Canadians' Health and Safety Undermined by Government Interference in Science and Due Processes

Vancouver, October 9, 2008 — An open letter signed by some of Canada's most distinguished scientists asks the country's political leaders to take action to end the government's mishandling and mistreatment of science and due processes.
The letter includes 85 signatures from scientists collectively known as the Canadian Scientists Against the Politicization of Science; the group represents a range of scientific disciplines, including health, environmental science and technology. This interference is fueled by political and ideological beliefs, the group states.

“Ideology cannot control what is found through the due diligence of scientific process,” says Dr. Julio Montaner, Director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and President of the International AIDS Society. “The Harper government's suppression and misrepresentation of research does a great disservice to Canadians in terms of our personal health and safety.”

The policy of claiming uncertainty or doubt with scientific results was successfully used by the tobacco lobby of the past when arguing that no ill side effects existed through secondhand smoke,” said Dr. Stephen Hwang, Research Scientist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. “I strongly oppose the distortion of scientific evidence as has been the policy of the current federal government, and we can no longer stand idle while ideology trumps scientific proof.”

Examples of interference by the federal government, as stated in the letter, include closing the Office of the National Science Advisor, misrepresenting climate change science, muzzling Environment Canada scientists, cuts to and reorganization of the Canadian Wildlife Service, political appointments to the board of Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, halting the Prison Tattoo Pilot Study and the suppression of the results of this study, firing the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and the suppression and misrepresentation of research related to Vancouver's supervised injection facility.

“Scientists of all disciplines have been faced with examples where the government has chosen ideology over scientific process. Science is meant to inform policy; it should not be muzzled by ideology,” says Dr. Andrew Weaver, Professor, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.

This is not the first time the scientific community has voiced concerns and displeasure with the Harper government.

As recently as Monday, Canada's top climate change researchers urged Canadians to vote for the environment. They also urged the federal government to cease the obstruction of international efforts to address global warming. To view the Open Letter, please click here.