Death of scientific evidence mourned on Parliament Hill
Scientists, concerned citizens hold mock funeral in Ottawa to protest federal cuts
Hundreds of people held a mock funeral on Parliament Hill to mourn what they call the death of evidence and the muzzling of scientists by the federal government.
Scientists and their supporters wore white lab coats or dressed in black and carried a wooden coffin that represented "the body of evidence" on to the steps of Parliament Hill. They carried signs with slogans and some wore buttons that said [Prime Minister] "Stephen Harper hates science."
"If we don't stand up for science, nobody will," Katie Gibbs, one of the rally's organizers, told the crowd. "After a long battle with the current federal government, evidence has suffered its final blow."
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Cuts to federal science programs, legislative changes in the recent budget implementation bill and the muzzling of scientists all show the government's disregard for evidence, she said.
The elimination of the long form census, cuts to ozone monitoring, air and marine pollution as well as other environmental programs were given as examples of how the government has mounted "a systematic campaign to reduce the flow of scientific evidence to Canadians," the protesters said.
Several speakers delivered eulogies to mourn the loss of evidence, including one directed specifically at the planned closure of the Experimental Lakes Area.
Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, said scientists at the world-renowned research facility are doing too good a job of monitoring damage to fresh water and that the prime minister doesn't want Canadians to find out about it.
"What do you do if you want to kill the message? Well, just kill the messenger and that's what we're here today to mourn," she told the large crowd.
The prime minister and the Conservatives were accused of only favouring evidence they like, which the demonstrators said amounts to propaganda.
"If you think it can't happen in Canada then you are disregarding the very evidence that the government is providing us with its own actions," said Vance Trudeau, a biologist at the University of Ottawa.
Scott Findlay, another of the protest's organizers, ended the mock funeral by encouraging his fellow scientists to keep standing up for evidence and by leading the crowd in a chant of, "No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy."
The protest attracted Liberal MP Ted Hsu, a scientist before he was elected last May, NDP MP Laurin Liu and Independent MP Bruce Hyer.
Conservatives defend record
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, parliamentary secretary to Environment Minister Peter Kent, said the government has received lots of positive feedback on the decisions it made in the last budget.
"We're very proud of our track record in this regard and we're proud to stand up for it," she told CBC News Network. She said that even in trying economic times, the federal government has increased funding for basic research.
She said the academic community has been pleased with how much money was invested in research and development.
Rempel also defended the government's record on the environment and said the government is making wise investments to protect it. "Canada is a world leader," Rempel said.
Gary Goodyear, minister of state for science and technology, issued a statement saying the government has made "historic investments" in science, technology and research.
"Our investments are enabling Canadian scientists in universities, colleges, businesses and other organizations to help secure Canada's prosperity today and into the future," Goodyear said.
Read Kady O'Malley's liveblog of the event:
Mobile-friendly liveblog also available.