Friday, March 15, 2013

Life In The Land Of The Muzzled

When Hugo Chavez died last week, Stephen Harper said, “At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.” Mr. Harper likes to lecture the world on the meaning of democracy.

But the Toronto Star reports that, among the world's scientists, Canada's lectures ring hollow. They know that when it comes to freedom of speech -- one of the cornerstones of democracy -- Canada is full of hot air:

But one researcher with well over a decade of experience in the civil service, who asked to remain anonymous because he said both management and his union have told him he could face penalties for speaking out publicly, called the situation “absolutely embarrassing.”

“All of my colleagues around the world know about this, and they simply can’t understand what is going on in Canada,” the scientist said.

And the people who populate our newsrooms also know what is going on:

Newsrooms nationwide are familiar with the unusual restrictions Canadian government scientists face when attempting to communicate their work.

For a story last December on how climate change is affecting the Arctic and Antarctic, The Star contacted scientists at NASA, Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada.
Emails to the U.S. government scientists were personally returned, usually the same day and with offers to talk in person or by phone.

Emails sent to Canadian government scientists led to apologetic responses that the request would have to be routed through public relations officials. Public relations staff asked for a list of questions in advance, and then set boundaries for what subjects the interview could touch upon. Approval to interview the scientists was given days later. In all cases, a PR staffer asked to listen in on the interviews.

Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is about to take up the issue. Like Kevin Page, the retiring Parliaamentary Budget Officer, she will probably get no cooperation from the Harper government. But this story has moved beyond Canada. And you can bet there are sources outside this country who will give Legault and earful.

The rest of the world is beginning to cotton on to how things work in The Land of the Muzzled.


thwap said...

Disgraceful. We're like the Roman Senators who grovelled before Tiberius, compelling him to mutter "Men fit to be slaves."

Owen Gray said...

It's all a power trip, thwap. They get their kicks from watching people bow and scrape before them.

e.a.f. said...

it isn't just the bowing and scraping. Knowledge is power. that is why stevie slime and the slimers don't want any information getting out. This will continue until the voters get rid of them. Canada will continue to slide into the status of one of those countries which appears to be "free" but isn't because of the lack of information.

Canada actually opposed the U.S.A. and Russia in the polar bear debate. Russia and the U.S.A. wanted a more endangered status for the bears, Harper didn't. None of this gets out into the main stream media which most people rely on for news. Most news these days comes through blogs and small independant newspapers.

Owen Gray said...

Not only does Harper sit on information, e.a.f. He also has an unofficial alliance with most of the newspapers in this country.

Their motto is not "all the news that's fit to print." It's "all the news the government allows."

Fightfordemocracy said...

I'm sorry for the scientists - how can they be scientists without publishing? I suppose the younger ones will go abroad.

I'm sorry for Canada too. The MSM are sounding more and more unreal. I heard on the internet that Harper is planning a net of about thirty small nuclear reactors in the tar sands, to power further expansion. I didn't believe it and thought the source unreliable but in fact the University of Saskatchewan is researching exactly this project. This should be in the MSM and we should be discussing it with intense interest but I suppose it is one of the scientific projects we are not supposed to know about.

Owen Gray said...

It's certainly a bizarre story, Fighting. Unfortunately, it's all too believable.

Harper's arrogance and hypocrisy are stunning. He's now accusing Mulcair of treason for not supporting the Keystone Pipeline on a trip to the U.S. He fails to note that he disagreed loudly with Chretien's decision to not support the invasion of Iraq -- and said so when he visited the U.S.

Knowing how that adventure turned out, you would think he would not get too exorcised about Mulcair. But he's not smart enough to understand that discretion is the better part of valor.

Holly Stick said...

They aren't just muzzling scientists; now federal archivists and librarians as well:

Owen Gray said...

I just read about the librarians today. Apparently, the Harperites are requiring them to sign a loyalty oath.

How will they punish non-compliance? Establish a gulag?

Michael Taylor said...

This is an important story ... NO previous government has ever attempted this degree of control of science in the service of the public good. This is non-partisan information paid for by tax payers and must not be controlled by idealogues. The only good news is that Harper is clearly demonstrating what a control freak he is and i is not a pretty sight.

Owen Gray said...

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see the Soviet style control that Harper enforces on his caucus and the civil service, Michael.

Such men are dangerous.