DFO's Dr. Kristi Miller - recently muzzled from discussing her bombshell salmon disease findings, published in the prestigious journal Science earlier this year

Latest DFO Scientist Muzzling Part of Bigger Pattern Ignored by Media


The revelation by the Sun and the Province that a scientist in DFO, Dr. Kristi Miller, has been muzzled by the DFO and the Privy Council (which supports the Prime Minister’s Office) simply underscores how badly they have covered environmental matters in general and salmon concerns specifically.
For example, back in the mid-nineties there was a hell of a row over the Kemano Completion Project which involved taking some 90% of the Nechako River (near Prince George) which would have seriously impeded the large Sockeye runs into the Stuart River system. The permission for Alcan to do this was given, over the objections of fish scientists who had done a large study on the project and pointed out the folly it was. These scientists were hushed up by DFO and Tom Siddon, Fisheries Minister, who called it an “acceptable risk”. Several of these scientists were given early retirement or had their lives made so miserable that they got out. During this war, for war is what it was, these former DFO scientists were branded the “dissident scientists” by Alcan, a sobriquet they bore with great pride. They had been true to the public of Canada and to themselves.
The report to which I referred was buried by DFO and it came to me, 7 years later, in the height of the fray, in the traditional brown envelope.
None of this was explored by the media except Ben Meisner of CJPG in Prince George and me on CKNW – “explored” is hardly the term for we fought like cornered Tigers.
This leaked report had considerable influence on the BC Utilities Commission whose findings prompted then Premier Harcourt to tube KCP.
One of my treasured possessions is a poster showing a salmon jumping up a waterfall which all the “dissident” scientists signed in my honour. They were wonderful men. One of them, Gordon Hartman, was my constant adviser during the fight.
Please forgive me if I sound egocentric but what I’m telling you is the truth. Amongst the media I was first and perhaps only member supporting Alexandra Morton from the beginning. I reported DFO threats to arrest Ms Morton for “illegal testing” Pink Salmon smolts and their own fake testing in the wrong place, at the wrong time and with the wrong tools. I helped expose the ridiculous DFO denial of escaping farmed fish and its idiotic advice to the Provincial government.
Editorial after editorial I pointed out that the same government department mandated to protect our salmon (DFO) were official shills for the fish farm industry.
The story is a long one but I simply emphasize that the media, especially the then Canwest (now in drag as Postmedia) and the Black Press were silent throughout.
I despair for the pressure Alexandra Morton has gone through and continues to suffer, more now, perhaps, than at any time. As she bears this terrific load on her back the media either doesn’t report what she and her allies are doing or misreport and belittle them.
A case in point – a couple of weeks ago a memo from a well respected DFO scientist, Dr. Brent Hargreaves, emerged from the documents revealed through the Cohen Commission into collapsing Fraser sockeye stocks. This from The Common Sense Canadian:
The 2003 memo recently made public via the Cohen Commission on collapsing Fraser sockeye stocks contains some truly shocking passages for their candour and for how clearly they vindicate those who have been critical of DFO’s salmon farm science. (emphasis mine) Written by a respected DFO scientist, Dr. Brent Hargreaves, the memo severely attacks the credibility of a colleague, key salmon farm apologist Dr. Dick Beamish, whose science Hargreaves labels as “shoddy” and “unethical”, among other pejoratives. Here are a couple of choice passages:
“The research on sea lice that has been conducted by Beamish has been strongly and widely criticized in both the scientific community and the public media…I think to a large degree it was the inadequacies of Beamish’s research and conclusions that led to the lack of public confidence in DFO science…

…I also do not want to be directly associated, either professionally or personally, with either Beamish or his research…He always does exactly as he pleases, regardless of the (often negative) impacts on DFO staff and research programs.
And what did the media do with this? Zilch!
Here we have the scientist responsible for the Campbell/Clark government’s policy on fish farms exposed as “shoddy science” and Beamish as a shill for the Fish Farmers, and the print media does not consider this of any interest to the great unwashed! Imagine the millions of fish that died because the provincial government followed Beamish not Hargreaves!
The Vancouver Sun is “Seriously Westcoast”???
Better late than never, I suppose, but the media owes the public big time and that debt must be paid by full coverage of environmental issues even when to do so upsets advertisers.
Postmedia using Freedom of Information, did, to their credit, expose the egregious silencing of Kristi Miller. Are they, then, making amends?
Let’s hope so, although I’m bound to say that the environmentalist community has found ways around the “see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil” monkey business of the mainstream media.
But it could do with all the help it can get, including a media that may finally have found its tongue.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

4 thoughts on “Latest DFO Scientist Muzzling Part of Bigger Pattern Ignored by Media

  1. a media that may finally have found its tongue.

    I hope you are right, but I fear not. I suspect the reason that any Canadian press covered this story is that they were forced (or shamed) into it by their international brethren.

    Dr. Miller was published in a very prestigious journal – Science – and so naturally (I conjecture), the international press wanted to talk to her … at which point they ran into our government’s muzzling policy. They (the international press) reported it, so our press kind of had to as well.

    But I noted that, in the Province at least (hey, don’t look at me like that – my office gets it free and I like the Sudoku, okay?), the story was on page 8. Not exactly prominent.

    As I say, I hope you are right, Rafe. But I will wait, breath bated, for a second instance before I start to let myself get my hopes up.

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