In the spirit of Science Literacy week, Canadians across the country are making science an election issue.
Members of the public are decrying the government’s cancellation of the long-form census and over a hundred long-term research programs; the firing of thousands of scientists, including those who speak out against the government; and the closure and destruction of libraries and archives.
Since its launch in March 2015, the Write2Know Campaign has given Canadians a means to assert their right to know about the health of their bodies, communities and environments by writing and signing letters to scientists and ministers.
The next Write2Know Week runs Sept. 28 to Oct. 2 in advance of the next federal election. Write2Know is an initiative of the Politics of Evidence Working Group based at York University.
It is a letter-writing campaign that draws attention to gaps between scientific research and government policy on matters of public and environmental health.
To date, more than 3,800 letters have been signed and delivered. People are asking what’s in the air they breathe and the water they drink. They want to know the effects of the marine plastics accumulating in the foods they eat, the impacts of toxic waste from industry, recent cuts to health research, and more. And, they are going right to the source by sending letters directly to the federal scientists who are funded by Canadian tax dollars to monitor our health and our environments. These are the scientists doing the long-term research that Canada needs in order to secure our health and safety.
The campaign takes aim at the government’s science communications policies, which have imposed significant constraints on federal scientists’ freedom to speak directly to the media and to the public about the results of their work.
Journalists reporting on the environmental consequences of industry are regularly denied interviews with federal scientists monitoring the impact of industrial waste, for example. These constraints on access to scientific research on public health and safety deny Canadians important information and constitute a serious affront to the nation’s democracy.
Write2Know offers a platform for members of the public to pose pressing questions directly to federal scientists about their research. To date, 11 letters addressed to scientists have been prepared by members of the public. The scientists addressed in these letters receive one copy at the end of Write2Know Week. Each time a letter is signed, it is emailed to the relevant federal Ministers and Members of Parliament who direct research agendas and policies.
The campaign has already elicited responses from Liberal Critic of the Department of Oceans and Fisheries Lawrence MacAulay, NDP Environment Critic Megan Leslie, NDP Natural Resources Critic Guy Caron, NDP Critic Aboriginal Affairs Niki Ashton, NDP Critic of Human Rights, Critic of Consular Affairs, Deputy Critic for Labour, Wayne Marston, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
Leslie and Caron’s response to letters on climate science, forestry policy, oil sands development, marine plastics, and water pollution insists that current government policies keep scientists from working “freely, with latitude and resources necessary to provide unbiased scientific information.” For them, this “is a serious problem and is a root cause of uncertainty and lack of public trust in government decision-making processes.”
All responses can be seen at http://write2know.ca/government-response/
Write2Know Week runs Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, 2015 (http://write2know.ca). York University’s Politics of Evidence Working group is a coalition of academics, scientists, NGOs, and activists formed in 2014 to challenge the fraught politics of evidence in Canada today.
Supporters for Write2Know include:
- Our Right to Know
- Evidence for Democracy
- DeSmog Canada
- Canadian Association of University Teachers
- Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
- WaSTE (Waste and Science, Technology & Environment) at Memorial University
- The Technoscience Research Unit at the University of Toronto
For more information contact co-founders and organizers for Write2Know: Dr. Max Liboiron, Department of Sociology, Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, email@example.com; and Professor Natasha Myers, Department of Anthropology and convenor of the Politics of Evidence Working Group, York University, firstname.lastname@example.org.