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Tightened muzzle on scientists is 'Orwellian'

Andrew Weaver, a climatologist at the University of VictoriaThe Harper government has tightened the muzzle on federal scientists, going so far as to control when and what they can say about floods at the end of the last ice age.

Natural Resources Canada (NRC) scientists were told this spring they need "pre-approval" from Minister Christian Paradis' office to speak with journalists. Their "media lines" also need ministerial approval, say documents obtained by Postmedia News through access-to-information legislation.

They also give a glimpse of how Canadians are being cut off from scientists whose work is financed by taxpayers, critics say, and is often of significant public interest -- be it about fish stocks, genetically modified crops or mercury pollution in the Athabasca River.

"We have new media interview procedures that require pre-approval of certain types of interview requests by the minister's office," wrote Judy Samoil, NRC's western regional communications manager, in a March 24 e-mail to colleagues.

The policy applies to "high-profile" issues such as "climate change, oilsands" and when "the reporter is with an international or national media organization (such as the CBC or the Canwest paper chain)," she wrote.


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