Bill C-51: Canada’s new McCarthy era where advocating for action against climate change is terrorism, By John Bennett, Executive Director, Sierra Club of Canada, May 31

First, I’d like to acknowledge the terrible incidents that took place last fall here in Ottawa and in Quebec and share our deepest sympathies for the families. We are very much aware of the threats and support all appropriate measures to protect Canadians. However, we are concerned about Bill C-51 because it casts too broad a net and will very likely undermine the freedoms it is supposed to protect.

The Sierra Club Canada was founded back in 1892, making us probably the oldest conservation organization in North America. We’ve been active in Canada for over 50 years, and we have a number of chapters and groups across the country. We are a volunteer-led, democratic organization. Our members elect the board of directors in annual elections, and our volunteers work along with staff to preserve and protect our natural environment.

Although we employ a wide range of tactics to draw attention to important issues, it’s a clear policy of Sierra Club Canada Foundation to only engage in legal activities. To my knowledge, no one has broken the law in the name of the club in the last hundred years.


I call your attention to The Globe and Mail article of February 17, 2015 entitled “‘Anti-petroleum’ movement a growing security threat to Canada, RCMP say.” It quotes from an RCMP document entitled “Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Assessment: Criminal Threats to the Canadian Petroleum Industry.” Sierra Club is mentioned twice in the document, the first time in paragraph 4 on page 2. Because, like Prime Minister Harper, we believe climate change is the most serious threat to Canada and because, and I’m quoting here:

Research and analysis done in support of ongoing RCMP criminal investigations shows those involved in the anti-Canadian petroleum movement have an interest in drawing public attention to, and building recognition of, the perceived environmental threat from the continued use of fossil fuels.

What’s wrong with that? Why are we being investigated as criminals because of that? Well, it goes on to tell us why. This “. . . has led to significant, and often negative, media coverage surrounding the Canadian petroleum industry.”

So now we’ve been named in a criminal intelligence report because we’ve been advocating to take action on climate change, and that puts us within the scope of Bill C-51.

I know you think I must be joking. I wish I was. And we laughed this off at first. I was actually more concerned that the RCMP denies that climate change is happening and doesn’t understand that there are actually challenges to policing as a result of climate change. We saw in Alberta, with the flood two years ago, the RCMP got in trouble for seizing weapons because they didn’t have a method to deal with the problem caused by what could very likely be a climate change event. That’s the kind of things RCMP should be thinking about in terms of climate change, not what I’m saying to the press.

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