PM Trudeau announces Dr. Mona Nemer as Canada’s new Chief Science Advisor
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE JUSTIN TRUDEAU (Prime Minister of Canada): Thank you, Kirsty. Hello, everyone.
As the Minister mentioned, we made a promise to Canadians. We promised we would do more to promote science and to let evidence guide the decisions we made as a government. We did this because the values of science, the freedom to ask questions, to explore, to verify, and to discover; these are values that are important to our government and to all Canadians. Scientists need to have a voice. They need to be able to speak freely about their work, because the work that they do has the power to change the world.
For some, their work involves studying new drugs that may slow the spread of disease and save lives. Others are developing new technology. Batteries—like the lithium ion batteries in our cell phones, electric tools and electric vehicles and even the Mars rover, Curiosity—were invented by a Canadian scientist at Dalhousie University. And others spend their days probing the depths of space, looking for something as elusive as dark matter and dark energy. The knowledge we are acquiring in the space domain isn’t always theoretical.
If you’ve used an infrared ear thermometer to check your child’s temperature, if you’ve slept on a memory foam pillow, or even grabbed a hot pan out of the oven using a flame-resistant glove, you’re using technology that has a direct link back to space exploration. Whatever they find, wherever they look, the discoveries that scientists make give us the tools we need to take better care of ourselves, better care of each other, and of the world around us. And that is why our government is committed to supporting science and Canada’s remarkable scientists. We have one of those scientists here today.
Mona Nemer is a distinguished researcher in the medical field whose work focuses on the heart, particularly the mechanisms that play a role in heart failure and congenital heart disease. Her research has helped develop new diagnostic tests and offers news insight into understanding cardiac problems in newborns. Dr. Nemer has also been the Vice-President of Research at the University of Ottawa, where she helped train researchers in Canada and around the world.
And her story, well, it’s a very Canadian one. As a young person, Dr. Nemer knew that she wanted to be a scientist, and she didn’t let anything stand in her way. Not the middle school teachers in Lebanon who told her that young girls shouldn’t go into science. She disagreed and became one of the first young women to study science in her high school. Not even war could dissuade her from her path.
When her studies at the American University of Beirut were interrupted by war, she took refuge in the basement of her dormitory for several months before she was able to flee and eventually come to Canada. In Montréal, at McGill University, she convinced Kelvin Ogilvie—now a Conservative senator who is here with us today, hello, Senator—to take her under his wing as a PhD student. And it was in the labs at McGill, and many others afterwards, that Dr. Nemer made one discovery after another, improving our understanding of chemistry, genetics and the human heart.
For these and her many other accomplishments, it gives me tremendous pleasure to introduce Doctor Mona Nemer as Canada’s new Chief Science Advisor.
Doctor Nemer will advise me, the Minister of Science, and other members of cabinet as needed on scientific issues of national importance. She will provide advice to ensure that we have the evidence we need to make good decisions for all Canadians; decisions that will help us to strengthen and grow the middle class, and build an economy that works for everyone.
On behalf of our government, I want to welcome Doctor Nemer to her new role and look forward to working with her to keep science at the heart of our government.
I’d like to allow Dr. Nemer to say a few words, and I will answer your questions in a few minutes. Thank you.
DOCTOR MONA NEMER (Vice-President, Research at the University of Ottawa): Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister; thank you Minister Duncan. What a wonderful day for science … what a wonderful day for science.
Hello, everyone. I am delighted to be here with you today and to see so many familiar faces.
It’s delightful to be here and see so many familiar faces from the science and the research community. So, let me begin by saying how happy and proud I am to have been chosen as Canada’s new Chief Science Advisor. I’m a passionate of science, and passionate about Canada. So, you can understand that this is a challenge that I’m very excited to take on.
I’m anxious to get to work, partnering with my colleagues and stakeholders to make Canada a world leader in science.
Let’s all work together to make Canada a global leader in science. In this new role, my main function will be to advise the government on science issues. I consider science and evidence-based policies to be vital to growing a healthy and progressive society. Science helps advance key societal priorities, from public health, environmental sustainability, economic prosperity, and of course, national security. We scientists have an important role to play inside and outside our labs; like engaging in knowledge exchange and in translating and explaining science to the public including to our youth. We must increase our participation in public debates, particularly in matters requiring scientific understanding and perspective, and there are many of them.
It is in the interest of everyone that we all become more scientifically literate. That is why I will work to ensure that Canadians have access to scientific information. I will conduct my job in an open and transparent manner, and I will provide the impartial advice that government needs. I am pleased and encouraged by our government’s respect and enthusiasm for science; I think that’s something just very important.
I am very much looking forward to lending strong support to the scientific community, policy makers and the public in order to help ensure the vitality and prosperity of the society of tomorrow.
I’m taking this job to make a difference, and I intend to do so. Thank you and on to the work.