The Environmental Law Centre of the
University of Victoria has written to Suzanne Legault,
Information Commissioner of Canada,
asking her,pursuant to s. 30(1)(f) of the Access to Information Act,to:
investigate the federal government's policies and
actions to obstruct the right of the public and the media to
speak to government scientists.
"We request that you initiate an investigation under s.
30(1)(f) of the Access to Information Act into the 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. We ask you to take this
step because of the deeply troubling findings in the attached
report, Muzzling Civil Servants: A Threat to
The report primarily focuses on how the federal
government has disrupted the media environment through
the direct and indirect muzzling of government scientists and
other federal civil servants:
"Federal civil servants in Canada, and in particular
scientists, are being muzzled by the federal government.
Muzzling occurs directly or indirectly; civil servants who are not
permitted to speak with the media, or who are not permitted to
speak with the media in a time frame that is compatible with
the fast-paced media environment, are effectively being muzzled.
The federal government is also manipulating the release of
government information by selectively permitting or
disallowing responses to media inquiries, using communications
employees to craft "approved lines" or provide
scripted answers to civil servants, and through subtle
means of intimidation when allowing civil servants to respond
directly to media inquiries, such as requiring all interviews
to be recorded or for a communications employee to be present at
the time of the interview. Canada was once recognized
internationally as a country that encouraged its scientists to
speak freely and openly to the public. However, the federal
government is taking steps in the wrong direction and has
drawn international criticism in recent years. Even more alarming
is the fact that the federal government has ignored all such
criticism and seems intent on continuing down this path.
Access to government information is a vital part of a healthy
As Nature journal once put it:
"The way forward is clear: it is time for the
Canadian government to set its scientists
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