OTTAWA: Scientists have held a mock funeral march marking the ‘death of evidence’ in Canada, accusing the ruling political party of muzzling government scientists to advance a political agenda that ignores research findings.
The procession of 200 scientists in lab coats lead by pallbearers carrying a coffin moved silently through downtown Ottawa’s streets to Parliament, where a mock funeral service was held for scientific programs cut in recent budgets.
“We are here today to commemorate the untimely death of evidence in Canada,” rally organiser and doctoral student in biology Katie Gibbs told a crowd.
Iron curtain between science and society
Scientists from across Canada gave eulogies in praise of evidence, accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives of drawing an “iron curtain between science and society.”
Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians said: “What do you do if you want to kill the message? Well, just kill the messenger.”
The scientists say the Harper government has denied research results, cut scientific programs and closed labs, effectively slimming climate, water and atmospheric research that produced data that could run counter to its ideologically-based ‘propaganda’.
The government has also legislated changes to environmental standards with the aim of making it easier to develop natural resources, which activists say put the ozone, lakes and wildlife at greater risk.
Innovation a cornerstone of prosperity
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel countered that in trying economic times, the government has actually increased funding for basic and applied research.
“We understand the importance of investing in all stages of research,” she said.
Canada’s research and development expenditures are now higher than any other Group of Seven country, as a percentage of GDP.
Canadian scientists have also published a record number of peer-reviewed studies in the last decade and commercialsation of new technologies has ramped up.
“The prime minister has been clear that innovation is a cornerstone of Canada’s long-term prosperity,” Rempel said.
The service closed with a dozen scientists paying their respects, placing books into the open coffin, including Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Silent Spring.