This time last year I told you about a storm gathering here in Ottawa that threatened to blow Sierra Club and other environmental groups out of existence. At the time I asked you to consider making a donation as it may be the last time you could do so and receive a tax receipt. I would have forgiven you for thinking I was overstating the seriousness of the situation at the time. Unfortunately, much of what I predicted came to pass in 2012.
You know all about Joe Oliver and Peter Kent calling us money-laundering radicals and anti-Canadian puppets of foreign billionaire socialists. You certainly know about the Omnibus Bills that gutted federal environmental protection -- a regulatory and legal system that took 40 years to build.
Unfortunately, I nailed it when I wrote:
"In this context discrediting the environmental movement at every turn while attacking its sources of funding and ability to communicate is not only a necessary measure -- it's key to their strategy. After all, once our ability to influence public opinion is destroyed they'll have a free-hand to build, dig, drill, dam and burn whatever, wherever and whenever they want."
Tuesday the pressure further escalated when a thick 65-page fax arrived from lawyers (JSS Barristers Jensen Shawa Solomon Duguid Hawkes LLP) representing Ethical Oil. It was a copy of a complaint Ethical Oil filed with the Canadian Revenue Agency the previous week alleging the Sierra Club Canada Foundation was in violation of tax rules.
I'm sure you remember Big Oil's 'Ethical Oil' -- the ugly spawn of Ezra Levant. It's the organization that adamantly refuses to disclose where its funds come from, and has mysterious ties to the Prime Minister's office. Could this latest legal attack be raw vengeance for the shellacking they took on CBC's Power and Politics last winter? For the record it was largely Evan who did the ass-kicking. The show became an Internet hit -- that is, until it was mysteriously scrubbed from YouTube (after 70,000 views). We found a link in the CBC website archive for you here.
I know Ethical Oil was damaged after the show; their credibility really took a hit. I'd guess they privately (and wisely) vowed to never make that mistake again; No more shows with Sierra Club Canada. I know for a fact they refused at least one invitation to re-appear with me on Power and Politics (in spring 2012).
While not very believable, the folks at Ethical Oil aren't fools. They are afraid of Sierra Club Canada for good reason and would love nothing more to than remove us from the picture completely. A hundred years ago big industry sent thugs to smash printing presses. Today, it's lawyers, accountants and the petro-pundits -- but the effect is the same.
Are we supposed to be afraid?
I am afraid of a lot of things. I'm afraid my grandson will live in a world of turmoil brought on by climate change or a nuclear disaster. I'm afraid one of my daughters will develop cancer from the toxic bath we're forced to swim in every day. But I'm not afraid of being jack-booted, be it by brown shirts or thugs in expensive suits (or dress suits).
There is nothing like the spectre of a CRA tax audit to put a chill in your Christmas Holiday plans. It's psychological warfare really. A Merry Christmas greeting from Big Oil! Ho Ho Ho.
Normally I wouldn't take notice; we've been audited before -- I've seen that movie and have the t-shirt... But back to my prediction -- look at Ethical Oil's complaint in the broader picture. Over the past 12 months we've seen the anti-environment Omnibus Bills, then a McCarthyian investigation by a Conservative-dominated senate committee and announcement of new (extra) funding to "investigate" charities. And now we receive this fax.
There is a word to describe when a government and powerful private interests suppress opposition through fear, censorship and other forms of oppression. When I wrote about my fears last year I correctly called what was happening for what it was: an attack on democracy and the environment.
Our society was founded on Freedom of Speech -- it's guaranteed in the Charter. But now that freedom is fast becoming no longer "free". How can we "freely" share our words of concern when the bank account is empty and the power has been shut off?
Donations received by Sierra Club Canada and Sierra Club Canada Foundation are used to protect the environment, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate we depend on.
This December, I'm asking you to please consider making an anti-bullying donation. You have 2 options:
1. If you want to support the Sierra Club Canada Foundationand its education and research initiatives (AND receive a charitable tax receipt) then do that! Good solutions always depend on knowledge and sound science.
2. As always, if you want your gift unfettered by CRA tax rules then donate directly to Sierra Club Canadaand support our advocacy work (I promise to make your voice loud and clear).
Let's show Ethical Oil the meaning of ethical.
I wish you and your loved ones a safe, happy and healthy holiday!
John Bennett, Executive Director
Sierra Club Canada