Canadian Scientists March on Ottawa to Protest the "Death of Evidence"

Protester Sign© Zoe Caron

Some Things Should be Immortal

The best governments are pragmatic and evidence-based. They do their best to solicit the help of the experts who know most and gather all relevant facts, and then they try to make informed decisions based on the evidence. If the known facts change or evolve, they are open to changing their minds. The worst governments are ideology-based (and sadly, that can happen all over the political spectrum, as history has shown us multiple times) and start with the answers and then try to work backwards to create rationalizations and justifications for what they wanted to do all along. To them the ability to change your mind is a flaw rather than a virtue.

Today, many Canadian scientists are marching on the parliament in Ottawa, the federal capital, to protest against what they call the "death of evidence". The rally is designed as a funeral procession with "evidence" as the deceased. Participants are instructed to wear either a lab coat or black clothing.

This 'death' englobes the result of many policies by the Harper government, such as cuts to important scientific research, and policies that destroy the environment without considering the risks, as well as transparent attempts to silence critics. So with this government, ideology seems to have taken over, and rather than follow the evidence where it leads, it seems to attempt to kill evidence. Here's an example:

[The Harper] government is also accused of jeopardising Canada's scientific reputation by shutting down the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), a research station that produced critical evidence to help stop acid rain. [...]

Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, was even more pointed. "It's not about saving money. It's about imposing ideology," he said. "What's happening here is that the government has an ideological agenda to develop the Canadian economy based on the extraction of oil out of the Alberta tar sands as quickly as possible and sell it as fast as it can, come hell and high water, and eliminate any barriers that stand in their way." (source)

We wrote about it last month: Canadian Government Shuts Down Freshwater Research After 40 Years of Groundbreaking Science

Katie Gibbs, a Ph.D. student in the biology department of the University of Ottawa, my alma mater, told the Tyee: "We want to let Canadians know that these aren't just part of regular budget cuts. We think that what's happening here is a systematic campaign to reduce the flow of scientific information to Canadians."

But sadly, there are many other examples, such as:

  • Cutting the mandatory long-form national census.
  • Major budget reductions to research programs at Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Library and Archives Canada, the National Research Council Canada, Statistics Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
  • Decisions to close major natural and social science research institutions such as the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area, the National Council of Welfare and the First Nations Statistical Institute.
  • Closing of The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in Eureka, Nunavut

Many of the protesters and supporters of the rally are tweeting using the hashtag #DeathofEvidence. Feel free to join in and help raise awareness!

More information can be found on the protesters' website.

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