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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, federal government about a year ago. 

"I knew then it was something that we hadn’t seen before; we've never been attacked like this," he says. "Nobody has ever tried to attack our motives, suggest our funding was inappropriate, not even [for more radical groups like] Greenpeace, and it breaks laws every time it does something."

Some examples of government officials’ attacks on environmental groups:

• Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver and his infamous "foreign radicals" rant directed at environmental organizations that dared accept foreign donations, and his reference to a "radical ideological agenda" of environmental organizations in a letter to Canadians in a national newspaper

• The federal government using language usually reserved for terrorist groups to describe radical environmental groups such as Greenpeace.

• Minister of the Environment Peter Kent accusing, without naming names or providing any evidence at all, some environmental groups of "money laundering," during an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

All this while the government continues to lobby on behalf of further tar sands development in Europe, where it is fighting a PR battle against those looking to classify tar sands crude as dirtier than other conventional fuels.

In an email to Earth Island Journal, Peter Kent defended the government’s environmental track record: “We disagree with the statements being made, and we note that, in stark contrast to the previous government, our government has taken real action on climate change, and we are making good progress. We are proud of our record in combating climate change, and we encourage you to visit  and  to learn more about the great work we have done. 
When asked about his accusations that environmental groups have been laundering money, Kent referred to previous statements from the prime minister: “As Prime Minister Harper has stated in the House of Commons, ‘[our government is] committed to the responsible use of charitable monies, [and ensuring] that charitable monies go into charitable activities as opposed to political activities. But at the same time when it comes to the important environmental review processes we have in this country, I think it's ultimately important that Canadians control and Canadians get input into the process rather than foreign interests dominating this process.’”

Environmental NGOs remain upset. “It is clearly a smear campaign against environmental groups for doing what we do well — draw attention to environmental issues," Bennett says. "The Northern Gateway garnered public attention and input from 4,200 people. Instead of thinking, ‘wow that's a good thing,’ the federal government says this is a bad thing. They want to silence average people and prevent them from having any say in positions that affect them and future generations."

Peter Robinson, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, agrees. David Suzuki himself recently resigned from his own organization so he could speak freely without endangering the group’s charitable status.

"The attacks on environmental charities and gutting of environmental review processes aim to silence Canadians of all sectors and many backgrounds who participate in decision-making about large-scale industrial developments," Robinson says. "This is not only undemocratic — it will undermine the government's ability to make sound policy decisions and to protect the environment," he said.

Ron Johnson
Is based in Toronto, Canada, where he is an editor for Post City magazines and contributes to The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, The National Post and the London Business Times.

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Major oil spill reported last week in Alberta. This proves the claims of better monitoring and low chance of leaks is not true. Say no to the pipeline, and stop paying subsidies to oil corporations to take our raw resources.

By EcoNomist77 on Sun, June 03, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Currently some Canadians and their ecocide supporters are suffering from “hairbrain ideas disease”, combined with a hallucinogenic “fever”. Today’s refineries consume up to 2.5 gallons of freshwater, and up to 120 kW of electricity in order to produce 1 gallon of refined products from crude oil. The United States refineries produce about 800 million gallons of refined products per day consuming 2 billion gallons of their freshwater, and 96 million megawatts of electricity daily. Canadians water and electricity bills are expensive enough now without having to provide our American cousins with free utilities.

Safely transporting bitumen by pipeline to the Great Lakes region where clean carbon free nuclear power, and sustainable freshwater exists to refine the bitumen into over 600 different products for over 33 million consumers in close proximity to purchase should break their fever.

However their insistence that Canada is suffering from non-existent “dutch disease” must have the world wondering if “hairbrain ideas disease ” is contagious enough to turn into a global pandemic. After all before the Dutch discovered their bounty of naturally occurring hydrocarbons their only other natural resource exported in quantity was tulips, and their major manufacturing base relied heavily on chocolate, and wooden shoes. Hence the Dutch lacked the natural resources and manufacturing base necessary to develop an oil and gas infrastructure resulting in having to rely on their inflated currency to pay for it.

Whereas in Canada 30% of all open pit mining mineral extraction occurs in Ontario, besides the fact that Ontario is ranked 13th globally in gold extraction over $3 billion worth in 2011, there was another $7 billion worth of raw minerals extraction necessary to manufacture the machinery, and materials required for Western Canada to proceed with their responsible development of hydrocarbons amongst other markets. Quebec extracted $2 billion worth of gold, and along with Ontario released tonnes of arsenic, cyanide, mercury, and lead tailings, into our atmosphere, and waterways all the while being unchallenged by the “hairbrain ideas” lobby. They also neglect to inform their constituents the fact that there is about 125 years worth of manganese ore stockpiled in the asbestos tailings of Quebec. They are silent about the flooded 3.5 million hectacres of destroyed forests in Quebec, and the 12 megatonnes of green house gases annually released from their hydrocarbon built dams along with the continously leaching of methylmercury from the flooded forest beds. Not one word is publicly spoken about these vast artificial bodies of water increasing the Earth’s temperature due the fact they have displaced millions of hectacres of what used to be white snow that would reflect back into space the sun’s heat.

The whole world is watching, and wondering why there is such a fuss about Alberta’s oil sands removing 70,000 hectacres of forestfire prone overburden and replacing it with thus far 7.5 million new trees when the rest of the country is ignoring trillions of dollars of environmental damage without a single peep from the “hairbrain ideas” gang. Besides what real environmental damage can be done by washing oil out of sand with hot, soapy recycled water.

By c. brown on Sun, June 03, 2012 at 8:53 pm

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