POLITICS

Unmuzzled Federal Biologist Facebook Post Goes Viral

11/08/2015 03:08 EST | Updated 11/08/2016 05:12 EST
A Facebook post from the mother of an unmuzzled B.C. biologist has gone viral, shedding more insight into the changes in the control of information since the new federal government took office last week.

Jody Paterson, the mother of a fisheries biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, shared a "spirit-lifting" message from her son in a Facebook post on Friday.

Paterson quoted a status update her son made on his personal Facebook account, where he announced that his DFO supervisors told him the muzzle order on scientists had been lifted. He said the changes were announced by his supervisors at an all staff meeting on Thursday.

"We were told that it's ok to talk to the media or anyone about what we do without permission. That's how surreal it was. That's how things changed over night," the post reads.

Paterson says her son has been working with the department for about a year.

She shared his message with her own Facebook friends, adding a few comments of her own. The post now has more than 11,000 likes and 8,200 shares.

My son is a fisheries biologist with Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Here's his spirit-lifting post from...

Posted by Jody Paterson on Friday, November 6, 2015

Paterson, a former journalist in B.C. who now lives in Nicaragua, says she has been shocked by the response.

"I've had people tell me they cried when they read that post, and now I'm seeing comments from others who are talking about crying during the swearing-in ceremony, crying on the day after the election," she told CBC News in a written statement.

"These are regular people who are not particularly political, and they had been stuffing down their feelings of rage and helplessness for so long that when it was finally over and the Harper government was vanquished, all the emotions flooded out."

Paterson has written a blog post about the experience and sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to tell him about her son and thank him for reversing the communication policy of the previous government.

Government announced reversal on Friday

Kristi Miller, a B.C.-based molecular geneticist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, was among the first scientists to speak out after the unmuzzling.

In 2011, she was prevented from discussing her research into the 2009 Fraser River sockeye salmon collapse following its publication.

"When we were banned, it almost made government scientists second-class citizens in the scientific arena," she said. "It was quite embarrassing. I really felt like a second-class citizen."

Navdeep Bains, the new minister of innovation, science and economic development, announced the policy change Friday, two days after Trudeau and his cabinet were sworn in.

"Our government values science and will treat scientists with respect. That is why government scientists and experts will be able to speak freely about their work to the media and the public," he said in a written statement.

"We are working to make government science fully available to the public and will ensure that scientific analyses are considered in decision making."

The previous government of former prime minister Stephen Harper brought in a restrictive communications policy that required national or international media requests to speak with federal government scientists to be approved by a minister's office, and all communications with government scientists to go through a government communications office.