Over the past five years, funding cuts and monitoring programs have shattered Canada’s record in science policy. Science-loving Canadians have watched with dismay as funding has been diverted from scientific research and environmental initiatives into the military-industrial complex, and the administration has sought to derive short-term economic benefits from the country’s scientific community. More significantly, new media policies have curtailed government scientists’ ability to speak freely about their research.
Canada’s current science policy seems to be motivated by a quest for economic stewardship. As such, any announcement from the federal government related to science and technology cites the administration’s goals — the economy is mentioned in every such announcement, without fail. Claims of transparency and good governance in science policy are hard to find, and rightly so.
National Mining Week took place from May 12 to 18. It was marked by Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford, whose announcement that Canada’s mining sector is “a leader in transparency, accountability and good governance” stood in stark contrast with reports of human rights violations carried out overseas by Canadian extractive corporations.
Rickford’s Mining Week announcement found a counterpoint. On the Wednesday of Mining Week, concerned citizens staged a protest on Parliament Hill to advocate for an extractive industry ombudsperson, continuing a campaign that has been carried out by various groups both in industry and in civil society for almost a decade. One week prior, in a commentary piece in the Toronto Star, the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada outlined a series of human rights abuses carried out by Canada’s exploitative mining activities in the global south.
Activists are not the only groups to take notice. At a 2013 hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, concerns about human rights abuses in the extractive industry were leveled overwhelmingly at Canada, where over 75 per cent of all extractive companies are based. A majority of these companies carry out operations abroad, and most are too squarely focused on profit to protect the rights of indigenous populations or the health of the environment.
Minister Rickford’s announcement that Canada is “a global leader in responsible resource development” is not just misleading, it is dangerous. Canadians have the right to know how their country is being governed, and it is folly to assume that injustices do not matter to Canadians simply because they are not immediately visible. If Rickford expects Canadians to trust his claims about the mining sector, he takes an approach to governance that is lethal for any democratic society. Ultimately, it is information that is the most difficult to extract, and nothing could be more harmful for Canada.
Emma Hansen is a second-year student studying physics and history and philosophy of science and technology at U of T. She is The Varsity’s associate science editor.