Skip to main content
Interesting Articles

Half of Canada’s Government Scientists Still Feel Muzzled

By February 22, 2018No Comments

More than half of government scientists in Canada—53%—do not feel they can speak freely to the media about their work, even after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government eased restrictions on what they can say publicly, according to a survey released today by a union that represents more than 16,000 federal scientists.

That union—the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) based in Ottawa—conducted the survey last summer, a little more than a year and a half into the Trudeau government. It followed up on a similar survey the union released in 2013 at the height of the controversy over the then-Conservative government’s reported muzzling of scientists by preventing media interviews and curtailing travel to scientific conferences. The new survey found the situation much improved—in 2013, 90% of scientists felt unable to speak about their work. But the union says more work needs to be done. “The work needs to be done at the department level,” where civil servants may have been slow to implement political directives, PIPSC President Debi Daviau said. ”We need a culture change that promotes what we have heard from ministers.”

Trudeau campaigned on a promise to let scientists speak, and his government acted quickly to reverse restrictions from when Stephen Harper was prime minister. Within weeks of taking power, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains announced that government scientists were free to talk with the media and public about their work and without approval from managers. In December 2016, PIPSC secured a clause in a new contract guaranteeing that right.