By Lethbridge Herald on October 2, 2015.
The politics of preference and opinion have bled the logic from Canada’s political policies. Denying Supreme Court decisions which are carefully rendered from evidence and ignoring proven, scientific findings on climate change are a result of the Canadian government’s commitment to ignoring evidence and stifling the communication and compilation of that evidence.
The Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs heard this and more from social scientist and researcher Shannon Stunden-Bower on Thursday. Stunden-Bower, a University of Alberta assistant professor and board member for Evidence for Democracy, told a crowd of almost 70 people that the past decade has seen Canadian scientists silenced, their research destroyed and the country’s political policies reflect a lack of interest or concern for decision-making based on facts which are mined from dedicated and thorough information. The Winnipeg product and former researcher with the Parkland Institute said she’s worked on government task forces and has been “profoundly affected” by the Canadian government’s war on research.
Three factors have undermined Canada’s logical thinking, she said, and all have made headlines.
Stunden-Bower said the most high-profile example of the government’s stifling of scientific communication was Canada’s leading arctic climate researchers being ”closely monitored” by federal communications employees in 2012 at Montreal’s International Polar Year Conference. That control over information looms like an iron fist — or curtain — between scientists and the media who would get that information into Canadians’ hands.
The second factor, said Stunden-Bower, is the reduction in resources to actually gather information. The federal Tories dumped the long-form census, but they’ve also recently trashed reams of research from places like the Lethbridge Research Station. The destruction of these materials has personally affected Stunden-Bower, who said her work with the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Association, a project she’s still working on.
“I know for a fact resources I could use to enhance my research have been destroyed,” she said.
Possibly worse, she said, is that the government is ignoring that research which is available to it when making policy. Examples in that factor included the Stephen Harper-led government cancelling the annual National Roundtable on Environment and Economy.
Stunden-Bower said the call to action is simple with an election looming. She told attendees to gather their own information from evidencefordemocracy.ca and continue pressing candidates on issues like the destruction of Research Centre data. She encouraged people to promote it on social media, in letters to the editor and by contacting political representatives.
“We want to build the sense of a public dialogue based around the expectation of evidence-based decision making,” she said.
“Which I think is really fundamental to ensuring that any party, regardless of political stripe, will recognize their responsibility to make decision based on evidence.”
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