Monday, April 17, 2006

book too hot for minister to handle

Not long ago I wrote about the Conservative government axing the environmental One-Tonne-Challenge program. Fifteen Kyoto research programs have also been cut. But it's not just programs being felled. People who say - or write - the wrong thing are being silenced too.

Mark Tushingham, a writer and scientist with Environment Canada, has written a science fiction novel called Hotter than Hell. It presents a scenario in which global warming has advanced and Canada and the US go to war over water resources.

Apparently this is not the kind of bedside reading Environment Minister Rona Ambrose wants people to know about - perhaps since her government is busy cutting environmental protection measures and building treaties with the US which gives them increasing access to our natural resources. So Minister Ambrose shut down the book's promotion event.

Just before Tushingham was supposed to speak at a book launch in Ottawa he got an email from the minister's office warning him not to attend. Officially, he had not followed proper protocol.

Minister Ambrose claimed there was "concern" that since Tushingham works for Environment Canada people may think he is a "government representative" - even though promotional materials for his book just described him as an Ottawa scientist.

If this doesn't raise concerns about censorship, I don't what does.

I've been on a letter writing kick lately. Perhaps I should drop a line to Minister Ambrose. Will her government be trying to silence others who write about potential consequences of irresponsible management of our environment? Will she be screening other book launches in the city? Or only those for books written by government employees? There are a lot of public servants in this city - should they all abandon any writing aspirations for fear that their topic of choice may offend the new government? The new government, I may add, which just passed whistle-blower legislation and has promised more transparency and accountability.

For more info:
cbc coverage
Toronto Star story

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