Presentation on Government Blockage of Scientific Findings
Prince George, B.C. – A group known as Evidence for Democracy is shining light on the issue of government disruption of the free flow of scientific information to the Canadian public.
With support from University of Northern British Columbia’s Graduate Student Society, the group is hosting a viewing of the CBC documentary Silence of the Labs this Tuesday, October 13th from 5 to 7 pm in the Wintergarden Lecture Theatre, Rm. 7-212 at UNBC.
The main theme of the event is “Are federal cutbacks to research programs depriving Canadians of crucial information?” A secondary theme is to highlight issues related to the transference of scientific information from federal scientists to the public.
Organizer Nikolaus Gantner is an adjunct professor in Environmental Science at UNBC and is also a consultant on environmental work. He is a Science Pledge Ambassador for Evidence for Democracy, which he describes as “a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization that is based in Ottawa and is an advocacy group pro-science, so we advocate for science and the use of evidence in decision-making, policy-making and so forth.”
“It basically started when the first rallies pro-science happened in Ottawa on Parliament Hill a couple of years ago.” He says events have since been held all across the country to promote science. Gantner says Evidence for Democracy runs its operations on public donations.
He says “the documentary discusses the recent cuts of programs funded by the federal government, the firing of several researchers and the consequences of that. And the main, over-arching question is whether Canadians are being deprived of important programs that are not funded anymore and are being shut down.”
Asked if there is a reason why the documentary is being shown here at this particular time, Gantner says “the documentary has been shown all year all over the country and, of course, there’s a concentration now. Places like Ottawa and many other places are doing the screenings and it’s certainly important that the public is informed when they go to the polls and it doesn’t hurt to have the issue of science and how we can all benefit from good science in peoples’ minds when they go to vote, no matter who they vote for.”
Gantner says the organizers invited all candidates in both Prince George-area ridings to attend the screening and discussion afterwards. He says “we’ve received feedback from a few that indicated there is a debate (the same night) at the Native Friendship Centre that collides with the timing of the screening so they can’t make it but maybe they can migrate from one to the other.”
He says candidates or their representatives are welcome to take part in the discussion. “We will invite anyone who is in the audience to share their thoughts on how publicly-funded science and information should be used and the access to it.” He adds “we, as the organizers, we don’t take sides, we’re not partisan we just want to raise awareness of the fact that these issues are out there and are important.”
The screening is open to the public and admission is by donation. Gantner says “if someone wants to throw in a loonie or a twoonie that would be great, but the way we booked to room we have to ask for donations, it’s a technicality. Any excess goes to Evidence for Democracy.”
We asked Gantner for his personal thoughts on government blocking scientists from publicly discussing findings of their research. He says “personally I’m concerned about that because as a Canadian, as a taxpayer I would like to know what the government knows because we are the government in a democracy and we want to know what evidence goes into the decision-making process.”
“In my view it’s important to be as open and transparent as possible. I have personally worked with federal government institutions. I, myself, was with Environment Canada for a certain period and for an extended period I was a collaborator with Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. And in the last decade, which is sort of the period where the policies around communication have been hampered, I certainly know the change of attitude within these departments and how it affects scientists within their work, directly and indirectly.”
Anyone wanting more information about Evidence for Democracy can find it at their website at https://evidencefordemocracy.ca/