Scientists rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday as Canadian scientists and their supporters hold demonstrations across the country

‘Sound policy needs sound science’

Hundreds of frustrated scientists clad in their telltale white lab coats descended Monday on Parliament Hill to demand that the Harper government stop muzzling scientists and cutting research funding.

OTTAWA — Hundreds of frustrated scientists clad in their telltale white lab coats descended Monday on Parliament Hill to demand that the Harper government stop muzzling scientists and cutting research funding.

“What do we want? Evidence-based decision-making!” chanted the protesters as they gathered in the shadow of the Peace Tower, complaining about what they see as the government’s efforts to commercialize research.

The very fact that such a typically apolitical group felt the need to make their voices heard speaks volumes, said Jeremy Kerr, a biology professor at the University of Ottawa.

“As a commentary on the state of affairs, when people like me start showing up wearing their lab coats having come from their laboratories, things are pretty bleak,” Kerr told the crowd.

The fundamental message is “simplicity itself,” Kerr said: “Sound policy needs sound science.”

“The facts do not change just because the Harper government has chosen ignorance over evidence and ideology over honesty.”

The Ottawa rally was part of a national series of “Stand Up for Science” protests taking place across the country, organized by Ottawa-based science advocacy group Evidence for Democracy.

The group argues that evidence-based decision-making must inform governmental funding decisions on science. They say current funding has instead shifted towards commercialization of research.

“They want us to put aside what we’re doing and shift our efforts towards industry and to force us to do that they shift their money towards earmarked projects,” said Bela Joos, a University of Ottawa physics professor.

One protester attached a telescope to a bike helmet and carried a sign that read, “Desperately seeking intelligent life on Parliament Hill!”

Greg Rickford, minister of state for science and technology, defended the government in an emailed statement that did not directly acknowledge the protest nor the specific concerns raised by the scientists.

“Our government is committed to science, technology and innovation and taking ideas to the marketplace,” Rickford said. “Canada is ranked number one in the G7 for our higher education research and development.”

Scientists also argue that government cuts have reduced public science projects aimed at helping average Canadians in sectors like health and the environment.

They’re also upset about reports that the Conservative government has taken steps to restrict what scientists and other civil servants are allowed to say to the media.

The Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria and the ethics advocacy group Democracy Watch has cited multiple examples of taxpayer-funded science being suppressed or limited to pre-packaged media lines across six different government departments and agencies.

“Cuts to essential scientific programs and services have undermined our society’s scientists’ ability to serve the public good,” said Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair said the concept of fact-based decision-making goes “completely against the grain” for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government.

“The use of scientific information is something that bolsters our ability to protect the public,” Mulcair said.

“Stephen Harper’s shutting down of scientists — of firing them, or of muzzling the ones he hasn’t fired — is for us an approach that goes completely against the nature of a Parliament where things have to be debated openly.”

Just Posted

Red Deer city council aims to force larger non-profits to become more accountable

New bylaw defines which not-for-profits must pay for a business licence

Smaller, more affordable, lots wanted in Red Deer’s Evergreen neighbourhood

Council approves first reading of requested lot-size changes

RDC’s new name to be unveiled in February

The next big milestone for Red Deer College is a new name,… Continue reading

Lacombe considering licensing cats

Council is expected to take a look at cat potential licensing regulations next month

Lacombe updating its nuisance bylaw

New bylaw expected to address everything from noisy snowblowers to driveway wrecks

2-for-1: Total lunar eclipse comes with supermoon bonus

On Sunday night, the moon, Earth and sun lined up to create the eclipse, which was visible throughout North and South America

Opinion: Faith in immigration must be preserved

Canada has a deserved reputation for extending its arms to newcomers, but… Continue reading

Olympian Adam van Koeverden wins federal Liberal nomination in Ontario riding

MILTON, Ont. — Former Olympic flag-bearer Adam van Koeverden will be carrying… Continue reading

World champion Osmond says it’s “really nice” not to know what future holds

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Kaetlyn Osmond has a world title, Olympic medals… Continue reading

World economy forecast to slow in 2019 amid trade tensions

For Canada, the IMF’s estimate for growth in 2019 was 1.9 per cent, down from expected global growth of 3.5 per cent

Timberlake pops in on patients at Texas children’s hospital

DALLAS — Justin Timberlake has pulled some sunshine from his pocket for… Continue reading

UK police speak to Prince Philip about not wearing seatbelt

LONDON — British police have spoken with Prince Philip after the husband… Continue reading

‘Gotti’ leads Razzie nominations, Trump up for worst actor

The nominations were announced on Monday, Jan. 21 with some movies earning up to six nominations

Curtain rising Sunday night on total lunar eclipse

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The celestial curtain will be rising soon on… Continue reading

Most Read