Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Information Commissioner of Canada Suzanne Legault responds to a question during a news conference after the tabling in Parliament of the special report, Report Cards 2011-2012, Thursday December 6, 2012 in Ottawa.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Canada's Information Commissioner has launched an investigation into the activities of seven federal departments for allegedly "muzzling" scientists.

In response to a 133-page complaint filed by the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre, Assistant Information Commissioner Emily McCarthy has stated her office is investigating possible violations of the Access to Information Act.

"The Commissioner has concluded that, to the extent that your complaint alleges that the right of access to information under the Act is impeded by government policies, practices or guidelines that restrict or prohibit government scientists from speaking with the media and the Canadian public, your complaint falls within the scope … of the Act," Ms. McCarthy states in a letter to Calvin Sandborn, legal director of the ELC.

Story continues below advertisement

She said the departments of Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Natural Resources, National Defence, the Treasury Board Secretariat, National Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will all be investigated.

Mr. Sandborn said the letter was "great news" for the ELC and law student Clayton Greenwood, who put the complaint together after reading numerous newspaper stories that reported the difficulties of the media in gaining access to government scientists.

In its complaint to Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault, the ELC asked for an investigation into "the systematic efforts of the Government of Canada to obstruct the right of the media – and through them, the Canadian public – to timely access to government scientists."

The ELC's report, Muzzling Civil Servants: A Threat to Democracy, catalogues a series of incidents in which scientists had been restricted from granting interviews to reporters.

The complaint stated that "the federal government is preventing the media and the Canadian public from speaking to government scientists for news stories – especially when the scientists' research or point of view runs counter to current Government policies on matters such as environmental protection, oil sands development, and climate change."

The ELC complaint, which was filed in conjunction with Democracy Watch, states the government policy of restricting media access to scientists "impoverishes the public debate on issues of significant national concern."

The report notes that the World Federation of Science Journalists and the Canadian Science Writers' Association have both complained about the lack of "timely access" to government scientists.

Story continues below advertisement

It also states that an Environment Canada analysis of the government's media access policy was frustrating to federal scientists.

"They feel the intent of the policy is to prevent them from speaking to the media," stated the Environment Canada analysis.

The ELC report quotes the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada as stating: "This government, by suppressing access to this information, is depriving the Canadian and international communities of significant discoveries."

It is standard practice of the federal government to require any scientist who is asked for an interview to first get approval from public relations officials with the ministry. Approval, or denial, can take days and often the decision is made by officials in Ottawa. In 2011, for example, reporters were denied access to Kristi Miller, a DFO scientist who had just published a paper on her research into salmon disease on the West Coast.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies