The Web We Weave When We Practice to Deceive

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We are not muzzling scientists.” – Peter Kent, Canada’s Environment Minister.

I shook my head reading Margaret Munro’s Weekend Vancouver Sun article on freedom of information documents that caught Canada’s Minister of the Environment lying about muzzling scientists.

Kent has repeatedly denied that the government is muzzling scientists. But according to the documents, Kent’s office clearly muzzled Environment Canada researcher David Tarasick, preventing him from speaking to a number of media outlets about an unprecedented hole that appeared in the ozone layer above the Arctic in 2011.

According to Munro, “the documents also say Kent’s office and the Privy Council Office, which reports to the prime minister, decide when and if Environment Canada scientists are allowed to brief the media about anything from wildlife to water quality.”

Why would the Minister of the Environment block public discussion of scientific work that may be important for the health and safety of Canadians and their environment?

Shouldn’t a minister of the environment be working to inform the public about environmental threats, encouraging the free flow of scientific knowledge and inviting informed citizens to participate in the decision-making process?

OK, it may be a bit naïve expecting politicians to tell the truth. Most Canadians have an idea who benefits when scientists are muzzled and the free exchange of scientific knowledge about environmental threats is constrained.

The real question, then, is why Minister Kent seems so comfortable lying to Canadians about muzzling scientists when he knows that we know what he is doing?

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