Scientists working for the federal government will no longer have to worry about being muzzled. For years under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, scientists were required to go through a strict extensive departmental approval process, but that is about to change.
“Our government values science and will treat scientists with respect,” said Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, in a statement. “That is why government scientists and experts will be able to speak freely about their work to the media and the public.”
“We are working to make government science fully available to the public and will ensure that scientific analyses are considered in decision making.”
The announcement fulfills Justin Trudeau’s much-touted campaign promise to allow scientists to speak freely about their scientific findings and data. Policy changes across all federal departments and ministries with regards to communicating to the media and the public will be made over the coming week.
Canada’s academic and scientific community has long contended that Harper’s policy change specifically targeted scientists working for Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans – to ensure that scientific findings do not clash with the Conservative agenda and positions. This includes topical and policy matters such as climate change, natural resource development, crime, and poverty.
“I think it was probably based on the belief that if you kept information and knowledge off the public agenda or restricted its circulation, that those were issues that you then didn’t have to take seriously,” Gordon Price, the Director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University, told Vancity Buzz.
“So you just don’t allow scientists to speak, you don’t allow information to flow, and you don’t give the media a hook that can be used to raise as a discussion point.”
Earlier this week, the Liberal government also said it has plans to reinstate the long-form census in 2016.