With full page ads in the Globe and Mail and La Presse national newspapers, a major coalition of Canadian environmental non-profits have come together to launch the Black Out Speak Out  campaign (Silence, on parle!  pour la Francophonie.)
CPAWS, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Equiterre, Environmental Defence, Greenpeace, Nature Canada, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, and WWF Canada – groups representing millions of Canadians – are appealing to all who care about nature and democracy to join them in blacking out their websites on June 4th in protest against the federal government's efforts to weaken many of the country's most important environmental protection measures and silence Canadians hard at work defending the public interest.
Canadian environmental non-profits point to changes in the most recent federal budget , which leaves Ottawa playing a much smaller role in protecting people from harmful projects, while at the same time granting politicians the power to overrule the National Energy Board’s experts if powerful industry interests don’t like its decision - irrespective of fish habitat destruction or threats to species at risk.
The coalition argues that the Federal government will now be able to rubber stamp big projects that powerful oil interests want behind closed doors and away from public scrutiny.
Their core contention is that the Federal government has circumvented the usual process of democratic debate by introducing sweeping change by shoehorning the gutting of environmental protections into the massive budget without discussion.
The campaign is also raising awareness about the chilling effect they say the $8 million in new funding that has been earmarked for the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) to increase its audits of charities' advocacy activities will have on democratic debate in Canada.
Perhaps the most telling budget cut is the Federal government’s axing of their last environmental advisory body, the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy (NRTEE). The NRTEE has worked for the last 25 years to convene thought leaders from across industry, government and civil society to innovative pathways towards a more prosperous and sustainable Canada. (Their advice? Put a price on carbon. )
The federal government's gutting of environmental protection legislation reflects a truly impoverished view of democracy. It also happens to be out of step with Canadian values.
Perhaps the federal government has been so busy ripping pages from the U.S. Republican play book they've forgotten that we are Canadians: we don’t like bullies here.
By and large, Canadians aspire to the democratic ideal of diverse perspectives engaged in robust, constructive conversations about the issues that matter. Canadians overwhelmingly support a balanced approach to economic development that respects our country’s commitment to strong environmental protection – a public good we all enjoy.
Leading a democratic country is hard work. It means listening to the concerns of an increasingly diverse society, grappling with competing interests, making tough decisions, and finding creative solutions to complex problems.
We can't spur the collaboration and innovation we urgently need to tackle serious environmental and social problems by muzzling dissent. Picking fights by pitting economic development against social and environmental problems only distracts leaders in industry, government and civil society from the real work of rolling up our sleeves and coming together to figure out how we can live more sustainably.
Here at DeSmogBlog, we agree that healthy public debate is the cornerstone of a strong democracy. We will be adding our voice to the growing number of organizations who think the Canadian government's stifling of dissent has gone too far.
DeSmogBlog will be blacking out its website to speak out for nature and democracy on June 4th – will you stand with us?
Follow the campaign on Twitter #blackoutspeakout or at www.blackoutspeakout.ca.