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Canadian Environmentalists Protest Their Government’s Attacks Against Activists and NGOs

Wide Range of Groups Participating in BlackOutSpeakOut Campaign

A coalition of Canadian environmental groups is turning up the heat on the federal government this coming week to protest what they are calling “unprecedented actions” by government officials to curtail democratic debate and public process regarding Canada’s development of the Alberta tar sands, specifically the controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline.

Photo by Flickr usernouspiqueTomorrow, June 4, the BlackOutSpeakOut campaign is calling on Canadians to inundate
government agencies with calls and emails protesting proposed changes to the country’s
environmental laws and the government’s efforts to silence environmentalists.

Tomorrow, June 4, the BlackOutSpeakOut campaign is calling on hundreds of thousands of Canadians to inundate government agencies with calls and emails protesting proposed changes to the country’s environmental laws and the government’s efforts to silence environmentalists.

"It's the only thing we're working on," says John Bennett, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada. "Hundreds of organizations, hundreds of thousands of people. The government servers are going to have a meltdown on June 4."

The coalition is also asking businesses and people to fade their websites to black and replace with a splash page directing people to participate in the protest.

The government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently introduced a budget bill that seeks to rewrite many environmental protections in the country, including when and how federal environmental assessments are conducted, giving the federal cabinet the ability to overrule those assessments, and making it more difficult for environmental organizations to participate in the public process by enforcing stricter regulations regarding their charitable status.

"The federal budget bill contains 150 pages of changes to regulations that weaken laws that protect the environment and limit public participation," Bennett says. "These changes shoved into the budget bill are a huge threat to the environment and an alarming attack on Canadian democracy."

Gillian McEachern, deputy campaign director for Environmental Defence Canada, says the government has intensified its campaign against environmental groups since the Northern Gateway hearings began almost two year ago. 

"The assault on environmental protection does seem to be targeted to pave the way for Gateway and other tar sands projects," McEachern says. "The changes to the Fisheries Act, environmental assessment process, and pipeline review all seem to be about rubber stamping Gateway and putting Canadians at risk to let Big Oil get its way."

Bennett says he started noticing a newer, meaner, …more

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