Federal budget bill’s attack on nature and democracy triggers massive call for change across Canada

Hundreds of websites darken for Black Out Speak Out. June 4, 2012
VANCOUVER – No fewer than 500 businesses and organizations and thousands of individual Canadians are uniting in collective defence of nature and democracy today as part of the Black Out Speak Out campaign.

The campaign (known in French as Silence, On Parle) culminated today in a nationwide day of action. Tens of thousands of Canadians are darkening their websites, writing to their elected representatives and speaking out through social media to protest the federal government’s smear attacks on charities, gutting of environmental laws and efforts to silence the voices of concerned citizens.

"Today, hundreds of organizations and individuals – representing millions of citizens – are speaking out in support of two core Canadian values: the protection of nature and democratic discussion," said scientist and activist Dr. David Suzuki. "These values are the foundation of the peace, order and good government that define our nation, yet they are threatened by the federal government’s reckless budget bill, C-38."

Buried in the many provisions of the omnibus budget bill are measures to weaken key environmental laws, such as the Fisheries Act, and the wholesale replacement of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act with an inferior review process. This would allow the federal cabinet to veto National Energy Board decisions on mega-projects such as the Northern Gateway pipeline. Many also fear that a weakened review process would grant approval to major industrial projects without careful scrutiny, as restrictions on consultation would restrict the voice of First Nations as well as other interested parties: scientists, land-owners, businesses and citizen groups.

The budget bill also includes $8 million to fund Canada Revenue Agency audits of charities, widely perceived as a move to silence advocacy and free speech on key environmental issues.

"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."

"Bill C-38 is a blatant attack and absolute betrayal of our Indigenous Title, Rights and Treaty Rights, which enshrine and embody the deep environmental values that many Canadians share with us," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. "We stand in solidarity with the tens of thousands of Canadians who are speaking out today to defend Mother Earth and democracy."

Launched May 7 by the country’s leading environmental organizations in response to the government’s smear attacks and its omnibus budget bill, the Black Out Speak Out campaign has grown rapidly to include 500 major not-for-profit and social justice organizations, trade unions, scientists, businesses and thousands of individuals, including Canadian icons like author Margaret Atwood, musician Bruce Cockburn and former Ambassador to the United Nations Stephen Lewis.

Other supporters include:
• Assembly of First Nations
• Dr. Andrew Weaver, Nobel Prize-winning scientist
• Oxfam Canada
• Amnesty International
• Canadian Labour Congress
• Canada’s federal opposition parties (NDP, Liberal, Green and Bloc Quebecois)

Support for the campaign has also spread to the United States, with organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club USA, 350.org and Natural Resources Defense Council also blackening their websites on June 4.

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, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Equiterre, Greenpeace, Nature Canada, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, and WWF Canada.

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BC spokespeople for Black Out Speak Out:
• Dr. David Suzuki, scientist and activist
• Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
• Honourable John Fraser, former MP and cabinet minister
• Jessica Clogg, ED, West Coast Environmental Law
• Dr. Andrew Weaver, Nobel Prize-winning scientist and professor
• Peter Robinson, CEO, David Suzuki Foundation
• Devon Page, ED, Ecojustice
• Gwen Barlee, ED, Wilderness Committee
• George Heyman, ED, Sierra Club of B.C
• Catherine Clement, VP, Public Engagement and Communications, Vancouver
 Foundation
• Lorene Oikawa, VP, BC Government and Service Employees'
 Union

Media contacts:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, 604-684-0231, ubcic@ubcic.bc.ca
Sutton Eaves, Director of Communications, Ecojustice, 778-829-3265, seaves@ecojustice.ca  
Jim Boothroyd, Director of Communications, David Suzuki Foundation, 604-250-7206,
 jboothroyd@davidsuzuki.org 
Rachel Forbes, Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law, 604.345.9129, rforbes@wcel.org  

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.