And here's the text for the second:
Information commissioner called upon to probe muzzling of federal scientists
BY MARGARET MUNRO, POSTMEDIA NEWS FEBRUARY 20, 2013 2:38 PM
Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada, has been called upon to investigate allegations that the federal government has been 'muzzling' scientists.
Photograph by: Sean Kilpatrick/ The Canadian Press , Postmedia News
Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is being asked to formally investigate the way the Harper government has been muzzling and restricting access to federal scientists.
The request, accompanied with a report on the governments systematic efforts to obstruct access to researchers, was made jointly on Wednesday by the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria and Democracy Watch, a national non-profit group.
There are few issues more fundamental to democracy than the ability of the public to access scientific information produced by government scientists information that their tax dollars have paid for, they say. We as a society cannot make informed choices about critical issues if we are not fully informed about the facts.
The request comes after years of controversy over the way the government has tightened the leash on federal scientists who used to be encouraged to speak about their research on everything from melting permafrost to pesticide pollution.
Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear said in an email statement Wednesday we reject the premise of the accusations.
Goodyear said the government provides significant access to federal scientists.
In a 128-page report sent to the information commissioner, the University of Victoria lawyers and Democracy Watch catalogue how scientists now need permission from Ottawa to give interviews and are instructed to follow approved lines when speaking with reporters.
The report, Muzzling Civil Servants: A Threat to Democracy, notes how the Harper government has generated national and international headlines for stopping some government researchers from talking about their studies on prehistoric floods, the unprecedented 2011 Arctic Ozone hole, and snow research in Ontario.
And it cites federal documents that detail how the government has implemented policies that routinely require political approval before scientists can speak to the media about their scientific findings.
Government scientists are often instructed to not speak publicly or to respond with pre-scripted approved lines, the report says.
The report points to Fisheries and Oceans Canada where communications staff now comprehensively control interviews with scientists: No journalist is to be granted an interview until the ministers own director of communications has been notified.
Natural Resources Canada has adopted particularly strict rules restricting the ability of scientists to talk to the media about climate change and oilsands, the report says.
And Environment Canada specifically forbids scientists from speaking to the public on identified issues such as climate change or protection of polar bear and caribou until the Privy Council Office gives approval, it says.
Calvin Sandborn, legal director of the UVICs Environmental Law Centre, says the name George Orwell comes to mind.
He said the policies undermine and violate different sections, as well as the spirit, of the information act that provides a right of access to government information.
He and his colleagues also say it impoverishes public debate.
Canadians cannot make smart choices about critical issues such as climate change, oilsands development and environmental protection if the public does not have full access to the governments best scientific knowledge on those issues, they say.
Obstructing access to scientists also hampers the ability of the public to know and identify what government information and records actually exist related to issues of public importance, they say.
Without such knowledge, the public may not be able to request or obtain relevant records under the Access to Information Act.
In response to request for comment, Goodyears office sent an email saying Environment Canada participated in more than 1,200 media interviews last year and federal departments publish more than 2,000 scientific publications a year.
Michele-Jamali Paquette, Goodyears director of communications, said by telephone we reject the accusations that we are muzzling scientists.
Asked about the documented cases where scientists have not been permitted to speak about their work, she said all government departments follow a communication policy set by Treasury Board and the government has communication experts hired in order to aid all government employees in better communicating.
Paquette also noted that federal scientists, as government employees, dont own the intellectual property for their work.
Josée Villeneuve, the information commissioners director of public affairs, said the complaint has been received and staff
will be analyzing its content. Since this is an investigative matter, we cannot comment further, she said.