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Thousands of Canadian Scientists Protest 'Death of Science-Based Policy'

Harper government's cuts to research funding show preference for 'ignorance over evidence and ideology over honesty'

Jacob Chamberlain

Thousands of scientists gathered in cities across Canada on Monday to protest the ongoing "muzzling" of the scientific community by the conservative-led government along with drastic cuts to research funding.

"What do we want? Evidence-based decision-making!" chanted protesters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

"I believe that the muzzling of science represents a government that is willfully blind."

Protesting scientists could be found in their lab coats in 18 cities across the country, as part of a series of "Stand Up for Science" rallies organized by the Ottawa-based science advocacy group Evidence for Democracy.

Since the conservative government took power in 2006, federal funding for research has deteriorated, as has science-based policy making and public accessibility to scientific research and findings, the group charges. The government has notably reduced public science projects in public health and the environment.

"The great strength of science is its openness to scrutiny, to examination and self-correction," David Suzuki, environmental author, told a crowd of more than 200 in Vancouver. Suzuki said scientific research is needed for public and scientific awareness around issues such as the Northern Gateway pipeline, GMOs, and other environmental and public health concerns — sectors of research that are being gutted by the current administration.

"Science, not politics or corporations, provides by far the best assessment of the way the world works, and the information that we need to decide how we must act," Suzuki said.

"I believe that the muzzling of science represents a government that is willfully blind."

Canada's National Research Council's decreased research publication by 80 per cent between 2006 and 2012, According to Ottawa Citizen.

"Stephen Harper's shutting down of scientists — of firing them, or of muzzling the ones he hasn't fired — is for us an approach that goes completely against the nature of a Parliament where things have to be debated openly," said New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair.

"They want us to put aside what we're doing and shift our efforts towards industry and to force us to do that they shift their money towards earmarked projects," Bela Joos, a University of Ottawa physics professor, told the Ottawa Citizen.

"The facts do not change just because the Harper government has chosen ignorance over evidence and ideology over honesty," added Jeremy Kerr, a biology professor at the University of Ottawa.

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