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UBC Theses and Dissertations

No science, no democracy : environmental knowledge and scientific activism in Canada Deutsh, Shoshana


“No Science, No Evidence, No Truth, No Democracy”: this phrase has appeared on signs and has been chanted at protests across Canada since the “Death of Evidence” protests in 2012. It marked the emergence of a number of pro-science organizations that have sought to protect the role of science in Canada’s democracy in the face of substantial changes to science governance in Canada. Arguing against funding cuts to environmental research and libraries, much of the protest has been centred on the emergence of a “wilful ignorance” or “war on science” in Canada. This thesis takes these pro-science activists seriously as part of an emerging social movement working towards changing how federal science is governed and how politics influences its governance. By tracking their modes of resistance, this thesis aims to understand how federal scientists conceive of their role and that of science in democratic governance since the sweeping changes of Bill C-38 and affiliated policies which have been accused of gutting environmental protections and blocking environmental knowledge. I argue that these changes reflect an institutional power shift and have generated a tension between different models of scientific practice within federal institutions. Differing conceptions of scientists as public servants have fuelled the protests, which have focused in particular on the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), a freshwater institute in Kenora, Ontario, a freshwater research station previously managed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and now by the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Using the ELA as my case study, I analyze how different conceptions of politics and governance have been articulated using discourse analysis as my primary method of study. Adding to current Science & Technology Studies (STS) discussions on the tension between expertise and democratic decision-making, I question the role of federal governance and perceptions of political interference in producing environmental knowledge.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada