The Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State, Science and Technology: Find a way to keep the NRC's "Centre of the Universe" visitors centre open
  • Petitioning John R. McDougall

This petition will be delivered to:

President, National Research Council
John R. McDougall
Minister of State, Science and Technology
The Honourable Greg Rickford

The Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State, Science and Technology: Find a way to keep the NRC's "Centre of the Universe" visitors centre open

    1. Don Moffatt
    2. Petition by

      Don Moffatt

      Victoria, Canada

The "Centre of the Universe" visitors centre at the NRC's Dominion Astrophysical Observatory near Victoria, BC, continues a tradition of communicating science to children and the general public that stretches back to May of 1918 when the Plaskett Telescope, a National Historic site, went into action. It was announced in June of 2013 that the Centre would no longer serve the public after August of 2013 due to financial constraints. This will result in job losses for the extremely knowledgeable, gifted communicators on staff, and the loss of a facility that serves both the local community and all of Canada. The centre communicates the cutting edge research done by the National Research Council of Canada in science and engineering to all age levels, particularly through school programmes in both official languages. Many interested tourists also view the facility. It creates a sense of pride in Canadian contributions to those fields, particularly the observatory's magnificent record of achievement that is recognized around the world, and gets young people excited about careers in those fields. The undersigned respectfully request that the Honourable Greg Rickford work to find a way to keep this unique Canadian treasure open, whether it be through restoring funding or working with interested parties to find a better business model (e.g. allowing it to advertise, online sales, collaborative funding models with other levels of government).

John R. McDougall, President, National Research Council
The Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State, Science and Technology
Find a way to keep the NRC's "Centre of the Universe" visitors centre open

[Your name]

Recent signatures


    1. Saturday night openings this summer

      Don Moffatt
      Petition Organizer

      Hello everyone,
      The Observatory will be open on Saturday nights on July 5, 12, 19; August 2, 9, 16; and September 6. Volunteers from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada have taken this on. They will also set up their own telescopes outside.

      Science Venture from UVic is also offering summer camps for kids. See their website for more details.

      Victoria's premiere choir, Vox Humana, will once again perform in the dome on September 12th and 13th. Watch their page for more details.

      It's unclear if I can continue to use the mass-email feature from this site so I will make future updates from a Facebook page for the non-profit society society "Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory". I urge you to "like" this page to receive updates. I have also set up a twitter feed at

      I am hoping to have the "Friends" organization open for you to join soon. Your support for this group will will put us in a better position to ensure that the Centre of the Universe has a future.


      Science Venture, University of Victoria - Space Venture Camp

      During the months of July and August, Science Venture wil be offering camps at the Centre of the Universe, 5071 West Saanich Rd. Each camp will be lead by a team of university students, who will deliver innovative, fun, and hands-on astronomy, physics, and space technology activities.

    2. Centre of the Universe and Plaskett Telescope open May 3rd

      Don Moffatt
      Petition Organizer

      The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory will be open this Saturday night, May 3rd, from 8 to 11. Tours will be given every half hour and the Centre of the Universe will be open. If it isn't cloudy then the Plaskett Telescope will be used to capture images, and there will be viewing outside through telescopes brought by volunteers. Big thanks go to the local centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for making this happen.

    3. Reached 2,000 signatures
    4. The last day - for now

      Don Moffatt
      Petition Organizer

      Today, Saturday August 24th, is the last known day the Centre of the Universe will open. Your comments and signatures are having an impact and I urge you to spread the word. There is anger in Victoria about this penny wise, pound foolish decision and I am certain the fight will continue. I encourage you to read Stephen Hume's excellent piece, which sums up the attitude felt by many.

    5. Meeting with NRC President John McDougall

      Don Moffatt
      Petition Organizer

      Sandy Barta and I met with NRC President John McDougall today. We learned that the NRC has been trying for the last year to find an alternative to closing the facility, and has not given up. Neither have we. At the end of our 2 hour 40 minute discussion I presented him with a binder containing your signatures and your comments (the signatures and comments as of 11 a.m. on August 17th). Comments and signatures after that time will continue to be delivered by email automatically to him and to Greg Rickford, the Minister of State for Science and Technology.

    6. Reached 1,500 signatures
    7. A response from the Minister of State for Science and Technology (Part 1)

      Don Moffatt
      Petition Organizer

      I received the following today. It does not say the funding will be restored.

      "Dear Mr. Moffatt:

      Thank you for your e-mail of June 23, 2013, addressed to the Honourable Gary Goodyear, former Minister of State (Science and Technology), concerning the Centre of the Universe in Victoria. The Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State (Science and Technology), has asked me to reply to you on his behalf.

      We recognize that the Centre benefits the astronomy community and people of Victoria and the surrounding communities. In this regard, the National Research Council’s President John McDougall has been actively exploring possibilities of working with the astronomy community to facilitate a third party operation to manage the facility and provide appropriate on-going access to the site. I am hopeful that a mutually acceptable solution can be found."

    8. A response from the Minister of State for Science and Technology (Part 2)

      Don Moffatt
      Petition Organizer

      The following does not say the funding will be restored:

      "I would like to assure you that the federal government understands the importance of supporting science and developing talent. Since 2006 the federal government has provided more than $9 billion in new resources to support science, technology, and innovation.

      The Government of Canada continues to promote science and technology to youth across the country. Websites such as offer instant resources to youth and to educators. The Natural Science & Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) PromoScience program offers financial support for organizations working with young Canadians to promote an understanding of science and engineering (including mathematics and technology). Another initiative, Cafés Scientifiques, supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), promotes discussions on health issues of concern to the general public.

      Thank you again for taking the time to share your views."

    9. Reached 1,000 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Richard Robinson WINNIPEG, CANADA
      • 3 months ago

      This observatory offers an exceptional educational experience and should be funded.

    • Ray Khan TORONTO, CANADA
      • 4 months ago

      The Promotion of Science literacy in this day of age is important for our youth especially, and represents a step in the right direction.

    • Karen Leduc VANCOUVER, CANADA
      • 5 months ago

      Science matters. Defunding it is wrong.

    • Tim Bradshaw VICTORIA, CANADA
      • 6 months ago

      This si a place I took my children as they grew up; it is here that they saw the rings of saturn, here that they dicovered the wonders of the universe.

    • Nancy Harrigan-Lambert VICTORIA, BC, CANADA
      • 6 months ago

      I am a teacher. My students loved this facility and became very enthousiatic about what they learned.


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