Dr. Diane OrihelDiane Orihel

“Risking your career to advocate for something you believe in, now that’s having a bold vision. In 2012, biologist Dr. Orihel was finishing her research on aquatic ecosystems when the federal government decided to close one of the world’s most important freshwater research facilities: the Experimental Lakes Area in northern Ontario. Almost overnight, Dr. Orihel galvanized national and international science communities to sound the alarm, becoming one of Canada’s most ardent and articulate defenders of environmental science. Facing incredible odds, and potentially sacrificing her career, Dr. Orihel worked tirelessly with citizens to scientists to reverse this decision – and she won.”

How would Dr. Orihel contribute to a collaborative vision of Canada?

“A collaborative vision of Canada requires a team of dedicated citizens with many qualities. Many people would agree that three of the most important qualities are 1) the ability to see through partisan lines for the greater good, 2) the temerity to speak out on controversial issues, and 3) the ability to rally support from diverse sources. Dr. Orihel is a young scientist who has these three qualities in spades.

Many leaders, and most politicians, hesitate to make unpopular policy decisions that, while based on solid evidence, might have negative political implications. Even though it could still hurt her career, Dr. Orihel spoke up (and up, and up!) on behalf of Canadian science and scientists because she knew how important it was for human and environmental health. Canada needs leaders with the courage of their convictions, people who are willing to fight for sound decision-making even when it might come at personal cost.

But gathering evidence and speaking up but won’t change the world without a groundswell of public support. Cross-cutting issues, like using science to develop sound public policies, affect Canadians now and for generations to come. But the issues can be divisive. Through her work speaking up for Canadian science and scientists, Dr. Orihel has shown she has the skills and personality to work cooperatively and find common ground where little seems to exist.”

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