Canadian Government Targeting Opponents of New Oil Sands Pipeline

Environmental groups in Canada say they are now operating within a culture of fear aimed at silencing legitimate democratic dissent.
by Lisa Song, InsideClimate News

As U.S. environmental groups renew their battle against the resurrected Keystone XL oil pipeline, their counterparts in Canada are facing a deeper problem—a government campaign to limit their influence over Canada's Northern Gateway pipeline.

The proposed Northern Gateway would funnel tar sands crude oil from Alberta to the Pacific Coast, where Canada could ship the oil via tankers to China and other countries. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his support for the $6.6 billion project in January, before the first public hearing was held, and he reiterated his position during a recent visit to China.

As environmental groups have stepped up their campaigns against the project, key figures in the Harper administration have publicly denounced them as extremists. In late March or early April, the House of Commons Finance Committee will begin reviewing how Canada's charities spend their money.

The upcoming review, coupled with the strong rhetoric against environmentalists, is "creating a culture of fear," said Todd Paglia, executive director of the charity ForestEthics.

"Every nonprofit I talk to in Canada is worried about the next shoe dropping," he said. The government "is looking for ways to stifle dissent, and it's having a pretty serious impact on us." Read More