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University of Ottawa group plans July 10 rally mourning 'death of evidence'

A group of professors and graduate students from the Department of Biology at the University of Ottawa is calling on Canadians to participate in a rally in Ottawa mourning the "death of evidence."

The July 10 ralliers will protest what they see as a governmental campaign against science through various program cuts. The rally is designed as a funeral procession with "evidence" as the deceased. Participants are instructed to wear either a lab coat or black clothing, and walk from the Ottawa Conference Centre to Parliament Hall.

Katie Gibbs, a Ph.D. student in the biology department, will be directing the service. She was at the casual meeting with others in her department when the group came up with the idea to hold a funeral for evidence.

According to Gibbs, the group "felt like we had had enough and that somebody needed to speak out" against the cuts to scientific programs.

"We want to let Canadians know that these aren't just part of regular budget cuts. We think that what's happening here is a systematic campaign to reduce the flow of scientific information to Canadians."

The group was spurred by cuts to programs included in omnibus budget bill C-38, but Gibbs emphasized that this would not be a protest against a specific piece of legislation.

"We think it's sort of a more broad problem -- even thinking back to the cutting of the long-form census," Gibbs said. "It's really the same issue of the death of evidence. So we wanted to really keep it under a broad umbrella and welcome all people who were upset at all kinds of evidence cuts."

The protest will respond to closing various facilities such as The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL), "dozens" of instances of censorship of government scientists, and budget reductions to research programs at Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the National Research Council Canada, Statistics Canada, among others, according to the event website.

Gibbs said the cutting of the National Round Table on Environment and Economy (NRTEE), which was part of Bill C-38, shows evidence of what she calls a larger "attack on science" by the government.

"That group gave advice that they didn't like, so they're just going to cut them altogether," Gibbs said.

The group is hoping to "connect the dots" between the financial cuts, changes in legislation, and the "muzzling" of government scientists, according to Gibbs.

At least 500 people have promised to attend the event, which starts at noon on July 10. The group is hoping to have closer to 1,000 people in attendance.

Hanah Redman is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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