: News posts

Canadian Research Grant on Right To Know Law

It is welcome news that Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (http://www.cjfe.org) has awarded its 2016-17 Bob Carty Free Expression Fellowship to accomplished recipient Mark Bourrie.

The grant will serve the public interest by facilitating research on the legal and constitutional basis of the public’s right to know.  Advocates will be provided with “a foundational argument, based in history and law, of the right of the public to accurate and sound information”; thus, according to Executive Director Tom Henheffer, “enhancing the democratic process and Canadians’ ability to hold elected officials accountable.”

http://www.cjfe.org/cjfe_fellowship_to_establish_legal_basis_for_the_public_s_right_to_know

 

World Health Organization weakens Conflict of Interest safeguards

world health

world health

Will the WHO’s independence from industry be eroded now that it is inviting the private sector’s interaction for the first time?  The Canadian Centre for Health Science and Law is one of sixty public interest groups who have expressed concern that the WHO’s new rules for engaging  with non-State actors insufficiently protect global public health decision-making from the influence of commercial interests (view the media statement issued by the Centre’s Executive Director here: http://healthscienceandlaw.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/WHO.Critique.Conflicts-of-Interest.pdf .) Matters involving conflict of interest and undue influence are identified as key risks of interaction between WHO and private sector entities (or, other entity types that may be subject to the influence of the private sector). Types of interaction of particular concern include financial and in-kind contributions. The question arises as to where Canada stands, as a member state, on the matter of whether the new framework has sufficiently strengthened WHO’s management of the potential risks associated with its stated goal of strengthening engagement with non-State entities.

Australia Censors Global Scientific Report – bad trend?

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

The recent UN report on World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate details the potential threat of climate change to World Heritage Sites on five continents, according to a New York Times article.  Despite the impact of climate change on unprecedented coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, a chapter originally included on Australia was removed at the country’s request amid fears for its tourism industry. The censored information can be read on a blog by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The request for removal is more than puzzling in light of Australia’s recognition ( in its 2014 Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report and its 2015 State Party Report on the Conservation of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area-Australia) that climate change is the biggest long-term threat to the Reef’s future and necessitates a long-term sustainability plan.

Further, in a letter accompanying its 2015 Report to UNESCO (see State Parties SOC Report at http://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/3234 ), Australia’s Minister for the Environment states that “…Australia firmly believes that the property does not warrant inclusion in the List of World Heritage Properties in Danger”. Yet, UNESCO’s describes “Potential Danger” as being “faced with a major threat which could have deleterious effects on its inherent characteristics”, such as “threatening impacts of climatic factors”.

ORK’s First e-Petition to Parliament

First

First

Our Right To Know is pleased that our first petition quickly garnered enough support that it must be debated in Parliament. However, the more signatures the more impact – please sign!  Get involved to demand the highest level of integrity for improvements to public science for the public good.

Minister of Science announces comprehensive review of federal support for scientific research

Scientific research

Scientific research

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada has announced the establishment of an independent advisory panel to advise the Minister of Science on “how to improve federal science programs and initiatives”. Of stated importance is the need to review how federal funding can better support fundamental science and scientists in Canada.  The important role of science in informing government policy is highlighted, as is the recognition that government support must effectively meet the needs of researchers and a culture of innovative research.  Science is identified as being “everybody’s business”, and all Canadians are encouraged  to give their input to the Panel during its six-month consultation process.  For more on the need for, and the potential impact of the Panel’s unprecedented review see http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/panel-to-review-federal-funding-for-university-based-scientific-research/article30410407/

 

Canadian government should recommit to UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

desertification

desertification-Portugal

The Sierra Club Foundation urges the federal government to reverse its 2013 withdrawal from the Convention at the occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification (June 17).  Canada was the only country in the world to withdraw from the Convention in March 2013, just before a conference at which the first ever comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of desertification, land degradation and drought was to be carried out, which was for the very first time, to provide concrete data on the status of poverty and of land cover in the areas affected by desertification. To learn more, visit the above links to the Sierra Club’s civil society letter and current petition, and the 2013 Globe and Mail article on Canada’s withdrawal.

 

NDP tables Motion 36 on Scientific Integrity

NDP tabled Motion 36 on Scientific Integrity which requires all federal departments and agencies to implement pro-science communication policies.  View the motion.

Kennedy Stewart, the NDP Critic for Science said:

“The new Minister for Science should get to work drafting ethics legislation that unequivocally ensures the open communication of scientific research throughout government.  In order to get this right, the government’s approach should be modelled off the scientific integrity directives implemented by President Obama following years of muzzling by the Bush Administration.”

integrity

NDP tables Parliamentary Science Officer Act

The NDP tabled the Parliamentary Science Officer Act which aims to create an independent science watchdog for Parliament.  View the act here.

“After years of muzzling, mismanagement, and misuse of research by the Conservatives, our scientists need lasting protections in order to finally turn the page on the lost Harper decade,” said Stewart. “Canada needs a new science advisor that is independent of the government and reports directly to Parliament. Its mandate needs to be comprehensive and protected by law – like the NDP’s proposal for a Parliamentary Science Officer.”

— Kennedy Stewart, NDP Science Critic

NDP obtains StatsCan cuts data

The NDP obtained data of all cuts in Statistics Canada including 50 surveys and 191 publications.

View the list of Statistics Canada products that were cancelled.

“The new Minister must conduct a thorough review of what essential data we’ve lost and what surveys and publications should be reinstated,” said MP Stewart (Burnaby South). “The Conservatives’ war on science cost us critical information on the social and economic challenges facing Canada – which could greatly hinder the government’s ability to provide services for Canadians.”

In response to a written question submitted by MP Stewart, the government provided a list of all Statistic Canada surveys, tables, and publications that were discontinued from 2006 to 2015.

  • A total of 539 data products were terminated during this period:

    • 7 Programs
    • 50 Surveys
    • 291 Tables
    • 191 Publications
  • In most cases (63%) the government was unable to provide an explanation as to why the product was eliminated.
  • Only in a fraction of cases (18%) did the government indicate that the data was still being collected and reported elsewhere.
  • The cost-savings were known in less than a quarter of cases (23%).

Charities to be free from political harassment

The Mandate for the Minister of National Revenue includes allowing charities to do their work free from political harassment.  View the mandate.

“Allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment, and modernize the rules governing the charitable and not-for-profit sectors, working with the Minister of Finance.  This will include clarifying the rules governing “political activity,” with an understanding that charities make an important contribution to public debate and public policy.  A new legislative framework to strengthen the sector will emerge from this process. This should also include work with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to develop a Social Finance and Social Enterprise strategy.”

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