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Hundreds of scientists urge Elections Canada to clarify the communication of climate change facts during elections

Ottawa (August 22, 2019) - Hundreds of Canadian scientists sent a letter this morning to Stéphane Perrault, the Chief Electoral Officer, urging Elections Canada to clarify how the science on climate change can be communicated during the election period.

 The 352 Canadian scientists who signed the letter take issue with Elections Canada’s interpretation of the Elections Act that paid advertising that is communicating facts around climate change would require organizations and individuals to register as a third party. 

“The weight of scientific evidence and consistent cross-party political support for major international climate efforts makes absolutely clear that the existence of climate change is not up for debate,” said Dr. Marie Claire Brisbois, Assistant Professor at the University of Sussex. “Given this scientific consensus, we don’t think that organizations and individuals should have to register as a third party in order to advertise to Canadians on the existence of climate change.”

“The bureaucratic process of registering in order to share non-partisan science may stifle evidence-based discussion on climate change during both a crucial democratic process and a critical period for climate action.” said Dr. Christopher Lyon, Research Fellow at the University of Leeds. “Together, these items set a chilling precedent for the discussion of science-based concerns.”

While Elections Canada did recently clarify the rules in response to media and public outcry, concerns remain about how the act applies to scientific information upon which there is a clear consensus. In the clarification, Elections Canada highlights that the Elections Act does not “make a distinction between facts and opinion”

Identifying climate change as an issue which could require registration under certain conditions does take a position on climate change. It presents the existence of human-caused climate change as something that is up for debate.

The 352 open letter signatories are all Canadian researchers who are working in Canada or abroad and include 8 Canada Research Chairs. 

The response from Canadian scientists reveals their concern beyond the details of interpretation of the Elections Act. Canadian scientists are overwhelmingly frustrated and deeply troubled that the science of climate change is still being treated as a matter of debate. Failing to acknowledge the reality of our situation is putting our lives and livelihoods, and those of our loved ones, at risk.

Full text of the letter is available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RH3w4fNtmtxyOzg-oZlLJab4GH3_af75EzMqPLjTcDU/edit?usp=sharing 

Media contacts:

Katie Gibbs
Executive Director
Evidence for Democracy
Email: katie@evidencefordemocracy.ca
Phone: 1-844-335-3339

Dr. Marie Claire Brisbois
Lecturer/Assistant Professor in Energy Policy
Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, UK
Email: m.c.brisbois@sussex.ac.uk
Phone: +44 790 179 0314

Dr. Christopher Lyon
Research Fellow
Sustainability Research Institute
School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, UK
Email: c.lyon@leeds.ac.uk
Phone: +44 780 470 9685

Katie Gibbs

Executive Director

Katie Gibbs is a scientist, organizer and advocate for science and evidence-based policies. While completing her PhD at the University of Ottawa researching threats to endangered species, she was one of the lead organizers of the ‘Death of Evidence’ rally - one of the largest science rallies in Canadian history. Katie cofounded Evidence for Democracy and now serves as its Executive Director. She has a diverse background organizing and managing various social and political campaigns at the local and national level. Katie is frequently asked to comment on science policy issues and has been quoted and published in numerous media outlets, including the CBC, The Hill Times, the Globe and Mail and the National Post.