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Government reports note that scientists were consulted in the process; Bleyer says they weren’t.Parsing the truth has become a national parlour game.Canada’s closed-data stance is taking root at the very moment “open data” and “knowledge economy” are global mantras. Food and Drug Administration launched open FDA to provide easy public access. “I do big-picture ecology, where we think across countries and continents.The OECD and World Bank have led the charge for open-platform disclosures. But rapid scientific process stops at the Canadian border.” Detailed information about Canada isn’t available, says Kerr, noting that his American colleagues “make this data freely available.” Part of the problem is long-standing, he says, arising from “the difficult nature of federal-provincial relationships.” But “accessibility of data in Canada is becoming less, not more,” he says.“Nothing comes up when I type my name into the search engine on [Environment Canada’s] website,” says Hoff, now a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland.
Streelasky had no idea Melville had been rendered a “statistical ghost town” after the mandatory long-form census was cut in 2010, and fewer than 50 per cent of the one third of Melville’s 4,500 residents who got the voluntary National Household Survey that replaced it in 2011 completed the form. We know how many people live there, but nothing about them—where they work, their education levels, whether they’re married, single or divorced, how many are immigrants, how many are unemployed, how many live in poverty.Austerity measures, ironically, have resulted in an inability to keep track of the changes: Stats Can used to provide detailed, comprehensive data on salaries and employment at all levels of government; now we can’t tell where, or how deep, the cuts have been.Related reading from Jonathon Gatehouse: When science goes silent Disappearing data is only one part of a larger narrative of a degradation of knowledge—one that extends from federal scientists being prevented from talking about their research on topics as mundane as snow to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission being forced to take the federal government to court to obtain documents that should have been available under Access to Information.“To be dropped off the face of the Earth is pretty frightening,” says Streelasky, noting that Melville appears very much alive from his office: “We can smell the wildfires burning.” He plans to discuss the situation with his MP: “It’s the obligation of the federal government to make national data collection as complete as possible.” Towns like Melville are far from the only entities vanishing from official Canadian records.Physicist Raymond Hoff, who published more than 50 reports on air pollution in transport and toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes—including pioneering work on acid rain—at Environment Canada between 19, doesn’t seem to exist, either.