Canadian Environmental Groups Black Out to Speak Out Against Government Threats to Nature & Democracy

Read time: 3 mins

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

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Are you sure that the way to save the Earth is through democracy?

The Canadian people elected their government based upon the very platform of dismantling environmental over-regulation which is now being put in place. Democracy failed environmentalists because they were in the minority.

In Australia, Julia Gillard could barely win an election to become prime minister by promising never to pass a carbon tax. Then when after elected she did bring in a carbon tax - only because she was forced to bargain with the Greens to form a minority government - she became the most unpopular Australian prime minister in the country’s history. At the next election, democracy will remove her and install the opposition which promises to dismantle the climate change bureaucracy.

The US has its most eco-friendly president in its history yet he won’t produce a cap and trade bill, only gives lip service to the environment and what little he has achieved are the results of unelected EPA official wielding powers outside the democratic process to impliment hugely unpopular regulations.

The Australian former-Green politician and leftist author Clive Hamilton has called for the suspension of democracy in order to deal with climate change, because the situation is so dire it requires the sort of authoritarian rapid response that is the antithesis of the democratic process.

Thomas Friedman noted that totalitarianism is far more efficient than democracy when dealing with hard issues:

“…it’s why I have fantasized—don’t get me wrong—but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just one day….where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions, and I do think there is a sense of that, on everything from the economy to environment.”

Even the Desmog manifesto written by Jim Hoggan makes it clear that giving unfettered free expression to the wrong people is the primary cause of the confusion around climate change. And free expression is a prequisite of democracy.

Democracy and freedom are not the cure to our environmental woes, authoritarian command economics and strict rationing of our civil liberties is the only way to check human greed and achieve permanent sustainability. This will require the willingness to use coercion, of course. But I ask you, what price is too high to SAVE THE PLANET?

There are many sides to this problem.

First, you might ask how Harper got elected.  The liberals stepped in something very smelly (sponsorship scandal) and have been steadily declining ever since.  He got a majority on a very small electoral turn out.  He’s currently bankrupting Canada and plowing us into debt.  (That seems to be the conservative way.)

Second we are only beginning to see the first signs of damage to the climate system and once that begins its going to become pretty obvious what the cause is and what the cure is.  I believe that then, Joe Public is going to become quite interested.

So I think there will be a backlash.  Doubly because he’s plowing the country into debt.

Where the tipping point exactly is… I don’t know.

All political parties have scandals and the electorate gets tired of them after a while. So yeah, the bourgeois will toss the bums out sooner than later. But the new bums will be just a left mirror image of the Liberals, saying the right things to appease the environmentalists just enough to continue business as usual.

Democracy is about bogging the rate of cultural change down by letting every yahoo have their imput into the system.

You say the conservatives will fail not because they are bad managers of the environment, but of the economy.

You said we might have to wait for the “first signs of damage to the climate system” to inspire Joe sixpack to vote wisely, but dude, we’ve been waiting since 1988 when Hansen appeared before Congress and warned that by 2012 there’d be no ice cap left. Didn’t happen. Climate is changing much slower than predicted by the IPCC. Sure, it could pick up again at any moment, but pinning necessary political change to what the weather does seems a bit passive.

Besides, your average moosehead Canadian will think global warming is a good thing when it finally comes to Sakastewoobia or whereever. 

As for the tipping point, we could easily be already past it and who would know?

The only Green sustainable solution is for a negative growth economy, so going into debt, bankrupting the economy, causing recession will have a good effect, Harpers’ on the right track if for the wrong reason. 

Maybe that’s Obama long term plan for the US. Bankrupt the economy by debasing the currency so badly that the entire global banking system collapses. Chaos rules in the streets, Obama declares martial law, suspends elections and THEN he can get down to taking care of business without the idiots in the Congress deep sixing every good idea he has. Step one: Order the EPA to round up the denialists and let the trials begin. 

Oh, sure, there will be difficulties. All revolutions are painful, but think of the sustainable Green future beyond the purges, mass starvation, forced marches and pogroms. Once the population is reduced sufficiently and a natural Gaia balance of life is restored by adopting a total Green culture then democracy and maybe a few civil liberties can be restored. But it might take a few generations before we get there because the damage done is already so tragic. 

you had better document that bit about Dr. James E. Hansen or else retract it.  I doubt he made such a prediction.

David, I couldn’t find that quote either.  My guess is that he’s a denier playing at being a communist because that is what they think conservatives like me are;

Fortunately I listen to conservative sources and scientists for all my information, right wes?

Here’s what a Republican Scientist is saying;

Here in conservative Alberta we had a provincial election.  The conservatives were likely to loose for the first time in 40 years or so.

Until two things came up… religion and climate change.

Daniel Smith got booed and jeered on stage in dear old conservative Alberta and lost everything.

I’m not sure where you’re getting your numbers from and statements about negative growth, but everything I’ve read says 1% of GDP.  And we’ve made changes in our society many times in the past which cost about the same or more.  Plumbing.  Roads.  They didn’t kill the economy.  What percentage of GDP is going to taxes now?

Wes, your comments appear to be a thinly veiled attempt to goad this community into responding 'yeah! Communism! yeah! Totalitarianism! Bring on the Revolution!' If so, then it is exactly the kind of manipulative, disingenous bunk that is undermining Canadian democratic processes.

I have immense faith in the Canadian people's ability to make good decisions for Canada in a democracy that extols free and honest speech.

Communications is the medium through which democracy takes place. Canadians should be paying far more attention to how we protect the integrity of public conversations.

'Unfettered free expression' doesn't somehow automatically yield healthy democratic discourse. A strong democracy takes much more than unconstrained self expression; it requires cooperation and constructive conversations. That is much harder and a far nobler aspiration than personal attacks, absolutist positions, and shouting matches.

Much of the political polarization and cynicism in this country is a direct result of the lack of restraint in political communications. Look at the descent of decorum in the House of Commons or the parroting of Ethical Oil's ridiculous aspersions by Federal Ministers. That kind of base mudslinging is exactly what disengages most Canadians from the political process - impoverishing our democracy.

'Free expression' in the public sphere should be tempered by authenicity and transparency. Speech should be both free and true. Industry-funded front groups that go around impersonating concerned citizens should not be treated as legitimate voices.

People engaged in democractic discussions should speak their honest opinions and be transparent about conflicts of interest (ie. getting paid by Big Oil to pollute public conversations about the environment.) To the extent we can come together to achieve this, we just might have fertile ground for strong, functional democratic discussions.

Besides, the planet will be just fine. It is people we are working to save.

I was employed as environmental activist in 1988 and I can tell you for a fact, that even if Hansen didn’t say the exact words that the arctic ice sheet would be gone by 2012, that’s how we all interpreted the data he presented to Congress showing a dramatic rise in sea level by now, which could only occur if Greenland was melting much faster than it is and if that was the case all the sea ice would be gone too.

That’s what we went out and taught the public.

Nobody claimed I was misrepresenting Hansen’s ideas back then and they shouldn’t today, just because in hindsight Hansen was obviously in error. 


As for limiting free expression to speech which is only “honest and/or true” imagine the utter silence that would befall the nation! :-)

…beside eliminating all the fun stuff like comedy, satire, politics, art, punditry, poetry and theatre, who is going to “protect the integrity of public conversations” by deciding just exactly what honest truth is?

You? Me? Hansen? The Ministry of Truth?

What you’re really hinting at is that you’re all for free speech as long as it’s limited to people who mostly agree with you. 

If you believe you are in the posession of the honest truth then everyone who disagrees with you must be mistaken.

And if you explain to them your certain truth and yet they won’t accept the truth, then they must be dishonest and evil as well. Or as you put it… (ie. getting paid by Big Oil to pollute public conversations about the environment.)

Therefore, to protect the “integrity of the public conversation” people who don’t agree with you should have no right to speak at all? 

So why should we bother with democracy?

Just install a tribunal of the wise, who are well aware of the truth, in total power and let’s get on with saving the bloody planet and building an utopia based entirely on honest, transparent conversation between only the good people who subscribe to The Truth. 

Ashley, your comment seems to be in a thinly veiled concurrence with my first comments. You haven’t examined the full implications of believing all who disagree with you do so in bad faith.


Try providing evidence for your claims, wes. Who were you employed by and where is the evidence of what you say you did?

…don’t feed the troll, and maybe he’ll go away.