CANADA, June 4, 2012 - Hundreds of businesses and organizations and tens of thousands of individual Canadians are uniting to defend nature and democracy as part of the nationwide Black Out Speak Out/Silence, On Parle campaign.
Today, Canadians are darkening their websites, writing to their elected representatives and speaking out through social media to protest the federal government's attack on nature and democracy. News conferences are being held in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and St. John's.
Launched May 7 by the country's leading environmental organizations in response to bill C-38, the Black Out Speak Out campaign has grown rapidly. Today, more than 500 groups are blacking out and speaking out, including major not-for-profit and social justice organizations, trade unions, scientists, businesses, faith groups, First Nations, and all four federal opposition parties: NDP, Liberal, Green and Bloc Quebecois.
"What's emerging in Canada — with the dismantling of scientific institutions, widespread muzzling of federal scientists, persistent attacks on environmental charities — is a government eager to silence the voices of Canadians it finds inconvenient," says Dr. Andrew Weaver, Canada Research Chair in Climate Modeling and Analysis at the University of Victoria. "It's evident that the Harper government is willing to mortgage our future in order to maximize short-term profits from the tar sands. What we're seeing today is that Canadians are not willing not stand for that."
"The darkening of web sites and the thousands of letters, blogs, tweets and other actions by landowners, businesses, First Nations, trade unions, scientists and ordinary citizens, reflect the anger and frustration Canadians feel about the direction the federal government is heading," says Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada. "Fundamental human rights such as Freedom of Expression are at stake."
The campaign is also supported by community leaders and cultural icons, including author Margaret Atwood; musician, Bruce Cockburn; President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, and tens of thousands of ordinary citizens. Support for the campaign has also spread to the United States, with several American organizations — including National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club USA, 350.org and Natural Resources Defense Council — are also darkening their websites.
"The continued survival of B.C. icons like migratory salmon and steelhead are put at risk through this far-reaching omnibus bill. It's bad policy and it's bad democracy," stated John Fraser, Conservative fisheries minister in 1984-5. "I'm speaking out today because I'm a Conservative and nobody can pretend to be a real Conservative if they are not a conservationist."
"The government's motives for closing the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy were made obvious when John Baird said, the NRTEE ‘should agree with the government' on climate policy," says Mark Jaccard, former Harper appointee to the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy. "Independent voices that expose the contradictions between the government's climate promises and its fossil fuel jingoism are now at risk."
The budget bill, C-38, replaces the Canadian Environmental AssessmentAct, empowers the federal government to limit the actions of charities, including environmental groups, that advocate for better laws and policies, overrides National Energy Board decisions, rushes projects through a weakened environmental review process to speed up approvals, and shuts citizen groups out of environmental reviews for pipelines.
The bill also includes $8 million to fund Canada Revenue Agency audits of charities, which is widely perceived as a move to silence advocacy and free speech on key environmental issues.
"Given the scope of the proposed changes, the Harper government is clearly doing more than simply cutting unnecessary red tape, it's doing its utmost to accelerate Alberta's oilsands development," says Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute. "What Black Out Speak Out shows is that the Harper government's heavy-handed approach to weakening our environmental laws will only serve to further erode the public's trust in government and the companies seeking a social license to operate in this country."
"People don't want only the most powerful, polluting voices to be heard," says Rick Smith, Executive Director from Environmental Defence. "They value public input into risky, huge projects and want charities to protect our land, water and air. We hope the government agrees that it's never too late to respect nature and democracy."
Black Out Speak Out is a joint effort of leading environmental organizations: Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), David Suzuki Foundation (DSF), Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Equiterre, Greenpeace, Nature Canada, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada.
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