Science goes undercover

Who'd be a scientist under Prime Minister Harper's government?

When 16th-century astronomer and scientist Galileo attempted to prove the earth revolved around the sun, he was tried by the Inquisition, sentenced to “curse and detest” his own views and placed under house arrest for life.

The guy could probably sympathize with the plight of Canadian scientists in public service.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has a fairly extensive of cutting scientific and environmental research positions. And those who have survived the purge are at risk of being shunted off to some sort of governmental witness-protection program if they try to release findings contrary to the PMO’s preferred outcomes.

Now, though, a Federal Court judge has not only caught the government’s hand in the petri dish, but given that hand a slap.

A DFO memo, released following a lawsuit filed by the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations to protect herring stocks off Vancouver Island’s West Coast, revealed Fisheries Minister Gail Shea overruled her own department’s scientists in giving the go-ahead for a herring fishery this season.

The judge last Friday summarily slapped an injunction on the proposed fishery in three areas under dispute by the First Nations, and rightly so.

This is not an issue of First Nations fighting over allocation with commercial fishers.

This is about basic governmental transparency. The kind, that is to say, “democratic” governments are alleged to promote to earn the consent of the governed.