Scientists protest federal cutbacks to environmental monitoring

Noted scientist calls latest Franklin expedition a front for oil and gas exploration

Dr. Andrew Weaver

Dr. Andrew Weaver

A leading Canadian climate scientist today slammed the search for the long-lost 1845 Franklin Expedition as a veiled front for future oil and gas extraction in the high Arctic.

Andrew Weaver, a professor in the University of Victoria school of earth and ocean sciences, called the search for the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror a “joke” during an off-the-cuff speech during a noontime rally in downtown Victoria.

“The Franklin Expedition is using tax dollars to seismically survey the ocean bottom for future oil and gas exploration. That has nothing to do with science,” Weaver said. “It’s all about oil and gas exploration. They are mapping out the floor.”

Researchers in white lab jackets, Raffi Cavoukian, a.k.a Raffi the children’s entertainer, Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May and Saanich South MLA Lana Popham, joined Weaver in denouncing cutbacks in environmental research spending, and the fear cultivated among federal scientists about speaking publicly about research that might contradict the Conservative government’s economic goals.

“Morale at federal government science labs is at an all-time low,” Weaver said to a crowd of several hundred people gathered at Yates and Government streets, outside a federal building. “What’s happening in Canada is science is happening behind closed doors … and is only made public if it fits with the government’s agenda.”

Weaver, among other speakers, also noted that federal scientists often aren’t authorized to speak with the media, and that instead, journalists receive scripted “media lines” on research from federal communications officers.

“We used  to laugh about what was happening to science in the George W. Bush era. It pales in comparison to what is going on now (in Canada),” Weaver said.

Critics of the Conservative government argue that federal economic policy trumps science and environmental monitoring. Politicians at the rally pointed to cuts in long-running Arctic program to monitor the ozone layer, cuts in staff to monitor the health of marine ecosystems and sea life, and cuts across the board to federal agencies which monitor natural resources and environmental compliance.

“Why do citizens across this country have to rally for science? We have to rally against ignorance,” May told the crowd. “Canadians are being put at risk by this shortsighted, reckless Stephen Harper government.”

A speaker who donned a fake mustache and beard, and who was confirmed to be a research scientist out of the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, told the crowd the Conservative government cut funding for a $12 million national program that monitored pollutants in the ocean that accumulate in marine food chain and ecosystem.

“The country has terminated the eyes and ears on the ocean pollution front,” he said, referring to himself jokingly as Dr X. “Dr. X” told the News that he remains and employee of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and could be subject to legal repercussions for speaking publicly.

As for the 2012 Franklin Expedition, the government said in August that it is indeed mapping the Arctic ocean floor as part of ongoing surveys conducted in 2008, 2010 and 2011 by Parks Canada’s underwater archaeology service.

A press release from the Prime Minister’s Office in August said the 2012 Franklin expedition will collect data for the production of navigational charts and topographical maps in the Arctic.

Weaver’s fellow scientists from the UVic Ocean Technology Lab are operating an autonomous underwater vehicle to gather three-dimensional data of the ocean floor for the Franklin survey areas, for the Parks Canada-led expedition.

“The use of cutting-edge technology by the team to map the Arctic waters and locate the Franklin vessels is also a tribute to Canadian expertise,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a release.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

The West Shore Community Response Network (CRN) is urging awareness around National Fraud Prevention Month, so residents can especially help protect older and vulnerable adults against fraud. (Photo by Joshua Hoehne/Upsplash)
March dialed in as National Fraud Prevention Month

West Shore Community Response Network urges citizens to protect seniors against phone, email scams

Students from SD62 stepped up to help members in the community with the annual 10,000 Tonight food drive. This year’s organizers had to adapt during the campaign as COIVD-19 public health orders changed. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore students step up to make sure community members don’t go without

Students of SD62 are this year’s recipient of the Youth Volunteer Award

A cat died in this house fire in Sidney afternoon. The fire started on the house’s deck and spread from that point. Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen said the permanent presence of crews at the Community Safety Building prevented worse damage. (Photo courtesy of Clayton Firth)
Sidney house fire kills cat, causes extensive damage

Official says fire started on deck and damage to the house could have been worse

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Most Read