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NDP calls for muzzling of fed scientists to end

Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart
Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart's riding will include a portion of North Vancouver district in the next federal election.
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The New Democrats are calling on Ottawa to take the muzzles off federal scientists.

Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, the opposition's science and technology critic, tabled a motion that, if passed, would allow government scientists and researchers to speak freely to the media and share their research findings.

While Parliament is currently prorogued, Stewart said the motion will be debated once the House of Commons officially sits again.

The best indication that federal scientists are being censored by the government is the fact scientists and their supporters held "Stand Up for Science" protests in 17 cities across Canada Monday, said Stewart on Wednesday from Wolfville, NS, where he was visiting family.

In addition, the federal information commissioner is currently investigating allegations of muzzling in six federal departments and agencies—Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada, National Research Council, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Department of National Defence and Natural Resources Canada.

Stewart said the allegations appear to show attempts to prevent the release of any research that would be unfavourable to the Conservative federal government, mainly related to the biological sciences in connection with the environment.

"Some scientists say they're not allowed to use the word "carbon" in any of their public engagements," he said.

The NDP's motion is modelled on similar directives in the U.S., where the Obama government has put in place measures to encourage science.

"It shows the importance the Americans put on innovation, science and technology, where we're going in the complete opposite direction," Stewart said.

He noted that numerous American scientists are choosing not to collaborate with their Canadian counterparts due to foreign scientists being required by the Canadian government to sign non-disclosure forms.

"The global community is really watching what's happening here."

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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