Canadian scientists continue to be muzzled by Harper government

Prime Minister Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. REUTERS/Chris WattieHarper government 'muzzlers' are on the prowl at an international polar conference about everything from seabirds to arctic ice.

According to an article by PostMedia News, media instructions have been sent to the Environment Canada researchers attending the week long meeting in Montreal.

"If you are approached by the media, ask them for their business card and tell them that you will get back to them with a time for [an] interview," the Environment Canada scientists were told by email late last week.

"Send a message to your media relations contact and they will organize the interview. They will most probably be with you during the interview to assist and record," says the email obtained by Postmedia News.

The memo, signed by Kristina Fickes, an Environment Canada senior communications adviser, goes on to say that recordings of interviews are to be forwarded to the department's media relations headquarters in Ottawa. Fickes signs off with a signature tagline that says: "Let the sun shine in :)"

This isn't the first time Canadian scientists have been muzzled.

In October, Dr. David Tarasick published findings about one of the largest ozone holes ever discovered above the Arctic. But the federal scientist was prohibited, by Environment Canada, from speaking to media about it.

Kristi Miller was similarly banned from granting interviews about her research into a virus that might be killing wild sockeye salmon, off B.C.'s coast.

Environmental activist and visual artist Franke James says she's not surprised by the lastest government edict.

James points to a 2007 Environment Canada Media Relations protocol that states: "Just as we have one department, one website, we should have one department, one voice."

"The muzzling of our scientists is part of a campaign to silence environmental voices so that the true facts about the impacts of carbon pollution will not influence mainstream voters," James told Yahoo! Canada News in an email exchange Tuesday.

Last year, James alleged that the Harper government pulled her funding for an international art show because  her 'visual essays' challenged the Canadian government over its inaction on climate change.

"Scientists, artists (including myself), writers — basically anyone who has the gumption to speak up and disagree with our dear leader, is being bullied and blacklisted to keep their mouths shut," she says.

"Others see it as the latest evidence of the warped culture of obsessive information control inside the Harper government."