Volume 94, Issue 66

Friday, January 19, 2001


NEWS

USC eyes copy costs

Students won't get VP elections vote

Frank gets fresh with Western VP

Bombardier rebukes Western professor

When in doubt, leave the monks alone

Briefs

Corroded Disorder

Bombardier rebukes Western professor

By Chris Lackner
Gazette Staff.

Montreal-based aerospace corporation Bombardier Inc. has dropped the bomb on two Canadian academics.

Two professors received rebukes from Bombardier executives concerning articles each of them published which urged Canada to avoid economic sanctions against Brazil for supporting Embraer, Bombardier's competitor in South America.

Ted Hewitt, Western's associate dean of social sciences, said he wrote an article in November for InfoBrazil, an on-line news service, which supported export subsidies for poorer nations, such as Brazil, in order for them to compete on an equal level with wealthier nations, such as Canada. "Brazil is a struggling, developing country," he said.

Hewitt said Canadian companies such as Bombardier receive significant government assistance through initiatives such as loan guarantees, subsidies and employment legislation.

"It's very curious," Hewitt said, concerning the personal response he received from Bombardier's public affairs department. "It's a way of saying 'we're following what you're saying and we don't like it'."

A portion of Hewitt's article read as follows: "The fact that you have blessed Brazil's action is overwhelming for us. We never thought that being a Brazilianist meant that one becomes blind to Brazilian actions."

Hewitt said the corporation's response poses some critical questions concerning the control of information. "This sort of corporate influence could stifle debate," Hewitt said, adding an untenured professor or researcher could feel threatened and avoid attacking certain issues which relate to corporate forces.

Pierre Lemieux, a visiting professor with the University of Quebec at Hull, also published an article in the Wall Street Journal on Dec. 15 which condemned economic sanctions against Brazil for their export subsidies, and subsequently received a personal response from Bombardier.

Lemieux said he is not amused by Bombardier's actions, but also defended their right to respond. "Everyone defends their own interests," he said.

"Their points of view were not based on fact," said Michel Lord, VP-corporate communications for Bombardier.

Lord said Brazil's economic policies have been deemed illegal by the World Trade Organization. "Comments published in a large publication can influence public opinion. We have a lot at stake in this."

Jim Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said multi-national corporations are taking a growing interest, and have a growing impact, on what academics can do. "This is a potential threat to academic freedom," he said. "Instead of public forum, Bombardier sent a personal letter. I would have viewed that as a threat."


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