The War on Science in Canada is Over!

Under the almost 10-year-long leadership of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada's international reputation was greatly tarnished, especially in the field of science.

Canada's new leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, took office on November 4, 2015, and has already begun reversing the stranglehold on science that characterized the Harper Administration. 

In an open letter to Mr. Harper, dated October 21, 2014, the Union of Concerned Scientists pleaded for the removal of "excessive and burdensome restrictions and barriers to scientific communication and collaboration faced by Canadian government scientists." The letter was signed by over 800 scientists from 32 countries, and urged the Prime Minister to restore government science funding and allow government scientists to openly share their research findings.

Meeting today's complex environmental and public health challenges requires the full participation of scientists around the globe. -Union of Concerned Scientists
Under Mr. Harper, communication between government scientists and the media was restricted, research agencies were shut down, many federal scientists were laid off, research collections were destroyed, and scientific evidence was largely ignored in policymaking.

Harper and his government were simply anti-science, anti-evidence, and anti-informed policy and decision-making. The cutbacks to scientific staff in the public service were draconian. More than 2,000 positions and people were lost, many in my field [of environmental science], resulting in a loss of a generation of skills, knowledge, and capacity that were there to serve the public. -Dr. Peter Wells, former scientist with Environment Canada, told the National Observer.
Harper, in keeping with what Stephen Marche calls "his peculiar hatred of sharing information," was particularly interested in protecting petrochemical companies from "inconvenient research" that could expose environmental and health dangers of petrochemicals.

The Trudeau Administration has already righted some of the wrongs perpetrated by the Conservative government. The science reforms so far:

  1. Government scientists can now communicate freely with the public and the press once again. 
  2. Canada now has two science ministers: Kirsty Duncan, who is responsible for research-driven pure science; and Navdeep Bains, who is responsible for applied science -- which leads directly to the development of products and services for Canadians. 
  3. The long-form census has been restored. This mandatory census provides detailed data that informs government decisions related to social programs and infrastructure. 
To see other changes promised by the new Liberal government and to track developments on these changes, check out the TrudeauMetre.


References

Belluz, J. (2015, November 9). Canada is finally ending its war on science. Vox. Retrieved from http://www.vox.com/2015/11/9/9696876/canada-science-trudeau

Bianchi, A., Hindle, V., Malizia, A., Palastanga, V., Fulton, B., Hill, L.,...Defeo, O. (2014, October 21). An open letter on science to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper [Open letter]. Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/ucs-documents/science-and-democracy/canada-letter-word-by-country.pdf

Campion-Smith, B. (2015, November 5). Canada's long-form census is back fro 2016. Toronto Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/11/05/liberals-restore-mandatory-long-form-census.html

Dinshaw, F. (2015, November 9). Harper's reign of terror finally over for scientists. National Observer. Retrieved from http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/11/09/news/harper%E2%80%99s-reign-terror-finally-over-scientists

Marche, S. (2015, August 14). The closing of the Canadian mind. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/opinion/sunday/the-closing-of-the-canadian-mind.html?_r=2

Spears, T. (2015, November 6). Why Canada now has two science ministers. Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved from http://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/why-canadian-science-now-has-two-ministers

(image 1 via Pixabay; image 2 by Day Donaldson via Flickr)