publication date: May 31, 2012
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Environmental charities, their supporters and a growing
number of concerned citizens are ramping up their resistance to what they see
as the Harper government's attempts to muzzle Canadian charities, particularly
those opposed to pipeline development.
The latest protest launched May 7 under the banner BlackOutSpeakOut
. Members of the
coalition include the David Suzuki
, Environmental Defence
and Sierra Club Canada
. Sierra Club ED John Bennett
hopes that organizations and individuals, as well as a
broad range of charities, will join the coalition's website blackout day June
"Our format is symbolic because they're trying to silence
us," Bennett said in an interview with Hilborn
. "We don't believe the blackout itself will do anything other than
get attention. The only way we can do this is to demonstrate to the Conservative
government that they don't have general public support."
Goal: a million
Bennett hopes that awareness raised from the website blackout
campaign will trigger a million emails to Parliament and a flood of phone calls.
"I want everyone in Canada to call their MP and tell them they don't have the license
to silence environmental groups," he said. "This is an attack on the millions
of Canadians who support the environmental movement and the millions more who
support the charitable sector overall."
The threats began in January when Natural Resources Minister
and other radical groups" of using foreign funds to block pipeline projects
important to Canada's economy.
The federal budget appears to reflect those concerns. It
contains an $8 million allocation for Revenue
to investigate charities believed to be spending more than the
allowable 10% of their revenues on political action.
"Is it a political act to encourage people to participate in
an environmental assessment, understand issues and get involved?" Bennett
Environment Minister Peter Kent chimed in with charges of
money laundering by certain unnamed charities (CBC Radio, The House
, April 28). He expanded his allegations in an interview on
CBC's Power & Politics
In response to the host's question whether his use of the
word "laundering" implied criminal activity, Kent equivocated, "There are allegations - and
we have very strong suspicions - that some funds have come into the country
improperly to obstruct, not to assist, in the environmental assessment process."
In a letter written to Minister Kent May 3 and distributed
through social media channels, Imagine
CEO Marcel Lauzière
challenged him to provide evidence or retract his comments, pointing out that
charities have "a long and proud
tradition of advocacy" on public policy issues such as smoke-free workplaces, the
Children's Fitness Tax Credit and the Canadian Initiative for Maternal, Newborn
and Child Health.
Kent's comments, he said, "do
a grave disservice to the two million Canadians who work in the charitable and
nonprofit sector, the thirteen million who volunteer their time, and to the
millions of Canadians who give so generously each year to the organizations and
causes in which they believe."