Have you heard about the petition in Quebec that gained nearly 120,000 signatures, asking the government to “approve and reimburse” vitamin C injections for people with cancer?
And about how it almost succeeded through political lobbying?
I spent over a year (from March 2018 and into 2019) working on this case as a science communicator, trying at first to help people understand the issues and pitfalls with this petition, and then addressing politicians directly and trying to rally scientific associations. I did this because the petition was moving forward rapidly and no one was raising doubts about it.
As a result, a group of vitamin C supporters tried to make me lose my job. I was doxed. A smear campaign in the media was organized against me. My family was harassed and threatened.
Eventually, after months of intimidation and cyberbullying, I came forward publicly with what was going on behind the scenes. The result was a massive outcry from the scientific community, which could not be ignored by the government this time.
And ultimately, we managed to prevent the petition from going forward into parliamentary proceedings.
But more importantly, these events had positive consequences for the future: a government task force was created in order to protect scientists who speak publicly about sensitive topics (I am fortunate enough to be involved in it). Also, an inter-professional advisory committee was created to help healthcare professionals, such as myself, speak publicly without fear of disciplinary action.
This case received little attention in the English-Canadian press, so here are translations of a few articles on what happened.
(Please note that these were translated automatically by the Google Translate URL tool with no revision, so some of the text is weird and possibly funny-sounding)
A summary of the events in March 2019 by Radio-Canada (CBC) :
Another one, focusing on the challenges and personal risks of doing science communication:
The events were also discussed in France, and generated support from the French Association for Scientific Information:
The government can no longer ignore what is going on:
And the conclusion…
Fellow science communicator Jonathan Jarry, from the McGill Office for Science and Society, was kind enough to write a post on the topic too. Thanks so much Jonathan!