For years now, the federal government has been censuring, muzzling, de-funding, and laying off scientists, librarians, archivists, statisticians, and researchers in its efforts vacate government involvement in core research, and to shift its focus to industry-specific needs.
There are three granting councils that allocate federal funding for research in Canada: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council (NSERC), and the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR). In constant dollars, from 2007-2013, base funding for SSHR has decreased by 10.1 per cent; funding for NSERC has decreased by 6.4 per cent; and funding for CIHR has decreased by 7.5 per cent. Meanwhile, NSERC funding aimed at "company-specific" problems has increased (between 2001-2012) by 1178 per cent, while success rates for CIHR grants has dropped by 61 per cent.
The government rationale for the de-funding and transfer of funding is that tax payer-funded research should serve the needs of industry. However, the shift in focus corrupts core research by creating research parameters that compromise thorough examinations of any given hypothesis or premise.
While these restrictions serve the government's agenda to create an unimpeded/streamlined environment for both industry and government ideology, they endanger the public. Core research that interferes with the government/corporate agenda (but sometimes negatively impacts public health and safety) is discarded or suppressed, while narrowly focused research that doesn't contradict corporate government messaging is rewarded.
Public dangers inherent in this strategy of information suppression and distortion are not always tangible, but they are toxic nonetheless.
Consider first the federal government's de-funding of the internationally acclaimed Experimental Lakes Area in Kenora, ON, (constituency of Canada's recently appointed Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr. Greg Rickford.) The only plausible explanation for such a closure would be that its findings would likely serve as an impediment to reckless resource extraction.
Instead of addressing challenges such as the effect of crude spills on water, or the impact of air pollutants on an ecosystem, the government chooses to deny that the problems exist, or to minimize their impacts. Both strategies of evasion (deny or minimize) are enabled in the absence of core scientific data, but the problems remain and the impacts on the environment, including humans, are perpetuated.
The track-record of the pharmaceutical industry also serves to highlight the dangers of industry-specific scientific research.
The tragedy of Vioxx is a case in point.
In its rush to secure a new patent for a new product, the international pharmaceutical company Merck rejected studies on the cardio-vascular risk of its new arthritis and pain drug, Vioxx (rofecoxib), and introduced it prematurely to the general public, in 1999. The drug contributed to an estimated 88,000-140,000 excess cases of serious heart disease, of which close to half would have resulted in fatalities, before it was withdrawn from the market on September 30, 2004
In Canada, the drug caused from 4,000-7,000 deaths.
Corporate corruption of science is not a new phenomenon. For decades, scientists employed by Big Tobacco successfully created unreasonable doubt about the safety of their products. Their distorted findings, as we now know, were to the detriment of the public.
The same dynamics are at play with global warming.
Industry-funded global warming "scientists", unqualified to make pronouncements on global warming, and unimpeded by the rigors of submitting their work for peer-review, have created unreasonable doubt about man-made global warming. Consequently, they have impeded efforts to responsibly address what is likely the largest threat to humanity.
The Harper government's decision to cancel the Long Form Census (LFC) is another example of the suppression of core evidence. A thorough census such as the (LFC) produces a detailed and accurate picture of Canada's demographics. Normally, such data is crucial for creating evidence-based policy; however, the comprehensiveness of the data reveals unwanted information. For example, currently there are about 4.2 million people living in poverty in Canada. Once poverty issues are no longer statistically verifiable, they will no longer need to be thoroughly addressed. Not surprisingly, Canada does not have a national anti-poverty strategy.
Core historical/social science -oriented research -- another area targeted for cuts --is vital for a nation's self-awareness. Without such awareness, a government can create alternate narratives at will, that may be to the detriment of the public.
Blog continues below slideshow...
Stephen Harper and wife Laureen in 2011. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8472663517/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets behind the bar at the Victoria pub in Montreal Friday, March 16, 2012 where he stopped in to meet some supporters and have a drink for St. Patricks Day.
Conservative leader Stephen Harper and Laureen Harper stand next to a tray of hot cross buns at a bakery in Mississauga, on April 23, 2011.
Stephen Harper with wife Laureen and their chinchilla Charlie. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8425819048/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves after going for an ATV ride as he visits a farm for a campaign event in Wainfleet Ont., on Monday, April 4, 2011.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper eats maple taffy as he visits a sugar shack in Norbertville, Quebec on Tuesday, April 5, 2011.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives his wife Laureen a kiss following a day of G-20 meetings in Toronto. June 27, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=938&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper plays with foster kittens at 24 Sussex. May 1, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=900&media_category_typ_id=6&media_id=5512" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper throws a small snowball at photographers after talking with reporters at a campaign stop in Guelph, Ontario Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives Taylor Swift the book "Maple Leaf Forever" before her concert at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. May 20, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=900&media_category_typ_id=6&media_id=5512" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Stephen Harper <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/23/harper-wedding-photos-ottawa_n_2006374.html" target="_blank">surprises an Ottawa couple on their wedding day</a> in 2012.
Laureen Harper laughs as she holds a husky dog with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as they tour Caribou Crossing, Yukon, south of Whitehorse Monday August 20, 2012.
Stephen Harper, his children Ben and Rachel, and wife Laureen cross Abbey Road in 2009. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/12OfGXN" target="_blank">Facebook</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper hams it up with Bonhomme Carnaval in the Prime Minister's Centre Block Office. November 25, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1238&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, far left, watches a third round match between Agnieszka Radwanska, of Poland, and Serbia's Jelena Jankovic with his children Rachel, center, and Benjamin, right, at the 2012 US Open tennis tournament, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, in New York.
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, speaks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on July 1, 2011.
Part of a painting of Prime Minister Stephen Harper fully nude, by Kingston artist Maggie Sutherland, is shown at the Central Kingston public library in Kingston, Ont. on May 18, 2012.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his son Ben watch a bloopers show while attending the Calgary Flames NHL hockey game against the Edmonton Oilers in Calgary, Saturday, April 11, 2009.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper practices a few chords after arriving at home from work. February 19, 2011. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1457&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Conservative leader Stephen Harper gets a hug from his mother Margaret during a visit to his campaign office in Calgary, Saturday May 29, 2004.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds up a moustache scarf to kick off the start of ‘Movember’, November 1, 2012 Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8146161138/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
Senior Legislative Assistant, Katherine Locke, left, and Government House Leader Special Assistant, Zoe Lawson, show off their House of Commons gingerbread house to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his office on Dec. 16, 2010. The gingerbread house was filled with rows of gummi bears as members of Parliament. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1355&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves to tourists as he walks on the beach after the closing of the VI Summit of the Americas on April 15, 2012 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper plays a game of table tennis with Team Canada's Mo Zhang at Canada House in London on Tuesday, June 5, 2012.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper tries on an old hockey helmet at he tours the Yukon's Hockey History exhibit at the McBride Museum in Whitehorse, Yukon on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
Stephen Harper, his son Ben, and Wayne Gretzky watch the men's ice hockey team's gold medal game at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8457917081/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
Stephen Harper and his son Ben hit balloons into the crowd after his speech at the party's three-day policy convention in Montreal on Friday March 18, 2005.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Jamie Robinson (guitar) play along with Blue Rodeo's front man Jim Cuddy, and recording artist Jimmy Rankin as they belt out a tune during a Juno Awards reception at 24, Sussex March 31, 2012. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=2099&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, looks up from dishing out pancakes at Stampede breakfast in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, July 10, 2011.
Stephen Harper welcomes two Chinese pandas at Toronto's Pearson Airport on March 25, 2013. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8588948719/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
A young Stephen Harper.
Clowns ham it up with Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton, New Brunswick. July 19, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1037&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, throws Senator Gerry St. Germain's cowboy hat into the crowd after presenting him with a new one as his wife Margaret St. Germain, right, laughs during a barbecue at St. Germain's ranch in Surrey, B.C., on Monday August 6, 2012.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives the thumbs up from the cockpit of his campaign plane as he arrives in Ottawa,Tuesday May 3, 2011.
Stephen Harper presents Justin Bieber with a Diamond Jubilee Medal on Nov. 23, 2012. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8212520594/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
Stephen Harper and Wayne Gretzky, joined by students on an outdoor ice rink in Saskatoon on Feb. 5, 2010. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/ZTlKy6" target="_blank"> Facebook</a>
Stephen Harper, wife Laureen and Suraksha, Grade 10, visit an IMAX theatre in Bangalore, India on Nov. 8, 2012.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper poses for a photograph with Halloween trick-or-treaters at his official residence in Ottawa, Wednesday, October 31, 2012.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper bundles up in a parka as he tours Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Thursday, February 23, 2012.
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper adjusts his hat prior to the arrival of Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, for the official start of the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Alberta, July 8, 2011.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen play with some furry friends at the official opening of the new Ottawa Humane Society facility on July 6, 2011. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1724&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Met Batisse X, official mascot of the Royal 22nd Regiment, prior to welcoming French PM Jean-Marc Ayrault to Ottawa. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8554783327/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper receives a cricket lesson from Ankur Biswas, cricket team captain, at the Bishop Cotton Boys School. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/12OffwT" target="_blank">Facebook</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper drives a dog sled after meeting mushing teams at the Arctic Winter Games in Yellowknife, N.W.T., Monday, March 10, 2008.
Stephen Harper meets Canada's women's hockey team, gold medal winners at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/17v6qKa" target="_blank">Facebook</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen, left, make cookies with 10-year-old brain cancer survivor Baxton Wacholtz, right, and his mom Michelle, of Telkwa, B.C., during a photo opportunity at Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday August 7, 2012.
Canadian musician Jens Lindemann visits Stephen Harper before a concert. "His blue trumpet reminded me of Sgt. Pepper," according to Harper. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8519328992/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
Met with Constable Dan Allen of the Child at Risk Response Team (and Cagney the dog) while in Calgary. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8640427193/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper points out the camera to baby Grayson, dressed up as a giraffe, during his first time trick-or-treating at 24 Sussex. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/10ppG5w" target="_blank">Facebook</a>
Stephen Harper hugs his daughter Rachel Hugging Rachel as results come in after the 2011 election. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/15WI2TY" target="_blank">Facebook</a>
For example, we are currently being assaulted with what Naomi Klein calls an "extractivist" mind-set, where core Canadian values are being treated as "overburden" (the derogatory term used by extractors to describe the trees, earth, and ecosystems that are excavated and destroyed before the tar or minerals are exposed).
Additionally, our Republican-inspired governance rejects -- through Omnibus legislation -- constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations to prior consultation, consent, and accommodation for development projects that impact treaties and unceded territories.
As author Anthony James Hall explains in "Flanagan's Last Stand?" , the government has a duty to recognize and affirm aboriginal and treaty rights, but instead it denies and negates these rights as stated in Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982.
Furthermore, explains Hall, the Harper government's "USAcentric" view of North American history ignores the Canadian reality of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which guarantees the Crown's protection of the Aboriginal and treaty rights of Britain's First Nations allies who, along with the British, successfully repelled American efforts to annex Canada during the War of 1812.
Core understandings of Canada's history and its juridical commitments are foundational elements upon which we can rely to combat falsified government narratives whose barely-hidden agenda is the termination of First Nation reserves and cultural protections in favour of corporate extractivism.
The censuring, muzzling, de-funding of Canada's knowledge base works as a cancer that undermines public safety, health and welfare, as well as our societal pluralism, self-determination, and sovereignty.
Out first step in combating this assault is continued awareness.
Follow Mark Taliano on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MaTaliano