Canadian Scientist Muzzled For Writing And Performing Song About Canadian Government Muzzling Scientists

from the Harperman-meets-Streisand-Effect dept

Techdirt has been following for a while the Canadian government's unabashed attempts to muzzle scientists and librarians who work for the state, as it tries to deny them the right to express their views if those happen to disagree with the Prime Minister Stephen Harper's political agenda. That battle over freedom of speech is not only continuing, but escalating according to this story in The Globe and Mail:

An Environment Canada scientist is under investigation for allegedly breaching the public service code of ethics by writing and performing a political song that criticizes the Harper government.

Tony Turner, a physical scientist who most recently was working on a study of migratory birds, has been put on administrative leave with pay over allegations that his participation in his song Harperman puts him in a conflict of interest, the union representing him said.

Turner's song, with its opening lines "Who controls our parliament? Harperman, Harperman. Who squashes all dissent? Harperman, Harperman," and a refrain of "It's time for you to go," is pretty mild stuff. A former head of the Ontario Public Service defended the government's actions as follows:

The public sector's ethics code states that federal public servants are expected to "[carry] out their duties in accordance with legislation, policies and directives in a non-partisan and impartial manner." Mr. Dean said the non-partisan nature of the public service offers protection that goes both ways: It prevents government officials from pressing public servants to act in partisan interests, and public servants make a commitment to do their jobs regardless of the political stand of the government of the day.
For one thing, it's not the case that the ethics code "prevents government officials from pressing public servants to act in partisan interests". As a BBC story on the muzzling of Canadian scientists reported:
The [media] protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories.

Sources say that requests are often refused and when interviews are granted, government media relations officials can and do ask for written questions to be submitted in advance and elect to sit in on the interview.
That's not allowing scientists to speak in a "non-partisan and impartial manner": the "media protocol" is clearly designed to cow government scientists and to ensure that they toe the official line in everything they say, regardless of what the science may indicate.

But the other point is that Turner was not performing his Harperman song as a government employee, but as a citizen -- he is described on the YouTube page as an "Ottawa folksinger", and there is no reference anywhere to his work as a government scientist.

Of course, the great thing about the Canadian government's absurd overreaction to this gentlest of private protests is that many more people will now learn that Turner is an environmental scientist who is being muzzled by a bunch of desperate control freaks who are frightened that the Canadian people might be told the truth about important scientific issues. Thank goodness for the Streisand Effect….

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  • icon
    crade (profile), 1 Sep 2015 @ 9:44am

    Amazingly, it is actually possible to carry out your duties in a non partisan manner and also have an opinion, protest, vote, etc. Who'd ave thunk.

    Since singing youtube songs, voting and such are not part of his duties as government scientists, they shouldn't have to be done in a non-partisan manner. Harper is just being an ass and abusing his power as usual

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 1 Sep 2015 @ 9:50am

    Harperman: "All dissenters will be tied up wit piano wire, doncha know?!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mattshow (profile), 1 Sep 2015 @ 10:01am


    Techdirt has been following for a while the Canadian government's unabashed attempts to muzzle scientists and librarians who work for the state, as it tries to deny them the right to express their views if those happen to disagree with the His Excellency, Prime Minister for Life, Superior Person, Great Leader of our Party and Nation, Guiding Star of the 21st Centry, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas Stephen Harper's political agenda.


    Fixed it for you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2015 @ 10:04am

    Silly citizen. Didn't you know that only the government that suppresses your speech is allowed to be politically biased?!?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2015 @ 10:22am

    does any one know how Stephen Harper has stayed in power for so long?

    As a Canadian, i hate this guy, hes such a tool, i find it really hard to believe he has managed to hold on to PM for as long as he has, even everyone i know would rather this guy would never win re-election, but some how he does.

    NDP seem to be doing pretty good this time round, lets hope they can come out on top in a couple months!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2015 @ 10:32am

      Re:

      Because he's a conservative leader during economic troubles, and because he's only held a majority once (and has never had a >50% popular vote, despite what he says about Canada wanting him in power).

      First time he had majority mandate, and he's tanked his party's support.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      crade (profile), 1 Sep 2015 @ 10:36am

      Re:

      I think it's because there have been really slim pickings lately.. The NDP is looking good right now as a party, but Mulcair also comes across as a total tool to me.. I was alot more enthusiatic about the NDP before this guy opened his mouth..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2015 @ 10:48am

        Re: Re:

        ...I think it's because there have been really slim pickings lately...

        I'm a "bloody yank" and that's been my opinion for a couple of decades in our elections!

        We really need to get our shit together and get a "none of the above" option for our elections.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2015 @ 10:56am

      Re:

      because of [allegedly] completely, totally, utterly, painfully obviously 100% fake elections?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        GEMont, 2 Sep 2015 @ 3:38pm

        Re: Re:

        There was a story about a decade ago, out of British Columbia, where a man who had normally always voted for a Conservative candidate he knew personally for years, changed his vote due to some policy of the conservative party that the man disagree with.

        A few weeks after the election, he received a letter from the candidate he had normally always voted for, asking him why he had changed his vote.

        Canadian Election methodology was the model upon which the current American Election process was designed.

        Canadian voting has been a fraudulent process, designed primarily to make Canadians think they had a say in the way their government operated, almost since that country's beginning.

        If Voting actually worked to insure good government, it would be illegal.

        ---

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 2 Sep 2015 @ 4:18pm

      Re:

      There was some word about voter fraud in his last election but funny enough he defunded the government organization in charge of looking into that. So they were unable to determine if Harper did incite fraud because he removed their ability to investigate him for voter fraud. harper tends to shut down any government organization that refuses to do what he says. Power hungry wannabe dictator

      Heil Harper

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2015 @ 10:57am

    The emperor has no clothes,
    but you had better not inform him of such
    because you will be reprimanded.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2015 @ 11:27am

    and this basically differs to what is going on in just about every country, including all those that make up the s0-called 'Free World'!
    which country was the instigator of introducing government surveillance on it's own people? why did it start and was there ever any consideration of what the outcome would be? the excuse, i am sure, was the usual one, 'In the name of Terrorism'. but what has actually happened is the various governments have taken the place of the terrorists but upped the anti 4 fold! there's no need for any terrorist actions, the governments are doing them, only more so, for them! the ridiculous thing being it's us, the ordinary public, who gets hit, whatever the scenario is!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2015 @ 5:10am

      Re:

      Technically Soviet Russia had much more pervasive surveillance on its own citizens back in the day.
      But damn if the USA isn't giving the Russians a run for their money nowadays (at least in terms of surveillance on citizens).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 2 Sep 2015 @ 9:32am

        Re: Re:

        "Technically Soviet Russia had much more pervasive surveillance on its own citizens back in the day"

        I think that technically this is incorrect. The amount of surveillance the average US citizens is subjected to dwarfs what the USSR even thought possible.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 2 Sep 2015 @ 4:14pm

      Re:

      In many cases they created the terrorists and the terrorist acts also known as false flag events to better prepare the public to allow their rights to be taken away in the name of safety and security.

      Kind of weird some leaders aspire to be a dictator so much they will destroy their wealthy country so that all the power and money is in the hands of a select few instead of most of the country. The end result is a much poorer nation for everyone, including those that now wield god like power over the rights of their fellow citizens

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2015 @ 12:39pm

    Oh Really?

    "allegations that his participation in his song Harperman puts him in a conflict of interest"

    If that puts him in a conflict of interest, then I think it's the OTHER side of the coin that requires deeper examination.

    What is the other interest that requires him to not satirize the current PM? After all, satirizing the PM is a Canadian pasttime. Is he currently employed by the Conservative party? Not by the government, but by the Conservative party? If not, then what is Harper doing that causes any possible conflict of interest here?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2015 @ 1:15pm

    Voting?

    So by this logic, are civil servants allowed to vote? After all, how does one vote in a non-partisan manner?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Sep 2015 @ 3:55pm

      Re: Voting?

      That's easy, they vote for whatever party is currently in charge, no matter their political affiliations.

      Your problem is you're using the regular, 'normal' definition of 'non-partisan', that of 'balanced and not biased towards or against a particular party', whereas the government is clearly using another definition, that of 'In favor of the party in charge, no matter which it is'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2015 @ 4:50pm

      Re: Voting?

      "...how does one vote in a non-partisan manner?"

      One votes Secretly.

      By having a "secret" ballot, it is impossible to know if anyone in that country actually voted, or if anyone in that country had their vote actually counted.

      Its why we still allow voting after all.

      But it also means that one can vote partisan, because one's vote does not carry one's ID, so nobody is supposed to be able to tell that you even voted, or not, let alone that you voted partisan, or not.

      Since there is no possible way to prove that all the votes are counted, or that all the counted votes are real, none of the authorities of any "voting nation" really gives a shit how anyone votes - partisan or not.

      Its a non-issue.

      ---

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2015 @ 7:30pm

    Oh, Canada...

    [palms face]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kerry Day, 1 Sep 2015 @ 7:56pm

    The PM did not react well to news the song has gone viral

    Watch this video to see Harper's reaction to the bad news:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhOvXoIox7Y

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    broken, 2 Sep 2015 @ 6:40am

    And on American side

    Alternet is reporting that American scientist was muzzled, too... What's with the governments on serving the big corporations especially on climate change issues??? O wait...
    What happened to a government scientist whose findings stood in the way of big oils

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 2 Sep 2015 @ 4:09pm

    Harper desires to be a dictator. Thankfully he is having trouble with the laws in his way as not everyone is willing to bow down to his wishes and pretend said laws do not exist when he doesn't want them to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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