Rally rails against Harper 'gag' on scientists

More than 200, some in lab coats, battle cuts

Scientists and politicians slammed the federal government for cutting science programs and accused the Harper government of hiding scientific facts to achieve its own agenda of oil and gas development at a rally on Friday.

More than 200 people - some in white lab coats, with duct-tape over their mouths or waving signs saying "Gag Harper, not scientists" - gathered on the corner of Yates and Government streets objecting to cuts made to environmental protections and climate change monitoring.

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"This is a rally for evidence-based decision-making rather than decisionbased evidence-making," said Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May, accusing the federal government of being short-sighted.

University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver lashed out at the federal government's gag on scientists.

"We used to laugh about what was happening to science in the George W. Bush era. It pales in comparison to what is going on in Canada now," he said. "Science is happening behind closed doors and is only made public if it fits with the government's agenda."

Canadians can no longer see the science behind climate change, fisheries and marine pollution, Weaver said, but government is pushing anything that helps oil and gas extraction, especially in the Arctic.

He said even the Arctic search for the Franklin Expedition would benefit oil and gas exploration through sea-floor mapping.

At the same time, the government has closed the Polar Environment Arctic Research Laboratory, which provided valuable climate and environmental information, Weaver said.

While Weaver said it was his duty to speak out on behalf of junior colleagues who had lost funding, another scientist spoke disguised by a false beard and sunglasses, saying he could face financial and legal problems if identified.

The Fisheries and Oceans marine contaminants program at the Institute of Ocean Sciences was drastically cut earlier this year and the scientist said Canada had lost the ability to look at the effects of pollutants in B.C. waters.

The rally was organized by Ken Wu of the Majority for a Sustainable Society.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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