Archive for the 'Canada' category

Canadian Library Association National Forum: Readings for Digital Strategy and the Government of Canada

May 30 2016 Published by under Canada, librarianship, Politics, Uncategorized

I'll be attending upcoming Canadian Library Association National Forum, a kind of sunset conference as CLA reimagines and recreates itself. The idea is to take the pulse of Canadian librarians on the important issues in the library-related landscape. I'll be curating the session on Canada's National Digital Strategy, including presentations by me and two others, Emily Landriault and Bobby Glushko.

The details are below.


Digital Strategy and the Government of Canada

Presentation speakers

Date: Wednesday June 1st
Time: 3:30PM to 5:00 PM
Room: Joliet


An Introduction to Canada’s National Digital Strategy

Government digital strategy encompasses a wide range of topics, from fostering digital innovation, to open government data, to privacy and security legislation, to telecommunications policy, to cyberbullying prevention, and Canadian content regulations. Over the last few years of their mandate, the previous Conservative government put policies in place in many of those areas, with their high level strategy outlined in the Digital Canada 150 document.

  • Where will the new Liberal government take us?
  • Are there any hints as to what their digital strategy might be?
  • What previous initiatives will be discontinued and what new initiatives will be created?

Come to this interactive session where expert panelists will touch on a few of the most important areas of Canada’s digital strategy as well as engaging participants in a conversation about how the library community could both move forward on some initiatives of our own as well as influence the government’s direction.

The format of the session with be three 15 minute presentations by the speakers, a short Q&A (10 minutes), followed by individual group discussions at the tables (20 minutes) and finally, the groups reporting back to the room (15 minutes).

Some questions to spark the group discussions:

  • What are the most important digital strategy issues and priorities affecting libraries?
  • Where are our priorities diverging from the government's?
  • How should libraries, librarians and library associations advocate for change?
  • What opportunities can we seize or create?
  • What should we advocate for?
  • What outcomes are we looking for?

I'll also note what is out of scope in my session: topics that will be covered by other sessions at the National Forum: Copyright, Digitization and other issues related to Library and Archives Canada.

I've written a bit about the Digital Canada 150 policy document here and here. Also relevant and useful are the Ministerial Mandate Letters for the ministers of Heritage, Innovation and Science, all of which are available here.

Digital Canada 150 from 2014 is the closest we have to an active National Digital Strategy, so I'm using the structure of that document to frame my own thoughts and research. Below I have some of the readings I've done to prepare for the session.

I hope to see you there! The hashtag is #CLAOtt16. I'll post my slides once the conference is over.


The Five Pillars of Digital Canada 150


1. Connecting Canadians (CRTC/Cable TV/Broadband/Wireless Policy)


2. Protecting Canadians (Cyberbullying/Security/Privacy/Anti-Spam) (Mostly Bobby speaking to this)


3. Economic Opportunities (Innovation/Productivity/Big Data/Intellectual Property Laws, Canada Research Excellence Fund/NRC Transformation/CFI/CANARIE Digital Accelerator/MITACS)


4. Digital Government (Open Government/Open Data/Open Access/Access to Information) (Emily speaking to this and provide some of the readings)


5. Canadian Content (Digitization/LAC & Historica & Digitization/CRTC/Canadian Content Rules)


As usual, if I've missed anything important, please let me know in the comments.

One response so far

Around the Web: The Fort McMurray wildfire and climate change

May 06 2016 Published by under around the web, Canada, climate change, environment

The town of Fort McMurray, Alberta and it's surrounding region are experiencing a horrific wildfire. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate.

The absolute most important thing in the short and medium term is to take care of the people of Fort McMurray. Yes, Fort McMurray is the hub of tar sands development in Canada. Yes, the tar sands and other fossil fuel development projects contribute to climate change. Yes, the tar sands in particular have been identified as a carbon source that needs to be left in the ground. But those aren't short and medium term considerations. Those are very clearly about making sure the people of Fort McMurray are safe and that they can re-start their lives in the wake of this tragedy. The issues around fossil fuel development that have gotten us into the trouble we're in are systemic and historic, not in any way directly the fault of the actual people who are caught in this situation.

But in the longer term we need to stop brushing aside what is constantly happening in the short and medium term. We need to stop saying, "This isn't the time to talk about this." We meed to stop focusing on how you can't pin each individual weather disaster on climate change. It's true but it can't be the only point we ever make.

Every time we forget about how the short and medium term turn into the long term, one day and month and year at a time, one climate-change-related disaster at a time, we are letting ourselves off the hook in using the focus and attention to build longer term solutions.

The Edmonton Journal website is a great one-stop news portal for what's happening.

The Canadian Red Cross is probably the best place to donate to the relief effort.

In the meantime, here are some of the articles and posts I've been reading, reflecting a diversity of opinion and analysis.


And some more-or-less dissenting views on whether or not we should be talking about climate change in relation to the wildfire right now.



If there's good commentary I've missed, please let me know in in the comments.

And you might also want to take a look at my recent posts on The Leap Manifesto and recent readings on climate change.

3 responses so far

The Leap Manifesto blows up Canadian politics: The story so far

Apr 16 2016 Published by under Canada, climate change, environment, Science in Canada

Or at least a certain corner of Canadian politics. For some definitions of "blow up."

For those not followong Canadian politics, our more-or-less socialist party, The New Democratic Party, recently held a policy convention where they also held a leadership review vote. The current leader, Tom Mulcair, lost the vote and as a result the NDP will be spending the next two years or so looking for a new leader.

What's significant from our point of view here is why he lost the vote. While the results of the last Federal election certainly played a role, the more proximate cause was a battle of sorts between the pragmatists and the idealists within the party. Inspired by Bernie Sanders and his run at the Democratic nomination in the current round of presidential elections in the US, the idealists are looking for a firmer and more pronounced progressive platform compared to the more centrist platform in the last couple of election cycles.

To complicate matters, pigs flew and hell froze over last year and the current government of the Province of Alberta (i.e. the most conservative province, both large-C and small-c) is NDP. The premier of oil-sands-dependent Alberta is Rachel Notley and from her point of view, the Federal NDP embracing the anti-fossil Fuel Leap Manifesto makes it a lot harder for her and her government to maneuver in the long and medium term and hopefully shift Alberta's economy away from such radical dependence on oil and gas production.

Which brings us to The Leap Manifesto itself. Brainchild of activists Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, it's a rather breathtaking document calling for a complete retooling of the Canadian economy. You can see the text below. It's quite breathtaking in the way it call for a complete do-over. Though when you look at it closely and get past the "demands" and manifestoiness of it all, its basically a fairly modest program for just doing what needs to be done to save the planet.

Personally, I'm still pondering exactly what I think of the situation. While it's obvious at a certain level that without the kind of action that the Manifesto recommends, we are doomed to suffer the consequences of a radically warming planet. We need to leave an awful lot of the oil that is currently in the ground right there where it belongs. On the other hand, it's also pretty obvious that actually getting climate agreements signed and concrete action taken isn't as easy as publishing a manifesto. Joining the worlds of idealistic activism with cold-hearted political calculation is never easy. Does something like the Leap Manifesto make that easier or harder? Does embracing the Manifesto sideline the NDP to the point where it can't make any practical difference or does it help them galvanize the true will of the people and build a newer more humane and environmentally responsible Canadian political culture?

The answers to those questions are above my pay grade.

The Leap Manifesto itself is here. Also worth reading is their document We Can Afford The Leap by Bruce Campbell, Seth Klein, and Marc Lee.

The text of the Manifesto follows.

We start from the premise that Canada is facing the deepest crisis in recent memory.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has acknowledged shocking details about the violence of Canada’s near past. Deepening poverty and inequality are a scar on the country’s present. And Canada’s record on climate change is a crime against humanity’s future.

These facts are all the more jarring because they depart so dramatically from our stated values: respect for Indigenous rights, internationalism, human rights, diversity, and environmental stewardship.

Canada is not this place today— but it could be.

We could live in a country powered entirely by renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.

We know that the time for this great transition is short. Climate scientists have told us that this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go.

So we need to leap.

This leap must begin by respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land. Indigenous communities have been at the forefront of protecting rivers, coasts, forests and lands from out-of-control industrial activity. We can bolster this role, and reset our relationship, by fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Small steps will no longer get us to where we need to go. So we need to leap”. Moved by the treaties that form the legal basis of this country and bind us to share the land “for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow,” we want energy sources that will last for time immemorial and never run out or poison the land. Technological breakthroughs have brought this dream within reach. The latest research shows it is feasible for Canada to get 100% of its electricity from renewable resources within two decades[1]; by 2050 we could have a 100% clean economy[2].

We demand that this shift begin now.

There is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard. That applies equally to oil and gas pipelines; fracking in New Brunswick, Quebec and British Columbia; increased tanker traffic off our coasts; and to Canadian-owned mining projects the world over.

The time for energy democracy has come: we believe not just in changes to our energy sources, but that wherever possible communities should collectively control these new energy systems.
As an alternative to the profit-gouging of private companies and the remote bureaucracy of some centralized state ones, we can create innovative ownership structures: democratically run, paying living wages and keeping much-needed revenue in communities. And Indigenous Peoples should be first to receive public support for their own clean energy projects. So should communities currently dealing with heavy health impacts of polluting industrial activity.

Power generated this way will not merely light our homes but redistribute wealth, deepen our democracy, strengthen our economy and start to heal the wounds that date back to this country’s founding.

A leap to a non-polluting economy creates countless openings for similar multiple “wins.” We want a universal program to build energy efficient homes, and retrofit existing housing, ensuring that the lowest income communities and neighbourhoods will benefit first and receive job training and opportunities that reduce poverty over the long term. We want training and other resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to take part in the clean energy economy. This transition should involve the democratic participation of workers themselves. High-speed rail powered by renewables and affordable public transit can unite every community in this country – in place of more cars, pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us.

And since we know this leap is beginning late, we need to invest in our decaying public infrastructure so that it can withstand increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

Moving to a far more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system would reduce reliance on fossil fuels, capture carbon in the soil, and absorb sudden shocks in the global supply – as well as produce healthier and more affordable food for everyone.

We call for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects. Rebalancing the scales of justice, we should ensure immigration status and full protection for all workers. Recognizing Canada’s contributions to military conflicts and climate change — primary drivers of the global refugee crisis — we must welcome refugees and migrants seeking safety and a better life.

Shifting to an economy in balance with the earth’s limits also means expanding the sectors of our economy that are already low carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media. Following on Quebec’s lead, a national childcare program is long past due. All this work, much of it performed by women, is the glue that builds humane, resilient communities – and we will need our communities to be as strong as possible in the face of the rocky future we have already locked in.

Since so much of the labour of caretaking – whether of people or the planet – is currently unpaid, we call for a vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic annual income. Pioneered in Manitoba in the 1970’s, this sturdy safety net could help ensure that no one is forced to take work that threatens their children’s tomorrow, just to feed those children today.

We declare that “austerity” – which has systematically attacked low-carbon sectors like education and healthcare, while starving public transit and forcing reckless energy privatizations – is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth.

The money we need to pay for this great transformation is available — we just need the right policies to release it. Like an end to fossil fuel subsidies. Financial transaction taxes. Increased resource royalties. Higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy people. A progressive carbon tax. Cuts to military spending. All of these are based on a simple “polluter pays” principle and hold enormous promise.

One thing is clear: public scarcity in times of unprecedented private wealth is a manufactured crisis, designed to extinguish our dreams before they have a chance to be born.

Those dreams go well beyond this document. “We call on all those seeking political office to seize this opportunity and embrace the urgent need for transformation”. We call for town hall meetings across the country where residents can gather to democratically define what a genuine leap to the next economy means in their communities.

Inevitably, this bottom-up revival will lead to a renewal of democracy at every level of government, working swiftly towards a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns.

This is a great deal to take on all at once, but such are the times in which we live.

The drop in oil prices has temporarily relieved the pressure to dig up fossil fuels as rapidly as high-risk technologies will allow. This pause in frenetic expansion should not be viewed as a crisis, but as a gift.

It has given us a rare moment to look at what we have become – and decide to change.
And so we call on all those seeking political office to seize this opportunity and embrace the urgent need for transformation. This is our sacred duty to those this country harmed in the past, to those suffering needlessly in the present, and to all who have a right to a bright and safe future.

Now is the time for boldness.

Now is the time to leap.


[1]Sustainable Canada Dialogues. (2015). Acting on climate change: Solutions from Canadian scholars. Montreal, QC: McGill University

[2]Jacobson, M., et al. Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part I: Technologies, energy resources, quantities and areas of infrastructure, and materials. Energy Policy 39:3 (2011)

Here's the story so far, from when the Manifesto was announced during the 2015 election until today. I'm including the full range of commentary here, positive, negative, from the left, right and the whole spectrum in between. I haven't tried to be comprehensive, especially with items from the 2015 election period.


Of course, this list isn't meant to be complete. However, if I've left out anything that's particularly worth noting, please let me know in the comments.


Update 2016.04.24. Numerous items added, bringing the story up to April 24th. Some stragglers added as well.

3 responses so far

Get your climate change data here: A big list of climate change data sources & repositories

We have a Steacie Library Hackfest coming up and our there this year is Making a Difference with Data. And what better area to make a difference in than the environment and climate change?

I am far from an expert on this topic, so suggestions for additions (and deletions if I've added anything inappropriate) are welcome. In particular, deeper and more complete data sources for Canada would be nice to have. I would also very much like to improve coverage beyond the North American focus with a wider variety of targeted regional and national data sources.

This set of lists is not meant to be complete or comprehensive.

Directories of Data Sources & Repositories


Data Sources -- Canada


Data Sources -- USA


Data Sources -- International


Data Sources -- Various Individual Countries/Regions


General Data Repositories

2 responses so far

Around the Web: Some readings on Climate Change, Canada and COP21

Nov 29 2015 Published by under around the web, Canada, climate change, environment

I think this post might signal the birth of a new all-consuming blogging obsession -- climate change in general and specifically how the realities of climate change play out in the Canadian context, especially as it relates to public policy.

With the COP21 climate talks coming up in Paris, this seems like as good a time as any to focus more carefully and closely on what is probably the most defining issue of our times.

Not that this is the first time I've blogged about climate change. I've kept track of the issues fairly closely over the years and that has spilled into the blog, mostly in the form of the occasional book review such as:

And even a post on Climate Change Fiction, which has turned out to be one of my most popular ever. Not to mention that items on climate change have turned up in my Around the Web posts a number of times such as here and here.

And of course, one of the driving forces for my Canadian War on Science mega-obsession series of posts was the Harper government's shameful record on climate change.

Needless to say, my purpose here isn't to cheer on the Trudeau government in whatever it decides to do, though obviously they will very likely do better than the previous government. Holding them to account to failures and bad decisions and perhaps pointing the way to better policies is just as much my mission here.

So here goes. A fairly selective series of readings about climate change, Canada and COP21. With more to come.

As usual, if I've made any errors of if I'm missing anything significant, please let me know in the comments.

2 responses so far

Science in Canada: Some advice for a new Chief Science Officer

As I've extensively chronicled, Canadian government science had some pretty rough years under the government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

But Canada has a new government, a new prime minister in Justin Trudeau and a new cabinet. Kirsty Duncan, an actual scientist who worked on the IPPC, has been appointed Science Minister. Come to think of it, we have a Science Minister.

The roster of ministers in other science and technology-related portfolios is also very strong. Navdeep Singh Bains at Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Lawrence MacAulay at Agriculture and Agri-Food. Jane Philpott at Health. Marc Garneau at Transport. Jim Carr at Natural Resources. Hunter Tootoo at Fisheries and Oceans, and Canadian Coast Guard. Catherine McKenna at Environment and Climate Change. And yes, we have a Minister of Climate Change. And Mélanie Joly at Heritage, in charge of Libraries and Archives Canada.

If there was ever a time to stake a claim to the time and effort and political capital of this new government, it has to be now. Strike while the iron is hot, before the inertia sets in. Wait too long to ask for what you want, and it'll be too late. All the resources will already be committed.

Public interest science was one of the areas hardest hit during the Harper years and it's pretty obvious the kinds of things that the new government should tackle in the few year or two of its mandate.

Some things are obvious.

  • Stop the egregious and unnecessary muzzling of government scientists in cases where they want to speak publicly about the results of their scientific work.
  • Where possible, restore environmental regulations that have been gutted such as the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Species at Risk Act.
  • Where possible, restore research programs that have been shuttered or have seen their budgets radically cut.
  • Remove at least some of the mania for tying anything to do with public science to industry partnerships, in particular where it relates to the misguided transformation of the National Research Council into a concierge service for business.

And there has been no shortage of people in the media and various stakeholder groups making recommendations to Prime Minister Trudeau concerning what he should do about Canadian science as he takes office. And most of those included the items I mention above.

What hasn't really appeared on any of the lists I've seen is fixing the damage that the previous Conservative government did to the science library infrastructure in Canada, most prominently to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans library system but also to the systems at Environment Canada and others.

While those libraries were being closed and consolidated, we were assured that the collections were properly merged and weeded, that new scanning and document delivery procedures were being implemented that would effectively replace the local staff and collections and that researchers would see no difference in the level of service. The Federal government did announce an extensive re-visioning of it's science library infrastructure. Which looks good on paper.

But it's safe to say that basically no one believed the Conservatives were up to the challenge of doing a good job of this. All the evidence that we were able to see indicated that the merging and consolidation of collections was rushed, haphazard and devoid of planning at best and willfully destructive at worst. As far as I can tell, we have nothing but the previous government's word that the scanning and document delivery services that were rushed into the breach are anywhere near sufficient. Nor did we see real evidence that they were truly committed to the revisioning.

One of the things that the Liberals promised in their platform was to appoint a Chief Science Officer.

We will value science and treat scientists with respect.

We will appoint a Chief Science Officer who will ensure that government science
is fully available to the public, that scientists are able to speak freely about their
work, and that scientific analyses are considered when the government makes

The CSO hasn't been appointed yet, but I see no reason why we should all start thinking about what that new person should set their sights on when they start.

I propose that the new Chief Science Officer, in collaboration with the Minister of Science, the Minister of Heritage and all the rest of the science-related Ministers convene a special advisory panel to take a look at what's left of Canada's science library infrastructure and make any recommendations that are necessary to restore the collections and service levels to what Canada's Federal government scientists (and all Canadians) need and deserve while the proposed revisioning takes place. At least fifty percent of the membership of this panel should probably consist of librarians and other stakeholders that currently employed by the Federal Government in any capacity. I also believe that this advisory panel should remain in place as a steering committee for the revisioning of the new Federal Science Library.

At the end of the day, the collections have been dispersed, the staff laid off and the physical spaces repurposed. So much of the damage that was done cannot be repaired.

I should be clear that I don't think the function of this group should be to point fingers or assign blame or rehash past mistakes. It should be forward-looking and patron-focused, with a mission to make sure patrons have the services and collections they need in the short, medium and long term.

6 responses so far

Friday Fun: Using my librarian superpowers for good rather than evil

As you can all imagine, I'm quite pleased to see the backside of the Harper government on their way out the door. Of course, the Liberals have promised a lot but only time will tell how serious they are about fixing the science-related stuff that they've promised to fix. I'll definitely be watching that and keeping track here on the blog somehow somewhere.

That being said, I was quite gratified that my various pro-science advocacy efforts in general and my war on science chronology post in particular were quite popular and widely used during the election campaign.

Obviously all the things that I've done advocating for science- and evidence-based decision-making in Canada, I did them because I thought they were important and useful things to do, not because I wanted to be congratulated or celebrated for them. That doesn't make me any less happy and proud to be congratulated and celebrated for these things, of course.

So in the spirit of Friday Fun, I though I'd share some of the congratulation and celebrations with you, my readers.

Starting with this astoundingly wonderful linking to my post from this article in the Guardian: How science helped to swing the Canadian election. Yes, the Guardian.

Things got so bad that scientists and their supporters took to the streets. They demonstrated in Ottawa. They formed an organization, Evidence for Democracy, to bring push back on political interference in science. Awareness-raising forums were held at campuses throughout Canada. And the onslaught on science was painstakingly documented, which tends to happen when you go after librarians.

How cool is that!

And there was a fair bit of very kind reaction on Twitter too, a bit of which I'm including below.

And continuing with the article I did just before the election in Metro News, Canadian government approach to science reads like satire, which was also very well received on Twitter, a sampling of which is below.

With this tweet in particular being one of my favourite in the post-election period:

Apologies for all the self-back-patting, but sometimes a guy just can't resist.

One response so far

The Science Integrity Project and the Statement of Principles for Sound Decision Making in Canada

Though not explicitly tied to our current federal election campaign, the début this week of the Science Integrity Project and the publishing of their Statement of Principles for Sound Decision Making in Canada just as the campaign heats up is surely not coincidental.

In any case, election or not, this is a wonderful initiative and I support it wholeheartedly. There's lots of background on their website about the process for coming up with the principles, an FAQ and a few examples of how the principles work in practice.

From their website:

Welcome to the Science Integrity Project. Our project reflects the collective wisdom of 75 leaders — in science, indigenous knowledge, public policy, civil society, and governance — who are concerned about the erosion of an evidence-based approach to public policy decision-making in Canada.

Why SIP:
The Science Integrity Project was created in response to growing concerns [1] that many public policy decisions made in Canada — and in its cities, provinces and territories — are not consistently supported by solid information derived from the best available evidence — from science and indigenous knowledge.

What is SIP:
Through a series of in-depth interviews and a national forum, we developed principles for improved decision making on the basis of the best available evidence.

We call upon all Canadians, acting individually and collectively, to embrace and apply the principles for evidence-based decision-making. We invite decision makers at all levels to adopt these principles as an enduring standard for public policy development in Canada. We invite scientists, knowledge holders, and research communities to take this commitment a step further by speaking out for science integrity and the use of your research and knowledge in the development of good public policy.


There's a media release that fills in a few more details about the project. And the principles themselves:

Statement Of Principles For Sound Decision-Making In Canada

The Science Integrity Project
There is growing public concern that policy decisions in jurisdictions across Canada are being made without the support of relevant, accurate, and up-to-date information [1]. The Science Integrity Project – a 2-year initiative involving nearly 75 diverse, influential, and experienced thinkers and practitioners nationwide – is an inclusive, constructive, and non-partisan effort aimed at improving the use of evidence in decision making at all levels of government in Canada. The project held a national forum in February 2015 to discuss foundational principles for the generation and use of evidence in decision-making in Canada. This Statement is the product of their work.

The Case For Evidence-Based Decision-Making
Strong public policies, built on the foundations of evidence and analysis, ensure better outcomes for Canadians, increase government accountability and transparency, and improve our democracy. Canadians expect their representatives to seek, consider, and use rigorous, widely sourced evidence to inform decisions. Such evidence may take many forms, including:

  • Science in its broadest sense, including the body of knowledge resulting from experiments, systematic observations, statistical data collection and analysis, theory and modeling, and including information from a range of fields in the physical and biological sciences, social sciences, health sciences and engineering; and,
  • Indigenous knowledge, the body of knowledge that is the result of intellectual activity and insight gained in a traditional context and adapted over time to modern situations, and which includes the methods, skills, practices, and knowledge contained in codified knowledge systems passed between generations. [2]

Principles for Evidence-based Decision-making
We call upon all Canadians, acting individually and collectively, to embrace and apply the following principles for evidence-based decision-making. These principles are both ambitious and achievable. Real-world applications exist in many Canadian jurisdictions and have been implemented in countries around the world with great success. We believe the robust implementation of these principles will result in a stronger Canada.

Principle 1
The best available evidence – produced by methods that are transparent, rigorous, and conducted with integrity[3] – should always inform decision-making in Canada.

Principle 2
Information should be openly exchanged among scientific researchers, Indigenous knowledge holders, decision makers, and the public[4].

Principle 3
Research results should be preserved, protected, interpreted and shared in a way that is broadly
understandable and accessible.

Principle 4
Decision-making processes, and the manner in which evidence informs them, should be transparent and routinely evaluated.

1. E.g., Professional Institute of the Public Service in Canada (2013); Voices-Voix Coalition (2015)

2. There are many definitions of indigenous knowledge; we use one adapted from the World Intellectual Property Organization

3. By “integrity” in the use of science and Indigenous knowledge, we mean that public policies are built upon the best available, most relevant knowledge resources and that the transfer and use of knowledge in policy and decision-making is transparent. Integrity in the use of knowledge
in policy-making also requires integrity in the production of knowledge, that is, adhering to professional, ethical, and disciplinary standards in the production of scientific knowledge and codified cultural standards in the production of Indigenous knowledge.

4. Except in rare cases of demonstrated concern regarding privacy and security. For an overview of open access principles see “Concepts of Openness and Open Access” (UNESCO 2015

One response so far

Lane Anderson Awards: Finalists for the best Canadian science books written in 2014

Sep 09 2015 Published by under best science books 2014, Canada, science books

One of the real highlights for me every year is the late-summer announcement of the Lane Anderson Awards short list.

From their website here:

Today, we are excited to announce the finalists for the best Canadian science books written in 2014.

Our jury panels evaluated submissions in two categories – adult and young readers. They arrived at their shortlist after evaluating the relevance of each book’s content to the importance of science in today’s world, as well as the author’s ability to connect the topic to the interests of the general trade reader.

The winner in each category receives a $10,000 prize.

“The jury adjudicated science books on subjects as varied and topical as space exploration, fracking, and even underwater dinosaurs,” said Holly Doll, Award Manager for the Lane Anderson Award. “Canada has so many talented authors writing about science in today’s world, and the Lane Anderson Award is very pleased to celebrate their work.”

The shortlisted finalists for the 2014 Lane Anderson Award are as follows:

Adult Category

Bob McDonald
Canadian Spacewalkers: Hadfield, MacLean and Williams Remember the Ultimate High Adventure
Publisher: Douglas and McIntyre

Dr. Francois Reeves
Planet Heart: How an Unhealthy Environment Leads to Heart Disease
Publisher: Greystone Books

Stephen Leahy
Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products
Publisher: Firefly Books


Young Reader

L.E. Carmichael
Fuzzy Forensics: DNA Fingerprinting Gets Wild
Publisher: Ashby-BP

Daniel Loxton
Plesiosaur Peril (Tales of Prehistoric Life)
Publisher: Kids Can Press

Maria Birmingham
Tastes Like Music: 17 Quirks of the Brain and Body
Publisher: Owl Kids

Winners will be announced at a dinner in Toronto in late September.

No responses yet

Canadian Federal Election: If there were a science debate, what would I ask?

Aug 21 2015 Published by under Canada, Canadian war on science, Politics

Katie Gibbs and Alana Westwood of Evidence for Democracy wrote a terrific piece in The Toronto Star a little while ago, We need a national debate on science: A question about science policy has never been asked at a federal leaders’ debate. Now more than ever that has to change.

Given the clear importance of science in our lives, why has a question about science policy never — not once — been asked in a federal leaders’ debate?


Perhaps it’s time for another first: a debate about the state and future of Canadian science. Once a world-leader in scientific research, recent decisions have eroded our science capacity and our international scientific reputation. It’s estimated that up to 5,000 federal scientists have lost their jobs, and over 250 research and monitoring programs and institutions have been closed. Our recently launched website called True North Smart and Free, documents dozens of examples of funding cuts to science, government scientists being silenced and policy decisions that ignore the best available evidence. This is essential public-interest science needed to protect Canadian’s health and safety, from food inspection to monitoring toxic chemicals in water.

I've chronicled the devastation that the current Conservative government has wrought on Canadian public science quite a bit over the last few years. Evidence for Democracy has recently published a terrific new site, True North Smart and Free that beautifully highlights what's gone on, telling a number of very compelling stories in significant depth. I've even started a post where I'm tracking the conversation that is happening around science during the election.

And it's an amazing and appalling roster of research funding cut or bound to industry partnerships, departmental budgets slashed, lab closures, library closures, scientists muzzled and fired, environmental deregulation, oil industry pandering, insults, harassment, demonization and much more. The toll is quite remarkable for a mere 10 years, with most in the last four since the Conservative majority. What took generations to build only took a few short years to disassemble.

So if a science debate did happen to take place among the major party leaders -- Gilles Duceppe, Stephen Harper, Elizabeth May, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau -- what would I ask them?

Canadian science has been devastated over the course of the last decade, from research twisted to meet industry needs, labs closed, scientists muzzled or fired, and environmental regulations scrapped to favour industry. And that's just a small part of the damage to evidence-based decision-making.

If you are Prime Minister after October 19, what would be your short, medium and long-term plan to restore Canadian government and publicly-funded science to what it was before and even to take it in new directions and reach for new heights.

Of course, it's not hard to imagine how Prime Minister Stephen Harper would answer the question. But I would be really interested to hear what the others have to say. Even if answers were forthcoming from the various parties' science and technology critics, that would be great too.

It's also not hard to imagine how an entire two-hour debate among the opposition leaders could essentially revolve around nothing but answering that question, teased apart into a bunch of mini-questions about the various kinds of damage done over the last decade to evidence-based decision-making about the environment, public health, demographics and so much more. Let's keep our fingers crossed that science will be an important part of one of the remaining debates or that even we could get a completely science-focused debate.

How could my question be reframed or reworded to make it more effective?

What question would you ask?

6 responses so far

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