Mon Oct 3 2011
By MARGARET MUNRO Postmedia News
A huge Arctic ozone hole opened up over the Northern Hemisphere for the first time this year, an international research team reported Sunday.
The hole covered 2 million square kilometres – about twice the size of Ontario – and allowed high levels of harmful ultraviolet radiation to hit large swaths of northern Canada, Europe and Russia this spring, the 29 scientists say.
The discovery of the “unprecedented” hole comes as the Canadian government is moving to reduce staff in what Environment Minister Peter Kent calls the “streamlining” of its ozone monitoring network.
Environment Canada scientist David Tarasick, whose team played a key role in the report published Sunday in the journal Nature, is not allowed to discuss the discovery with the media. Continue reading →
By Margaret Munro Postmedia News, Sep 16 2010
Federal bureaucrats are going to extraordinary lengths to create a “zero-surprise environment” for the Harper government, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News.
Media requests that used to be handled by government experts and communication staff across Canada now require a small army in Ottawa to answer, say the documents obtained this week under the access-to-information law. Continue reading →
Apr 23 2012
By Margaret Munro Postmedia News
Government media minders are being dispatched to an international polar conference in Montreal to monitor and record what Environment Canada scientists say to reporters.
The scientists will present the latest findings on everything from seabirds to Arctic ice, and Environment Canada’s media office plans to intervene when the media approaches the researchers, Postmedia News has learned.
Media instructions, which are being described as a heavy-handed attempt to muzzle and intimidate scientists, have been sent to Environment Canada researchers attending the International Polar Year conference that started on Sunday and runs all week.
“If you are approached by the media, ask them for their business card and tell them that you will get back to them with a time for (an) interview,” the Environment Canada scientists were told by email late last week. Continue reading →
Vancouver Sun Fri Jan 14 2011
By Margaret Munro Postmedia News
Volcanic eruptions, giant squid and sea lice have all been invoked to explain the wild swings in British Columbia’s famed Fraser River sockeye-salmon runs.
Now scientists are raising the possibility that a mysterious virus is responsible for killing huge numbers of Pacific salmon before they reach their spawning grounds.
“The mortality-related signature reflects a viral infection,” a team of federal and university researchers reported Thursday in a study that tagged and tracked wild adult sockeye salmon, then biopsied their gill tissues.
The compromised salmon, which appeared to have a viral infection at sea — a phenomenon study co-author Scott Hinch at the University of B.C. describes as “dead fish swimming” — were 13.5 times more likely to die before spawning than healthy fish. Continue reading →
Vancouver Sun Mon Aug 22 2011
By Margaret Munro Postmedia News With Files From Matt Robinson, Vancouver Sun
A fisheries biologist has not only been muzzled by the federal government, but her lab could be in trouble as well, Postmedia News has learned.
Kristi Miller, a geneticist who was silenced by the federal government’s Privy Council Office in January, will finally be permitted to speak this week at the inquiry looking into the decline of Fraser River salmon.
She is due to testify at the Cohen Commission on Wednesday about her team’s ominous discovery that viral pathogens may be weakening the fish. Federal documents indicate she might also have plenty to say about the health of her lab at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
The lab’s current “funding model,” which has been paying many technical staff, has been found to be Continue reading →
Vancouver Sun, Sept 13, 2010
By Margaret Munro, Postmedia News
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. Continue reading →