A group of protesters represent former Prime Minister Stephen Harper muzzling a Member of Parliament, a librarian and a scientist in April 2013. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Scientists formally unmuzzled by new government policy

The current Canadian government has announced a new policy to ensure that “scientific evidence is gathered without political or commercial interference.” This is a further measure to roll back the previous, Conservative government’s muzzling of scientists.

Scientists had been severely limited

The government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper forbade federal government scientists from speaking with reporters without prior approval, limited their participation in international conventions and closed federal laboratories. Hundreds of scientists demonstrated against the policies in 2012 and again during the federal election campaign in 2015.

After they were elected, the Liberals announced scientists were freed from these constraints. To formalize the reversal, the government asked the chief science advisor to consult with the federal research community and federal officials to devise a new policy on scientific integrity.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seen with chief scientist Mike Wong on June 29, 2017. Trudeau committed to allowing scientists to speak freely about their work shortly after taking office in 2015. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Scientific freedom is ‘fundamental to a free and open democracy’

The stated aim is to encourage federal scientists to speak freely about their work and engage with the public, foster a culture that supports and promotes scientific integrity, and increase the reliability and public trust in government science and research.

“Federal scientists must be free to share their publicly funded expertise and research with an engaged and informed Canadian public,” said Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport in a news release. “It’s fundamental to promoting a free and open democracy, and this model policy is a major step forward in pursuing this shared goal of the Government of Canada, federal unions and the research community.”

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