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Canada’s Science Minister Is Accused of Interfering With Academic Conference

June 10, 2009

Canadian academics are calling for the immediate resignation of Gary Goodyear, the federal science minister, after he telephoned the head of a federal grant-making agency, apparently to push it to reconsider a grant for an academic conference on the future of Israel and Palestine, according to The Globe and Mail.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers said in a written statement that “it’s unprecedented for a minister — let alone a minister from the department that funds the granting councils — to intervene personally with a granting-council president to suggest that he review funding for an academic conference.”

Mr. Goodyear, who in March angered academics by refusing to say whether he accepted evolutionary theory, apparently made the call after B’nai Brith Canada questioned the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s decision to subsidize the interdisciplinary conference, which is scheduled for this month at York University, in Toronto, according to The Jewish Tribune.

The conference, which has more than 50 confirmed speakers, was organized by legal scholars at York and at Queen’s University to discuss the likely outcome of the two-state peace process as well as the possible constitutional dimensions of a future single state.

Some of the speakers were apparently unacceptable to Mr. Goodyear, who issued a written statement saying the grant had been approved “based on an initial proposal that did not include detailed information on the speakers.” Since then, he went on, “several individuals and organizations have expressed concerns that some of the speakers have, in the past, made comments that have been seen to be anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic.”

Mr. Goodyear said he merely wanted to bring those concerns to the grant-making agency’s attention and to ask whether the conference still met criteria as a grant recipient. —Karen Birchard