Wednesday, May 20, 2015

More On Government Muzzling

Yesterday, I posted a video of recently retired Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologist Steve Campana speaking about the sad state of morale within bureaucratic ranks. The Harper regime's obsession with control and secrecy means that government scientists are forbidden to speak about their research without going through a labyrinthine series of communications protocols that often still result in denial of permission to speak to 'outsiders,' i.e., the public.

Here is how one government scientist responded to the post, anonymously:
I speak as a government scientist who knows of what Dr. Campana speaks. The squeeze comes from a couple of directions - benign budgetary neglect and active silencing. The budgetary issues are shared by most other government departments:

- attrition of critical personnel as scientific staff are lost to the private sector or retirement and are rarely if ever replaced,

- the similar loss of administrative staff and the downloading of their jobs onto scientific and technical personnel (it is shameful how much time some of us spend doing travel requests and administration)

- loss of program funding which results in decreased opportunity for data collection or equipment purchases

- loss of critical infrastructure - technical library closures, loss of oceanographic vessels, etc...

- loss of travel budgets that have essentially cut many scientists out of the conference loop. This might seem to the outsider like a perk, and in some ways it is, however conferences provide more opportunities to begin important collaborations than any other way I know.

As for the communications issues, I think Dr. Campana summed it up perfectly. As employees, we are generally allowed to publish scientific journals (with some restrictions to more sensitive projects, I presume), but we are basically not allowed to ever speak with the media, even on the most benign of subjects. This has been brought about by the establishment of the Orwellian-named "Communication" branches within each department whose jobs seem to be the restriction of communication at all costs, and through the establishment of a hush-hush environment that is established from the top down. Also, local regional directors are more and more frequently hired outside of their areas of expertise, as if management is a thing in and of itself and knowledge of the department being managed is of secondary importance.

I could go on, but you probably get the point.
Meanwhile, yesterday on Power and Politics, Biologist Katie Gibbs, founder of Evidence for Democracy, addressed the issue with Power and Politics' Evan Solomon:

Finally, today's Star weighs in with a hard-hitting editorial on the issue, observing how this government repression has not gone unnoticed both domestically and internationally:
In the past couple of years the New York Times, Nature magazine, the Guardian and The Economist have all written critical articles pleading for our scientists to be set free.

Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is investigating complaints that federal scientists have been muzzled by the government.

A survey from Environics Research last year found that 91 per cent of government scientists feel they cannot share their expertise with the media without facing censure from their bosses.
Our democracy continues to wither; it will take collective concern and strong electoral action from the wider public to reverse this sad state of affairs.


  1. When Ancient Rome made Christianity its official religion, the faithful went on a binge of destruction, that raised, not only the temples of Jupiter and his kin, but the empire itself. Today, the ruinous introduction of this new faith is known as the "Dark Ages". Unfortunately, this wanton need to destroy, that, which challenges their cause and belief, lives on in people such as Harper and his creed.

    1. Harper and his kindred have become the barbarians that breached the gates, Anon.

  2. Lorne, I watched 'silence of scientist' on Power and Politics as well. It is very sad state of affairs. I hope public remembers Emperor Harper's rule - control and secrecy. Kicking Harper out of 24 Sussex Drive is overdue.

    1. Although the public has a notoriously short memory, LD, given the terrible things that have happened under Harper, even remembering only a few of them might provide sufficient impetus for electoral change.