AUNBT is concerned about the academic freedom of colleagues teaching at the Maritime College of Forest Technology in Fredericton.
Wildlife biologist Rod Cumberland was fired from his teaching position at MCFT on June 20, as reported by the CBC on July 3. On July 4, Gerald Redmond, the retired former Executive Director of the college, was also informed that he would no longer be teaching at the school.
Rod Cumberland is an outspoken critic of glyphosate spraying in New Brunswick forests, particularly because of his research indicating that the herbicide is killing the province’s deer. He told the CBC that his position is that it is necessary to look at the science around spraying: “There is the old outdated stuff that was done short term, very quickly, sponsored mostly by industry that says that glyphosate is, you know, you can drink it. Then there’s the whole other side that says it’s very problematic.” He also stated that “I would be lying if there was not pressure exerted in the past.”
Gerald Redmond had expressed the view to the CBC the day before he was removed from his teaching position that Cumberland was fired because of his views on glyphosate. Redmond, too, indicated that “he felt pressure from the board of governors during his tenure as executive director to sanction Cumberland on several occasions for his outspokenness on the controversial herbicide.”
MCFT denies that Cumberland was fired for his stance on spraying.
MCFT was established in 1946 as a co-operative effort of the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia governments and the forest industry in the provinces.
The University of New Brunswick has ties with the Maritime College of Forest Technology. The college is located on UNB land and uses UNB’s university forest (“the Woodlot”) as a teaching resource. MCFT also has an articulation agreement with UNB that allows MCFT graduates to transfer credits to the Bachelor of Science in Forestry program.
Gerald Redmond and Green Party Leader, David Coon, MLA for Fredericton South have called for an investigation by the Department of Post-secondary Education, Training and Labour.
The National Union of Public and General Employees, which represents instructors in the provincial community college system, believes that MCFT instructors should unionize in order to better protect their rights in the workplace.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers has expressed its concern that the academic freedom of both teachers has been violated and that they have been denied due process in the manner in which they were dismissed. It urges universities with articulation agreements with MCFT to reconsider these agreements in light of their serious concerns.
AUNBT supports these calls for further investigation just as we support our colleagues’ academic freedom and workplace rights. Academic freedom is a foundation of higher education and a public good. If the college’s instructors are constrained in their teaching or research by industry or government from exploring scientific questions in the field of forestry, including the safety of glyphosate, the education of the college’s students will not meet the standards for inquiry expected in post-secondary education.
 See for example, Miles Howe, “Exclusive: The Cumberland Files – Part One,” Halifax Media Coop, October 9, 2015; Miles Howe, “The Cumberland Files – Part Two,” Halifax Media Coop, October 14, 2015; Bruce Livesay, “How the Irvings Intimidate their Critics,” National Observer, June 27, 2016; Bruce Livesay, “Big Agro on Campus,” The Walrus, April 11, 2017.