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Interview with Sociologist Nixed by Vic Toews' Office

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Interview with Sociologist Nixed by Vic Toews' Office

A federal cabinet minister rejected a request for an on-campus interview with a ########## University professor and recidivist sociologist, Dr. ##### ########, even though ##########’s Office of the Provost had given it a green light — a move some are denouncing as extraordinary political interference.

Documents obtained by mediacoop.ca under access to information legislation show the Provost of ########### University, where Dr. ######### is a tenured professor, approved the interview request made by the news agency in January, only to be overruled.

The refusal came from the office of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, records show.

The documents show Prime Minister Stephen Harper's own department immediately flagged the initial interview application, and asked to be kept in the loop.

"We'd be interested if anything develops on the (request)," Christopher Williams, a senior analyst with Privy Council Office, wrote in an email to ########## University.

In this case, Provost #### ######## approved a telephone interview with Dr. #########. Documents show her decision was supported by Québec’s Minister of Education.

"Following the Provost's detailed assessment of the request, it was concluded that the request complies," ####### #########, senior media relations adviser, wrote in an email Feb. 22 to senior ministry and ministerial staff in Toews' office.

Within 90 minutes, however, the request was nixed.

"This interview is not approved," Julie Carmichael, Toews's director of communications, responded in a terse internal email.

Move called unusual

The decision to overrule the Provost took ########## insiders by surprise, prompting a further flurry of emails that reached the highest levels of the Public Safety bureaucracy.

A public servant familiar with the file, who insisted on anonymity out of fear of government retribution, said what had happened was highly unusual.

The interview request was "subjected to significant and extraordinary scrutiny from national headquarters and overt political interference," the person said.

"The Provost approved of the interview taking place — and approved again after being told to reassess — before finally, and after much 'off-line' conversation with direct pressure from headquarters and the minister's office, denying the request."

It was not immediately clear what role the cabinet office played.

Interview said to pose security risk

In its refusal of the of the interview request — denounced by the Canadian Sociological Association as Conservative government "propaganda" aimed at demonizing sociology and sociologists — ######### University cited the commissioner's directive for rejecting the interview.

It said access could pose a security risk or be disruptive, and would undermine academic discipline.

Nowhere in the records is there any indication the Provost initially found those to be issues.

Asked to comment on the minister's interference in the process, Carmichael would only say Toews expects consideration of interview requests to take into account the "nature of the offences" of which the individual (in this case, committing sociology) has been convicted.

All requests to talk to other bureaucrats or political operatives involved were denied, with media relations officials citing the Privacy Act.

David Bernans is a Québec-based writer and translator. He is the author of Collateral Murder. Follow him on twitter @dbernans.

Author’s note: This article is satire. The redacted portions of this article have been removed by the author further to a request from a certain educational institution. For more information see Satirical Article on Vic Toews No Laughing Matter for Concordia University.


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bernans (David Bernans)
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