saying that.
    Discojoe hasn't posted in this thread

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bionicgoat View Post
    Discojoe hasn't posted in this thread
    I remember him speaking about something similar in one of his economics rants a while ago...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ashton View Post
    Maybe stop relying on the Feds to fund scientific research eh? They already stole the money from you fair and square, what makes you think you have any right to bitch about how they choose to spend it?
    This type of research is not something that can be profited from, or at least not effectively, because it deals mostly with the state of the environment. Nevertheless, the kind of information it produces is still valuable to us as citizens of Canada. For example, what company would profit in research of the large amount of genetic mutations in Whitefish in Athabasca River? There would be corporate interest to ignore or surpress this kind of information (our current government is very pro-corporations, hence the censors). And while it may not seem to directly affect me (though, I generally care about the environment independent of its effect on me), it will eventually in the long run.
    Last edited by The Greeter; 09-24-2010 at 02:07 AM. Reason: Edit: Specificity
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ashton View Post
    Maybe stop relying on the Feds to fund scientific research eh? They already stole the money from you fair and square, what makes you think you have any right to bitch about how they choose to spend it?
    As bad as this incident is, governments have a better track record than corporations of not censoring or modifying science research to suit their interests. And unlike the tobacco or pharmaceutical industries, this government will be up for reelection sooner or later.
    You can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Greeter View Post
    Do you know anything about Canadian politics?

    And your second assertion can be argued.
    I know about political types, thus I know a good deal about politics.

    Go ahead. Argue it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ashton View Post
    If there's a practical need to ascertain this kind of information (which there is), then there will be incentives for such research to take place.
    Yes true. But when there are other more profitable practical wants, that incentive alone is enough to ignore less profitable practical needs.


    I know nothing of the area (as I don't live in Canada). But it's not hard to think of possible vested interests who'd benefit from such research. Any fishing industry connected to the Athabasca River would surely want to know. Along with other commercial entities directly or indirectly dependent upon the economic well-being of that area; including the local residents themselves. Plus any national and/or global distribution chains involved in exporting fish/other commodities from the Athabasca River. Also any firms involved in the tourist industry and what not would likely have valid concerns. So on, so forth. Just a few ideas off the top of my head.
    I should have mentioned that Athabasca River is located close to the oilsands, which is the main industry in Alberta. It is the deposit of wastes that is allegedly linked to the deformity in the ecosystem of that river. If fishing was indeed the primary industry of the area (which, by the way, I doubt would inspire much private research for the public domain, since it would largely be tied to preservation and protection which tends to get in the way of short-term profit), then you may have a point.

    The point is, for things that cannot be commercialized, such as the health of our environment, the government has to take and, the past Canadian governments have taken, at least an interest in it and leaving the findings uncensored.

    Another example that comes to mind is the recent allowance of our current government to allow off-shore drilling in the North where the ecosystem is incredibly fragile. If the only commercial commodity up north is oil, then what private company would have any vested interest in research of the ecosytem there? Its degregation is of no concern to them, but it is for Canada as a whole, and to some of its citizens. This is the place where government must step in.


    You know what a 'corporation' is… right? If so, then you know that neither one has ever been essentially distinct from the other (nor any less inherently underhanded). Obviously little difference exists between corrupt politicians and corrupt corporatists in mentality and practice; notice how many mysteriously recycle in and out positions of political and corporate life? Not to mention how blatantly apparent it is that government is pro-corporations just as much as corporations are pro-government—they've long shared a relationship of symbiotic incest using and abusing one another for their own ends. None of which is historically novel nor somehow exclusive to the modern era as some tend to think.
    No doubt about this; particularly in the US. But in Canada the difference between "Corporation" and "Government" are much more distinct. In Canada, while parties do get corporate donations, less corporate friendly parties also get funding from the people (I believe around $1.25 for every vote) allowing for their survival. It is much more competitive in terms of the amount of opposition parties. We are currently governed by a minority government where about only 38% of Canadians have voted for during the 2008 elections, which means 62% of Canadians voted of the more left leaning parties.

    If you eat fish, you might care. Consumers get justifiably alarmed at prospects of eating mutated anything—since, who knows what kind of contaminants are behind it. Which means many consumers deferring from the risk entirely, making it all the more incumbent upon business(es) to soundly address the issue.
    It is not so much about the fact that we eat the fish (which I'm not sure whether we do or not), it is more about knowing that there is life suffering in our country.

    You are speaking in a strictly commercial view, while the concerns of the article is about something that cannot be commericalized directly. Additionally, you have to realize that Canada's relationship with federal research have been a fairly positive one and, concidence or not, it was not much of problem under the more left-leaning government.

    Note: Apologies for any errors in my writing; running short on time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcaudilllg View Post
    Go ahead. Argue it.
    In most respects, the citizenry of Germany would have been normal; it's too big a group to be otherwise. The only thing to mark them as insane is the fact that they elected Hitler, which is circular and so worthless as evidence.

    The thing is, sanity is defined by the society. I know that you personally love to define what is and isn't sanity, but your decisions aren't absolute, and they especially aren't very relevant for the Germans of that time period.



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    fuck you
    “Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, like diamonds we are cut with our own dust.”

    Quote Originally Posted by Gilly
    You've done yourself a huge favor developmentally by mustering the balls to do something really fucking scary... in about the most vulnerable situation possible.

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