In Memoriam: Dr. Shiv Chopra, Public Servant
“I was speaking out, but it was my duty to speak out.” – Dr Shiv Chopra, Sept 2017
We mourn the death and celebrate the life and lasting contributions of Dr. Shiv Chopra, a strong and vibrant champion of science in the service of the public good. He has left behind a loving family and a legacy of committed, courageous campaigning for justice and accountability. Dr. Chopra was a dedicated public servant who shed light on how our food is regulated in Canada and the dangerous influence that corporate power can have on government decision-making, if public servants are not willing to speak up.
Dr. Chopra and his colleagues Dr. Margaret Haydon and Dr. Gérard Lambert were eventually fired in 2004 for insubordination. Dr. Chopra challenged his dismissal in court and continued to fight in the courts for thirteen years, until the latest verdict in September 2017. He concluded, “If today I had won, I would get compensated for my loss of salary. But the issue of public food safety would still remain.”
“These three scientists are perfect examples of public service professionals putting the interests of the public first, ahead of their own interests. They are leading the way in the protection of the public good and they are pioneers in whistleblowing,” – Gary Corbett, former president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, 2011.
He continued to speak out on the wider issues of food and public health safety, including at the invitation of many communities in Canada and internationally, and he set up an organization called the Canadian Council on Food Safety & Health.
"The tragic experience of Shiv Chopra as a whistleblower should be required reading, not just in institutions of higher learning but at every level of government in Canada. His chilling story centre’s on Monsanto’s flagship genetically engineered product rBST, commercialized as Posilac, but more broadly, profiles the ongoing conflict between corporate influence and government policy in Canada. Canada joined most of the rest of the world in declining to approve Posilac for injecting into Canadian dairy cows to increase milk production. For this, Canadians can thank the integrity of Shiv Chopra, and his colleagues Margaret Hayden and Gerard Lambert at Health Canada, despite terrible costs to themselves. It is difficult to see how the public good has been served by the decades-long government effort to stifle the well-founded concerns of these courageous whistleblowers. We must remember, and celebrate, these true Canadian heroes.”
“One of the first public events on genetic engineering that I ever organized was with Dr. Chopra almost two decades ago. We invited him to speak about how genetically engineered foods were regulated, but on the day of the event he got a fax, email and registered letter from his employer telling him he could lose his job at Health Canada if he spoke at our event. He spoke anyway – and started a wave of influential events that continue to challenge corporate power to this day. He was astonishingly courageous, committed and persistent. His dedication to his public duty continues to be an inspiration.” – Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network
“I think of him often and admire Shiv’s courage, integrity and tenacity in speaking out on matters of great importance to Canadians — food safety, human health, and well-being of farmers and their cows. He expected the federal government to uphold the laws of our country and blew the whistle with his colleagues when the rules were not followed.”
“Dr. Shiv Chopra challenged each and every one of us to get active, to organize and hold our regulators accountable. Shiv-ji set an enormously high bar for science in the public service- a bar every single scientist taking a public paycheque ought to strive to achieve. As a mentor Shiv-ji implored me to work with eaters and farmers in Canada and in India to develop direct relationships and work around the broken food system. Together we can fulfill Dr. Chopra’s legacy. His guidance will be missed and faith in our efforts must not be misplaced.”
NFU Remembers Shiv Chopra” National Farmers Union, Press Release, January 10, 2017
The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) brings together 16 organizations to research, monitor and raise awareness about issues relating to genetic engineering in food and farming. CBAN members include farmer associations, environmental and social justice organizations, and regional coalitions of grassroots groups. CBAN is a project on Tides Canada’s shared platform.
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)
PO Box 25182, Clayton Park, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, B3T 1X8
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