SCIENTISTS AREN’T THE ONLY ONES SILENCED

Scientists aren't the only ones being muzzled by the government. (Photograph by Shutterstock.com)

The ability of government scientists to speak out has been under a media microscope. But what about all the other bureaucrats who are being muzzled? (Photograph by Shutterstock.com)

THE SELECTIVE SOUND OF SILENCE? When it comes to the silencing of federal employees, government scientists seem to be most popular kids on the block.

According to Canadian Newsstand, phrases about the muzzling of those scientists have appeared in newspapers and wire services included in that database at least 280 times since the 2002 election.

But other government workers are also gagged, equally compromising Canadians right to know.

Nevertheless, similar phrases about their silencing have appeared appeared just 63 times over the same period.*

MORE POWER FOR THE FEW The federal government’s proposed new copyright law amendment could further fortify the power political parties have in comparison to other civil society groups.

Unlike charities and non-profits, those parties can engaged in unrestricted political activities and issue a tax receipt when Canadians donate to them.

The Tory’s proposed copyright law amendment could increase that advantage by allowing parties to use news content for their advertising without permission.

But, given the fact that a 2006 study estimated just one to two percent of Canadians belong to a political party on a year-to-year basis, one wonders whether all that power is deserved.

WHEN THE PRIVATE SHOULD BE PUBLIC Canada’s freedom of information law doesn’t allow the public access to disciplinary records about public servants. But that’s not always the case in the United States.

In an editorial complaining about Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act — which allows for a similar kind of shielding  — the Daily Press writes, “Other states require disclosure of this information.”

“Consider Montana, where the Supreme Court said, ‘The public has a clear and unambiguous right to know the information involved in the internal investigation of a public employee for any alleged violation of any policy, law or rule.’”

As such, the paper is urging those reviewing the Virginia’s sunshine law “to pay special attention to the personnel exemption that effectively enables” bad behaviour on the part of public officials.

Perhaps Canadians should be arguing the same thing?

* = I searched Canadian Newsstand for the phrases “gagging,” “gagged” “muzzling,” “muzzled,” “silencing” and “silenced” next to the words scientists, bureaucrats, public servants, civil servants, government employees and government workers. I limited the search to stories that included the words Harper or federal government. I then removed stories about other governments, as well as bestseller lists mentioning Chris Turner’s book The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada.

Have a news tip about about the state of democracy, openness and accountability in Canada? You can email me at this address.

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