Investigation launched into ‘muzzling’ of scientists by Harper government

Canada's information commissioner Suzanne Legault ~ Postmedia News

Canada’s information commissioner Suzanne Legault ~ Postmedia News

01/04/13 _ The federal information commissioner’s office is launching a sweeping investigation into complaints that the Harper government has been ”muzzling” and restricting access to scientists.

Seven federal departments and agencies, from Environment Canada to the National Research Council of Canada, have been told Suzanne Legault’s office plans to act on complaints about “the systematic efforts by the Government of Canada to obstruct the right of the media — and through them, the Canadian public — to timely access to government scientists.”

“A notice of our intention to investigate and a summary of complaint has been sent” to the seven departments, Emily McCarthy, assistant information commissioner, says in a March 27 letter to Calvin Sandborn, legal director of the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria. Continue reading


Gaping hole opened in Arctic ozone layer

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

Harper bureaucracy orders no alarms, no surprises

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

Dead Fish Swimming – Virus may have killed Fraser River salmon

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

Tightened science muzzle is ‘Orwellian’

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

Feds muzzle scientist over salmon study

Wed Jul 27 2011 Vancouver Sun

By Margaret Munro
Postmedia News

Top bureaucrats in Ottawa have muzzled a leading fisheries scientist based on Vancouver Island whose discovery could help explain why salmon stocks have been crashing off Canada’s West Coast, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News.

The documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister’s Office, stopped Kristi Miller from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.

Science, one of the world’s top research journals, published Miller’s findings in January. The journal considered the work so significant it notified “over 7,400” journalists worldwide about Miller’s “Suffering Salmon” study.

Science told Miller to “please feel free to speak with journalists.”

It advised reporters to contact Diane Lake, a media officer with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Vancouver, “to set up interviews with Dr. Miller.”

Miller heads a $6-million salmon genetics project at the federal Pacific Biological Station on Vancouver Island.

The documents show major media outlets were soon lining up to speak with Miller, but the Privy Council Office said no to the interviews.

The Privy Council Office also quashed a Fisheries Department news release about Miller’s study, saying the release “was not very good, focused Continue reading

The Demon Gene: ‘A spectacularly horrible’ disease wreaks havoc with several generations of a Canadian family

Sat Jun 24 2006, National Post

By Margaret Munro

A lethal gene has cut a swath through Corey Winter’s family. It killed great-great uncles as young as 25, his great grandfather at 36 and his grandmother at 61. Uncles in their 30s and 40s, seemingly healthy men, suddenly collapsed and died.

The gene is now unleashing its horror in Mr. Winter’s generation, killing 20- and 30-year-olds. His cousin Elvis was raking up in front of his new house when he died at 28.

The first symptom that something was wrong was his last.

Mr. Winter has been there, seconds from death, his head spinning, about to black out. But his story has a much different ending. As he dropped to the ground, a device wired to his heart fired and zapped him back to life. Continue reading