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Canada to probe 'muzzling' of scientists

April 2, 2013 at 6:19 PM   |   Comments

OTTAWA, April 2 (UPI) -- A Canadian commission says it will investigate allegations the government blocked requests by journalists to interview government scientists about their work.

In response to a complaint filed by academics and a government watchdog group, Canada's Information Minister Suzanne Legualt has announced an investigation into six government departments over the so-called muzzling of government scientists, the Toronto Star reported Monday.

The University of Victoria Environmental Law Center and the non-partisan Democracy Watch had asked for a probe into "systematic efforts by the government of Canada to obstruct the right of the media -- and through them, the Canadian public -- to timely access to government scientists."

Veronique Morin, former president of the Canadian Science Writers Association, said the commission must investigate whether Canada's government has in effect been carrying out a policy of censorship.

"Vital stories pertaining to the environment, natural resources, food safety, fisheries and oceans are not coming out in Canada because, for several years now, the government has imposed rules which prevents its scientists from speaking freely about their publicly funded research," Morin said.

Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper reported the commission would investigate the Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Natural Resources, National Defense departments, as well as the Treasury Board Secretariat, National Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

"Government scientists and experts are readily available to share their research with the media and the public," the office of Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in a statement Monday. "Last year, Environment Canada participated in more than 1,300 media interviews, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada issued nearly 1,000 scientific publications, and Natural Resources Canada published nearly 500 studies."

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