Recently, thousands of scientists and concerned citizens participated in rallies across Canada, voicing their concern for the state of science in the public interest. Speakers highlighted that the health of public science impacts all of us and called on the federal government to make transparent, evidence-based decisions for the health and prosperity of all Canadians.
In addition to a large rally in Ottawa, rallies were held from coast to coast including Vancouver, Salmon Arm, Edmonton, Yellowknife, Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener – Waterloo, Montreal, Fredericton, St. Andrews, and Halifax, making this one of the largest nationwide pro-science rallies in Canadian history.
Speakers highlighted the crucial need for funding basic or fundamental science and allowing federal researchers to communicate their scientific findings freely with the public.
“It was public science that provided compelling evidence that smoking was harmful when tobacco manufacturers were claiming that cigarettes were safe,” said Ottawa-based physician Dr. Kapil Khatter. Applied research and technological innovation have great value, but this cannot come at the expense of science and evidence gathering institutions that provide the data critical to keeping Canadians informed about their health and wellbeing.
Recently, Canada’s federal government has been heavily criticized by the global science community for its strict communication policies imposed on government scientists, de-funding major research public science programs (including the internationally-renown Experimental Lakes Area), and making changes to laws governing fisheries management and crime prevention that are inconsistent with existing scientific evidence.
“It is not too late for this government to provide effective leadership on science,” Dr. Béla Joós a professor of Physics at the University of Ottawa, told the crowd. “As they prepare for a speech from the throne in October, we hope that they will show their support for public science by making decisions that are informed by the best available evidence, letting government scientists speak to the public and adequately funding science – including basic research.”
This year’s events build on the 2012 ‘Death of Evidence’ gathering on Parliament Hill, marking a mounting concern among Canadians about the state of science in Canada. The rallies were initiated by Evidence for Democracy (E4D), a non-partisan organization advocating for the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making, and supported by groups representing students and scientists including the Canadian Federation of Students and The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.