Ottawa (September 14, 2020)
Today, over 2000 scientists and science supporters sent an open letter calling on the federal government to safeguard science advice by enshrining the position of the Chief Science Advisor in legislation, and providing the office with an updated budget and mandate.
The delivery of the open letter comes just two weeks before the current Chief Science Advisor’s three-year term is set to expire. Since the role was implemented in 2017, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor Dr. Mona Nemer has supported science and evidence-informed decision-making in Canada, working to ensure federal scientists can speak about their work, providing advice to government decision-makers, and more recently, serving as a key leader in Canada’s science-based approach to COVID-19.
But with no new announcements about the office, the future of science advice in Canada is uncertain during a critical time as the federal government faces major decisions to guide the country through crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis.
“The response we’ve seen to this open letter shows clearly just how much people in Canada care about critical decisions being based on robust scientific evidence.” said Dr. Kimberly Girling, Interim Executive Director at Evidence for Democracy. “We’ve faced unprecedented challenges this year, and as we continue into an uncertain future, this response sends a strong message that the public wants science advice to continue playing a meaningful role in the federal decision-making landscape in Canada.”
The letter makes recommendations on next steps for the Chief Science Advisor’s mandate, including developing a national science strategy, supporting equity and diversity in science and building on scientific foresight capacity. As well, it encourages the government to legislate the role, to protect it against cuts or changes in government.
“Science advice is essential not only during the pandemic, but for the future ahead”, says Girling. “In the face of the climate crisis, an unstable economy, and new challenges we will face, protecting this essential role is important to support evidence-based decisions.”
The open letter was delivered to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, and Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry Navdeep Bains. Full text of the letter can be found at https://bit.ly/2D5JD2t.