Under the watch of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has campaigned on a pledge to keep up bombing campaigns against “barbarous” ISIS, a total of 16 federal science libraries have been lost since 2012, when his government introduced draconian cuts to federal jobs, programs and services.

ISIS used improvised explosive devices to blow up the Mosul public library. The Harper regime has employed quieter measures such a cuts and closures.

Destroying libraries

The most recent victim was the Agriculture and Agri-Food Lethbridge Research Centre in Alberta, a library that provided four dozen Agriculture Canada scientists as well as 85 technicians and visiting academics access to years of valuable agricultural and scientific research. According to a press release issued last month by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which represents approximately 15,000 federal scientists, most of the library’s contents were thrown in a dumpster or sent to recycling. The destruction of the library, according to PIPSC, will hamper research in areas ranging from soil chemistry and ecology to the study of greenhouse gases.

Book burning and other acts of cultural vandalism are more commonly associated with the Nazis and other extremist groups, yet “the Harper government continues to target government science at every turn,” explains Debi Daviau, president of PIPSC, in the release, even when its actions are “clearly out of step with both public scientists and the public interest.”

Since they came into office, the Harper Conservatives have been engaged in a bizarre War on Science (also the title of a book on the subject by Chris Turner). Scientists whose research contradicted the “forget Kyoto,” climate-change-denying Harperian ethos have been consistently muzzled, denied funding or fired.

Since they came into office, the Harper Conservatives have been engaged in a bizarre War on Science

Not-so-mysterious firings

This summer, for example, Dr. John Wilmhurst was sent packing from his post as resource conservation officer at Jasper National Park in Alberta.

A past Award of Excellence winner from Parks Canada, this dedicated conservationist had the temerity to mention the rapid shrinking of the Athabasca Glacier within the park and the reality of climate change, in a Canadian Press story in 2014. Supporters say this might help explain the “mystery” of his firing without grounds.

The tendency to prioritize economic gains over basic research, which threatens both science and academic freedom, is an international trend, according to a 2014 report by the French National Trade Union of Scientific Researchers. In an interview with the journal Nature, the organization’s secretary general, Patrick Monfort, said that Canadian scientists have been particularly beleaguered, not only by massive funding cuts but also by new “communications protocols” that curb their freedom of expression.

Rife censorship

The numerous cases of censorship include that of Environment Canada scientist David Tarasick, who was prevented from speaking about his research on the ozone layer, as well as Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist Kristi Miller, who was not allowed to talk with with the media about her research into declining salmon stocks.

The University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre has documented many of these cases, and an investigation by Canada’s Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is ongoing.

In 2010, internal government documents reported an 80 per cent decline in Canadian media coverage of climate change since 2007, when the Conservatives first introduced their muzzling policies. However, according to emails obtained under access to information legislation, oil and gas industry lobbyists have almost immediate access to scientists.

It’s easy to see the bottom line reasoning for a government gambling most of its economic focus on the oil and gas industry. But what’s perhaps more disturbing — and more like ISIS — is the role that evangelical Christianity plays in all this.

Evangelical climate deniers

Like many climate-change-denying right-wing Christian Republicans in the United States, both Harper and Preston Manning (founder of the Reform Party that formed the backbone of the Harperian Conservatives) are members of the Alliance Church, which holds dominionist views and sees science as the enemy of God (in addition to views on homosexuality and feminism that might win over a few ISIS recruits).

Their worldview appears heavily influenced by the Cornwall Alliance, which unites evangelicals, right-wing academics and libertarian economists; promotes fossil fuels and questions climate change. One of their videos, “Resisting the Green Dragon,” paints environmentalism as an evil force that threatens society and the church.

“Almost daily, more evidence surfaces that Canada’s government is guided by tribalists averse to scientific reason in favour of Biblical fundamentalism,” wrote Canadian journalist Andrew Nikiforuk in 2012. And Marci McDonald’s book The Armageddon Factor offers a chilling look at how evangelical ideology has come to roost in Harper’s Conservative Party.

As UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Palmyra and Hatra are destroyed by ISIS, Canadian World Heritage sites such as Jasper National Park are under threat from climate change — their defenders “disappeared” and their research trashed.

And as years of oil-inspired wars have ruined Iraq’s environment, we would do well to remember that rapacious use of natural resources, and the destruction of knowledge and heritage by extremist ideologues, know no geographical borders.