This week: Years after George Orwell’s book, 1984 introduced the term, the act of “sending something down the memory hole” is a widely familiar concept, most notably when applied to corporate and state news agencies who bury impolitic news items managing to slip through the censor’s screens. Orwell’s hero, Winston Smith toils daily in the Ministry of Truth, his job two-fold; writing new accounts of history, as he disposes of the old.
While Stephen Harper’s New Government of Canada cannot be reasonably compared to Oceania, in one area at least there are similarities: Both Harper and Big Brother are devoted to controlling information. Whether it be access to cutting edge scientific knowledge vital to protecting the environment and public health, or the more mundane task of discovering how and where government monies are spent, in Canada information is power; and that power is guarded with an increasing zeal Orwell would instantly recognize.
Vincent Gogolek is the Executive Director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, or FIPA. He recently found himself in possession of leaked documents outlining the New Government’s new plan to dig a memory hole in the middle of Canada’s publicly available government web sites. Harper’s Web Renewal Action! Plan, scheduled to be rolled out sometime in the near future, hopes to reduce the country’s decades of research and records kept, if not to the size it can be drowned in a bathtub, then to a mere handful of websites offering only what Web Renewal Action! deems relevant. It’s an audacious scheme, made outrageous in the wake of drastic reductions made at the ministry presumably tasked to accomplish it, the recently halved Libraries and Archives Canada.
Vincent Gogolek in the first half.
And; Last week, the office of the federal Information Commissioner responded to requests by Democracy Watch and UVic’s Environmental Law Centre to launch investigations into the muzzling of Canada’s scientist civil servants, saying; “A notice of our intention to investigate and a summary of complaint has been sent…” to seven ministries cited.
The Harper administration’s “muzzling” of government scientists has made headlines both within the narrow confines of the research and development community, and more broadly in the mainstream press. While there are a number of high profile cases – Kristi Miller gagged on her findings of viruses accompanying imported salmon farm breed stock, and George DaPont of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency being stoppered mid-press conference by his political boss when reporting on a massive beef recall last year being just two instances – the chill sent through both public and private sector research may prove to be the greatest threat to Canada’s future as a science innovator.
Calvin Sandborn, is legal director of the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria, and he joins us on liberating Canadian science in the second half.
And; Victoria Street Newz publisher and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of what’s going on on our city’s streets and beyond. But first, Vincent Gogolek and digging in to Web Renewal Action! Plan’s Great Canadian Memory Hole Project.
Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Monday, 5-6pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.uvic.ca. He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: http://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/
G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.