“The Death of Evidence”

Scientists and hundreds of others rallied to Parliament Hill through downtown Ottawa on Tuesday July 10 2012, some dressed as reapers, others dressed in white-lab coats and many in black dresses. And no, it was not for Halloween, they mocked a funeral that represented what they called ‘death of evidence’ (Pedwell, 2012).

The protesters, who consisted mostly of scientists, students, researchers and professors, decried the  Harper government’s  agenda to cut the funds for Experimental Lakes Area and other scientific research centers. The Experimental Lakes Area research center consists of 58 small freshwater lakes in Northwestern Ontario, Canada (IISD, 2014). These lakes provide the researchers and the scientists a platform to study and examine how the ecosystem works. Scientists use the lakes as  ‘natural test tubes’ and perform experiments, and the results help the scientists propose solutions to environmental problems. The result from these researches have a major impact on environmental policies around the globe (IISD, 2014).

Although the main theme of the rally was to support the Experimental Lakes Area research facilities, and to condemn the Harper government’s plans to cut its budget, demonstrators also protested the overall agenda of the government that put the environment at risk just to create jobs. According to the Council of Canadians, “…Scientific evidence is being destroyed through cuts to critical programs at the National Research council, Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans…” (Pedwell, 2012).

Organizers of the rally argued that the Prime Minister is using different strategies to avoid bringing scientific evidences into the public debate (Davison, 2012a; Davison, 2012b). Protesters identified some techniques such as “muzzling” (limiting access to federal government scientists), not renewing the national science adviser, and shutting down the National Round Table on the Environment (Davison, 2012b).

Some of the scientists who marched to Parliament Hill, represented a group of scientific journalists who claim that they have been barred from talking about their research to the public and media. Researchers said that “they have seen their media availability carefully dictated or ruled out completely” (Davison, 2012a). Read more

On March 31st 2008, Arthur Carty, National Science Adviser, retired from his position, and the government announced that the position will be phased out (CBC, 2008). Members of the rally at Parliament Hill showed their discontent with the decision and believe that removing such an important connection between the scientific community and the politicians and policy makers is not ideal. More information available here.

Protesters also condemned the shutting down of the National Round Table on the Environment. The Environment panel was confirmed to shut down following a disagreement on addressing climate change (Davison, 2012b;  CBC, 2012). For almost over 20 years the panel had been producing research on how the businesses and the government could work together for a better environment. The Panel introduced the idea of carbon tax on businesses which the conservative government- favoring the business market- did not like and planned to shut down the board (CBC, 2012). Read more.

The protesters held banners and placards that read “No Science, No Evidence, No Truth” (Pedwell, 2012). Katie Gibbs, one of the organizers and a PhD student at University  of Ottawa said: “It definitely seems to us these cuts are not just part of fighting the deficit” (Davison, 2012b).

Reference list:

CBC News. (2008, January 25). Scientists lament closing of key advisory office – Technology & Science – CBC News.CBCnews. Retrieved October 17, 2014, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/scientists-lament-closing-of-key-advisory-office-1.756700

CBC News. (2012, May 15) Environment panel’s end blamed on support for carbon tax. .CBCnews. Retrieved October 17, 2014, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/environment-panel-s-end-blamed-on-support-for-carbon-tax-1.1164935

Davison, J. (2012a, March 27). Are Canada’s federal scientists being ‘muzzled’?. CBCnews. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/are-canada-s-federal-scientists-being-muzzled-1.1278183

Davison, J. (2012b, July 11). Scientists rally on Parliament Hill to mourn ‘death of evidence’ – Technology & Science – CBC News. CBCnews. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/scientists-rally-on-parliament-hill-to-mourn-death-of-evidence-1.1237215

IISD-ELA. (2014). IISD Experimental Lakes Area. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://www.iisd.org/ela

Pedwell, T. (2012). Scientists take aim at Harper cuts with ‘death of evidence’ protest on Parliament Hill. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/scientists-take-aim-at-harper-cuts-with-death-of-evidence-protest-on-parliament-hill/article4403233/

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