The Harper government’s preoccupation with message control has earned several federal departments a failing grade for communication.
Feb 14, 2013
By Margaret Munro, Postmedia News
A bid by the federal government to impose sweeping confidentiality rules on an Arctic science project has run into serious resistance in the United States.
“I’m not signing it,” said Andreas Muenchow, of the University of Delaware, who has taken issue with the wording that Canada’s Fisheries and Oceans department has proposed for the Canada-U.S. project.
It’s an affront to academic freedom and a “potential muzzle,” said Muenchow, who has been collaborating with DFO scientists on the project in the Eastern Arctic since 2003.
DFO’s proposed confidentiality provisions say all technology and “other information” related to the Arctic project “shall be deemed to be confidential and neither party may release any such information to others in any way whatsoever without the prior written authorization of the other party.”
If enforced, Muenchow says the fisheries department could prevent researchers from publishing scientific findings, blogging about their project or sharing information on the project with the media and public, which is encouraged by the U.S. agencies co-funding the project. Muenchow and DFO scientists involved in the project travel north by icebreaker to deploy and retrieve instruments to assess oceanographic conditions in the ice-choked Nares Strait, which runs between Canada’s Ellesmere Island and Greenland and may have a significant effect on ocean circulation.
Muenchow’s problem with the DFO comes amid growing concern and controversy over the Harper government’s micro-management of scientific projects. Continue reading
Environment Minister Peter Kent has repeatedly said the government does not muzzle its scientists. But Kent’s office stopped David Tarasick, an Environment Canada researcher, from talking to journalists about a report on last year’s unprecedented Arctic ozone hole, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News under the Access to Information Act.
It’s the latest case uncovered by Postmedia News where ministers’ offices or the Privy Council Office have prevented federal scientists from talking to the media about their science.
The documents also say Kent’s office and the Privy Council Office, which reports to the prime minister, decide when and if Environment Canada scientists are allowed to brief the media about anything from wildlife to water quality.
Last fall, Kent was adamant in the House of Commons that ”we are not muzzling scientists.” And the minister reported to a parliamentary committee in May that “circumstances simply did not work out” to allow Tarasick to give interviews when a study he co-authored on the Arctic ozone hole was published in Nature, a leading science journal. Continue reading