Community rallies behind Dr. Eilish Cleary, NB’s Chief Medical Officer put on leave

Written by Tracy Glynn on December 5, 2015


Signs calling for NB Chiefl Medical Officer Dr. Eilish Cleary’s reinstatement went up quickly in downtown Fredericton after the news broke this week that she has been put on leave without explanation.

Fredericton – The unexplained leave of Dr. Eilish Cleary as NB’s Chief Medical Officer is being met with public outcry and demands for her reinstatement.

When CBC ran a story earlier this week that linked the timing of her leave to her study of glyphosates, the controversial herbicide that companies like J.D. Irving use on their Crown land siliviculture, J.D. Irving responded by calling the story unprofessional and appalling. The company is demanding that CBC pull the story but Jacques Poitras, CBC’s investigative journalist, is standing behind the story.

In an interview with Halifax Media Co-op’s Miles Howe, Mary Keith, J.D. Irving’s spokesperson, on Dec. 4, said that CBC should have given their company “a courtesy call” since their company was referenced in the story. Keith skirted the questions about whether the company supports glyphosates by saying that information is available on their website. When asked if the company put pressure on the NB government to remove Dr. Cleary, Keith said, “absolutely not” and that she resented the implication.

Glyphosates, the herbicide used in New Brunswick Crown forest silviculture, was labelled a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015. The province of Quebec, with approximately 90 per cent of its forested land under public ownership, banned herbicide spraying of its public forest in 2001 in light of public health concerns.

Approximately 13,000 ha of New Brunswick Crown forest are sprayed every year with glyphosates to kill hardwoods and plants that compete with seedlings in plantations.

The spraying of herbicides to kill broad leaf trees and shrubs in young conifer plantations destroys the food source and habitats of forest wildlife. Deer biologist Rod Cumberland has linked the drop in deer populations in the province to the spraying of herbicides.

Posters have gone up around downtown Fredericton making the connections between glyphosate use in falling deer populations and  Dr. Cleary’s leave happening when she was studying glyphosates.

Three petitions against spraying the forest have been tabled in the New Brunswick Legislature in just over ten years. A new Facebook group, Stop Spraying in NB, has almost 9,000 members and another petition against spraying the forest is circulating.

Dr. Cleary released a report in 2012 on the health impacts of shale gas with recommendations that the Alward government largely ignored, according to shale gas opponents.

The Fredericton and Kent County Chapters of the Council of Canadians were the first groups to come out in support of Dr. Cleary. They took to social media, creating a Facebook page calling for her reinstatement. Their members are pointing out that the Liberal Party promised in their 2015 election platform that a Liberal government “will protect and improve our environment by insuring the independence of medical officers of health.”

A rally calling for the reinstatement of Dr. Cleary is happening Monday, Dec. 7 at 11:00am outside the Department of Health, HSBC Building, 520 King St., Fredericton.

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