Scientists to protest research cuts with funeral march on Parliament Hill

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

In recent months, critics of the Harper government have given us innovative  protests such as: "Black Out Speak Out," and "#DenounceHarper."

The latest movement, however, may just take the cake for most creative.

Members of Canada's scientific community are taking to the streets of Ottawa on Tuesday, staging a funeral procession — complete with a coffin, black-clad mourners and a scythe-wielding grim reaper — to mourn the "death of evidence" in what  organizers say is the federal government's war on science.

"Science in Canada is under attack," notes the group's website.

"It's clear that the Harper government does not value science or evidence and is systematically trying to reduce the flow of scientific information to Canadians. We have seen this through the cuts to federal science programs, changes to legislation in Bill C-38, and the muzzling of government scientists."

The scientists accuse the Harper government of  ideological cuts to  critical research programs in Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the National Research Council of Canada, Statistics Canada, through the closure of Experimental Lakes Area, the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory and the First Nations Statistical Institute, and through the elimination of the National Science Adviser and National Round Table on Environment and Economy.

Rally co-organizer Scott Findlay says while it would be easy to say that scientists are upset because some of them might be losing their jobs, the issues are much more fundamental than that.

"Every Canadian must surely be of the view that if you're going to make a decision, especially if you're a government making a decision, it should be based on evidence. Sound evidence. And it's important that all the evidence be presented," he told Postmedia News.

"And science is the best method that we have for assembling and collecting the evidence and bringing it forward into the public domain, relatively untainted by political agendas and ideology.

"I think it's important for the public to understand that scientists are getting increasingly concerned about this. I'm hugely concerned."

Those that are unable to attend the Death of Evidence Rally in Ottawa in person can still take part by participating in a "virtual candlelight vigil."

"Use your cell phone or a digital camera to take photo of you holding a candle. If possible, incorporate a science-related tool or symbol in your photo (calculator, test tube, graduated cylinder, periodic table, magnifying glass, compass, goggles, etc.)" notes the group's website.

"Photos can be uploaded to the Candlelight Vigil: Death of Evidence group on Flickr."

For those that can attend, the funeral procession begins at 12:00 noon at the Ottawa Convention Centre.