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Quebec's chief scientist cancels appearance at CAQ event

The Chief Scientist of Quebec, Remi Quirion, said he will not be attending the Coalition Avenir Quebec general council after something came up last minute. (Government of Quebec) The Chief Scientist of Quebec, Remi Quirion, said he will not be attending the Coalition Avenir Quebec general council after something came up last minute. (Government of Quebec)
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Quebec's Chief Scientist, Rémi Quirion, was scheduled to attend the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) general council on May 25.

However, the Quebec government official has now cancelled his attendance, a few hours after The Canadian Press contacted his office for clarification regarding his participation in such events.

On Wednesday, the chief scientist's office said that there was no link between this cancellation and the fact that journalists had contacted him regarding his participation.

"He will not be on the panel at the CAQ's general council, as there is another commitment that has been added to his agenda," said Fonds de recherche du Québec communications advisor Marie-Claude Dion.

Quirion was also said to be unavailable for interviews.

On Wednesday morning, the CAQ website still indicated that Quirion would be participating as an expert in a panel on "the effects of social media on young people."

A little later in the day, his photo, name and biography disappeared from the site.

"He just wrote us that he had something last minute and felt really bad about canceling," CAQ executive director Brigitte Legault told The Canadian Press by phone.

Legault saw no problem with a public servant taking part in a partisan activity.

"He was coming because he's an expert. He's written a lot about how social media affects young people. We paid for his travel, so we didn't see a problem," he said.

The chief scientist's office says Quirion has participated in "similar activities in the past."

"It's always in the spirit of discussing science and research in the broadest sense with elected officials," said Dion.

Prior to the cancellation, Conservative leader Éric Duhaime criticized Quirion's presence at the CAQ event.

"These people should stay out of politics. They're paid by taxpayers' money and they shouldn't be involved in partisan politics," he said.

The Public Service Act states that civil servants "must be politically neutral in the performance of their duties" and that they "must show reserve in the public manifestation of his political opinions."

However, it also states that "nothing in this Act prohibits a public servant from being a member of a political party, attending a political meeting or making, in accordance with the law, a contribution to a political party, to an authority of a political party or to a candidate in an election."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 15, 2024. 

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