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"Victory will never be found by taking the line of least resistance." Winston Churchill

If people no longer expect objectivity from their political and legal systems, then all justice will be reduced to a power struggle between conflicting and irreconcilable perspectives, a struggle in which the most dominant and pervasive bias will replace fair and impartial process as the character of justice. But if objectivity in law and politics is everywhere supplanted by conflict between subjective interests, then the side of economic privilege and established authority will always retain dominance. A society in which people no longer expect representatives of its major institutions even to attempt to render objectivity in their professional demeanours is a society whose major institutions are in a crisis of ethical legitimacy. In such a society, there is wide spread cynicism regarding the possibility of fair political process because it seems impossible that impartial, unbiased dispositions could exist to enact such processes.

Robert Nicholls

Language and Logic

Friday, March 15, 2013

Canada Should Take Note of India’s Freeze on All Investment Protection Agreements

“Canada Should Take Good Note of India’s Freeze on All Investment Protection Agreements”

OTTAWA – With ratification of the Canada-China Investment Treaty still pending, the Green Party of Canada underscores India’s decision to move away from bilateral investment protection agreements and their investor/state dispute system.

After facing the threat of international arbitration from foreign companies, India has ordered in January 2013 a freeze of all bilateral investment protection agreements negotiations until a governmental review is carried out and completed. Although news of India's decision has not been mentioned in the Canadian media, the decision is clearly relevant.

“In November 2012, Prime Minister Harper told me in the House of Commons that the Indian Prime Minister was committed to signing a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with Canada. I think Canada should take good note of India’s freeze on all investment protection agreements,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.

“The investor/state dispute system contained in investment agreements allows foreign companies to sue Canada outside of Canadian courts. Special arbitrators would take the decisions; their decision cannot be subject to judicial review. And the arbitrations are to be secret. Even the fact they are happening is to be secret,” said May.

“India is joining nations such as Australia and South Africa in saying ‘no’ to investor/state provisions. It’s time for Canada to also turn the page on this out-of-date and undemocratic international trade model,” said May.

Tightening the grip: muzzling of scientists ramps up in Canada

Elizabeth May

Back in October 2011, I wrote in Island Tides about the muzzling of DFO scientists. The scientist in question, Dr Kristi Miller, had achieved levels of scientific respect as her work on viruses linked to salmon aquaculture operations had been published in the internationally prestigious journal Science. When Science attempted to arrange media interviews with Dr Miller, the Privy Council Office ordered her to refuse.

It seems that the public outcry over that event, and others including ozone scientists at Environment Canada, led the Prime Minister’s Office to decide the contractual arrangements with scientists were too lax. As of February 1 this year, new rules were put in place requiring all scientists working on projects in conjunction with DFO in the Central and Arctic Region to treat all information as proprietary to DFO, and—worse—await departmental approval before submitting research to any scientific journals.

The story was broken by veteran journalist Michael Harris, in the online journal iPolitics. Harris has been one of the few journalists willing to dig into the pervasive repression, slashing of science and rejection of evidence based decision-making in Harper’s Ottawa.

The reaction from DFO was swift. It posted this attack on its website:

‘The iPolitics story by Michael Harris published on February 7th, 2013 is untrue. There have been no changes to the Department’s publication policy.’

Harris recounts that he was stunned. He had verified the change with several scientists, external to DFO. He called Dr Jeff Hutchings at Dalhousie University who re-confirmed the changes. Then Harris received support from an unexpected source—an anonymous DFO scientist posted the email from Michelle Wheatley, the Central and Arctic science director, sent out to detail the new publication policy.

The anonymous scientist wrote, ‘Here is the e-mail I got from my division manager on January 29, 2013: ‘Subject: New Publication Review Committee (PRC) Procedures for C&A Science …’. The email was reproduced in full, and began, ‘This message is regarding the new Publication Review Committee procedures for C&A Science…’

The email noted that the new policy was to take effect on February 1, 2013.
The anonymous scientist concluded: ‘You decide who’s being untruthful.’

A few days after DFO tried to deny that there were any changes, the Vancouver Sun broke the story of a US scientist, doing collaborative work with DFO, who is refusing to sign the new conditions. Calling it a ‘potential muzzle,’ Dr Andreas Muenchow, of the University of Delaware told the Sun, ‘I’m not signing it.’ Muenchow has been working on a project with DFO scientists in the Eastern Arctic since 2003.

In 2003, when the collaborative research project began, there were quite different rules about sharing data: ‘Data and any other project-related information shall be freely available to all Parties to this Agreement and may be used, disseminated or published, at any time.’

Within days of February 1st’s new publication policy, on February 7, came another DFO email to scientists: now they must obtain prior consent before applying for research grants.

You can see where this is going. It is not enough to muzzle scientists like Dr Miller when their research is published. The tightening of control over science must be established far earlier in the process. Stop the research from being submitted to journals. Stop the scientists from collaborating with others. Stop scientists from applying for research grants. Stop science from happening at all.

The elimination of whole branches of scientific work within the federal government, the slashing of governmental funds for science, and now a departmental veto on applying for research grants or submitting results to peer reviewed journals fits in the larger systemic dismantling of any aspect of governmental activities that could throw doubt on the wisdom of pressing for rapid expansion of fossil fuel exploitation.

‘Chilling’ is one word, but it does not seem adequate to this development. This is the 21st Century equivalent of the Dark Ages. This is book burning and superstition run rampant. This is the administration of a steady, slow drip of poison to a weakening democracy.

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