Canada fought the war on science. Here’s how scientists won.

In Community & Activism, News by

For a few years under the Conservative government, anti-science policies became the norm: important research libraries were destroyed, funding for large-scale studies was cut, and scientists were not allowed to speak about their research without prior government approval, which was often difficult to get. Now that the U.S. is experiencing something similar, Vox examines the Canadian experience.

In the summer of 2012, in the wake of the introduction of Harper’s most aggressively anti-science budget, a few hundred protesters marched from an Ottawa conference center hosting a biology symposium to Parliament Hill, in a protest styled as a mock funeral for the Death of Evidence. As in the March for Science last weekend, many of the Ottawa marchers were working scientists who’d never before participated in a protest. Many wore white lab coats to signal their allegiance to a set of principles long assumed to be above the partisan fray.

Five years later, the Canadian government and its institutions are back in the hands of leaders who respect the scientific method and value the expertise of scientists on their payrolls (and beyond). Granted, the American war on science promises to be a much meaner and more reckless battle than the Canadian one, led as it is by a president and administration whose erratic, know-nothing tendencies are without analogue in any democratic nation, ever. (Stephen Harper, despite his many sins, respected the basic tenets of democracy and had a knowledge of what government was for that extended beyond last night’s Fox News broadcast.)

Still, the Canadian war holds some useful lessons as America’s defenders of science transition from their first fledgling protest to the longer fight.