Monday, September 06, 2010
Has Environment Canada Been Compromised by Conservative Intimidation?
It was Schindler's bulletproof research into the Tar Sands toxins oozing into the Athabasca watershed, scientific proof that drove a stake through the heart of nonsense from laughable government-funded agencies, that forced Stelmach's hand - leaving him nowhere to hide.
Now Stelmach's fallback position is to let the scientists, experts like Schindler and his government's own bought and paid for stooges, sit down and talk it over. Schindler's response was chilling:
Schindler [said] that Stelmach's suggestion is "probably not a bad idea," but noted he has met with government scientists in the past.
"They're really afraid to do much in that environment," Schindler said. "Environment Canada is the same. If you want to keep your job, you keep your head low."
In other words, Schindler is claiming that government scientists, including those at Environment Canada, fear speaking out may cost them their jobs. What he suggests is that our conservative governments have compromised our environmental agencies. Who do they think they are, the Mob?
This ought to be investigated. Parliament should get to the bottom of this. These scientists at EnviroCan work for you and for me. We're entitled to the full benefit of what they know. That information is our property. Stephen Harper doesn't own it. It is not his to purloin and conceal because it contradicts his message, his policy. If the Harper government is suppressing EnviroCan's staff, he's depriving you of your property for his own political advantage.
This is one area where the opposition parties have really failed the Canadian public. Beyond a meek whine or two, they have sat docile and submissive while Stephen Harper tightly gagged the public and armed services. The opposition has, for four years now, enabled Harper to substitute his skewed message for the information we deserve to be receiving directly and unfiltered from our public servants and armed forces.
The current situation reminds me of something I learned from my father, that rights have real value both to those who foolishly take them for granted and for those who would take them away from us. He also taught me that we don't have a single right that's ever safe from forfeiture and that virtually every right we hold today has been paid for at some time in the past, often more than once, and paid for in blood.
Chalmers Johnson, in his book Nemesis, the Last Days of the American Republic, offers an insightful discussion of the importance of access to government information to the health of democracy:
"James Madison, the primary author of our Constitution, considered the people's access to information the basic right upon which all other rights depend.
"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it," Madison later wrote, "is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
"...federal appellate judge Damon Keith wrote in his 2003 ruling against the Bush policy of holding hundreds of deportation hearings in secret, 'Democracies die behind closed doors... When government begins closing doors it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation.'"
Of course Chalmers is writing about American democracy but the principles he states are applicable to all democracies. Harper uses his control of information to wrest from the Canadian people a degree of real power beyond that ever entrusted to him at the ballot box. And he gets away with it thanks to a thoroughly cowed opposition.