Canadian Environmentalists: Tree Hugging Terrorists or Just Concerned Citizens?

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The Canadian Federal government’s new counter-terrorism strategy has been ruffling feathers in the environmental community since it was released by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews on February 9.

The report says that the Federal government will be vigilant against domestic extremism “based on grievances – real or perceived – revolving around the promotion of various causes such as animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism.”

Admittedly, Blake Bromely and Syed Hussan are right to complain that the media coverage has been swamped with the report’s single mention of environmentalism, largely overshadowing concerns around the document’s actual emphasis: the threat of “violent Islamist extremism.”

However, the characterization of the environmental grievances of Canadian citizens as extremist and somehow akin to the violent, hate-based ‘white supremacist’ ideology is not something that Canadians can or should take lightly.

Terrorists aren’t the only serious threat facing Canadians. Whatever your political stripes, the fact remains that the reckless destabilization of our world’s climate will bring about grave consequences for all of us.

For months now, Prime Minister Harper and Conservative cabinet ministers have been parroting Sun News and Ethical Oil’s efforts to paint environmental organizations as American shills, front groups paid for by ominous “foreign special interests” with their dollars set on “hijacking a Canadian process” to “kill jobs.”

So it’s hard to view this latest slight as disconnected from the Federal government’s escalating attacks on citizens and civic organizations with legitimate concerns over the environmental impacts of proposed oil sands developments.

The quote also happens to align remarkably well with Department of Foreign Affairs documents obtained by the Climate Action Network and Greenpeace that detail the Federal government’s joint-PR strategy with the Alberta oil industry – a plan to “turn up the volume” on their promotion of oil sands developments that pits them and their “like-minded allies” against “adversaries” like Canadian “environmental NGOs” and “aboriginal groups.”

Minister Toews insists that the government does not intend to target “legitimate dissent,” but who decides what counts as legitimate?

Minister Joe Oliver made it clear
that he considers any opposition to oil sands developments a radical attempt to undermine the Canadian economy set squarely against the interest of Canadians – irrespective of opinions the public itself might hold about its interests.


Whatever their intention, ratcheting up the rhetoric with gross mischaracterizations can’t but fan the flames of ever less productive political polarization. The Federal government’s attempts to discredit environmental non-profits poses a very real threat to our ability to come together as a nation to tackle tough problems.

What we really need is for our leaders to tone down the invective and settle in for some sensible, respectful public conversations about the many issues Canadians care about.

Photo: Super Evil Tree by Shawnimals

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