Whistleblower claims Prime Minister's Office tried to silence Enbridge pipeline critic

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My name is Andrew Frank. I grew up in a small town in the Okanagan valley of British Columbia. My granddad taught me how to fish. My father was a well-respected lawyer known for his unwavering integrity, and my mother was a favourite kindergarten teacher. Both have always impressed upon me the importance of telling the truth.

Today, I am taking the extraordinary step of risking my career, my reputation and my personal friendships, to act as a whistleblower and expose the undemocratic and potentially illegal pressure the Harper government has apparently applied to silence critics of the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil tanker-pipeline plan.

As I have detailed in a sworn affidavit, no less than three senior managers with Tides Canada and ForestEthics (a charitable project of Tides Canada), have informed me, as the Senior Communications Manager for ForestEthics, that Tides Canada CEO, Ross McMillan, was informed by the Prime Minister's Office, that ForestEthics is considered an "Enemy of the Government of Canada," and an "Enemy of the people of Canada."

This language was apparently part of a threat by the Prime Minister's Office to challenge the charitable status of Tides Canada if it did not agree to stop funding ForestEthics, specifically its work opposing oils ands expansion and construction of oil sands tanker-pipeline routes in Canada.

This is especially concerning because ForestEthics is a legally registered intervener in the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel process, currently examining the Enbridge oil tanker-pipeline proposal. By attempting to silence a registered participant in the review, I fear the Harper government may have permanently damaged the integrity of this process.

After waiting more than two weeks for Tides Canada to go public with this story, it has become clear to me that the organization is too afraid of reprisals from the government to act. Tides is responsible for the employment of hundreds of Canadians and dozens of crucial environmental projects like the Great Bear Rainforest, and has been understandably paralyzed in challenging the Prime Minister's Office on this matter. I, on the other hand, am speaking out as a private citizen because I feel that the rights and civil liberties of my fellow Canadian citizens, including freedom of expression and freedom of speech, are at risk.

There was a look of fear and disbelief on my fellow staff members' faces the day they were told our own government had labelled them enemies of the state. Our administration co-ordinator had tears in her eyes. In the days that followed, our employees couldn't sleep well. They lost their appetites, and they began to fear for their own personal safety and civil liberties, and those of their families and loved ones. They began looking over their shoulder, out of fear and paranoia, because their own government might be watching them.

The language of anti-terrorism, when applied to Canadian citizens who legitimately question the wisdom of an unsustainable oil tanker-pipeline plan, is an affront to the rights of all Canadians. It is the language of bullying. It is language that is violent and above the law, and harkens to previous examples of RCMP surveillance of Canadians for political rather than legal purposes, including Tommy Douglas. The casual use of such loaded language at the top of our government is immoral, unethical and probably illegal.

A strongly opposed oil tanker-pipeline plan is now the least of this government's worries. In its heavy-handed attempt to override public opposition, the government has breached the public's trust.

I now invite Canadians, including the media and members of the House of Commons, to challenge the unacceptable behaviour described in this letter and sworn in my affidavit.

Approximately three weeks from now, Mr. Harper will visit China on an official state visit. In China, Amnesty International asserts that a half-million "enemies of the government" are held in prisons without charge.

If the argument in favour of the Enbridge pipeline is that Canada stands to make billions selling oil to an oppressive Chinese government, then my answer is "no, thank you." That's not "ethical oil," especially when profiting from this oil wealth requires repressive tactics against critical citizens -- tactics we would normally associate with the Chinese state, not Canada.

The events of the last month have ensured that I will never take my rights as a Canadian citizen for granted again. That is both sad and encouraging. Sad that I ever had to question them, and encouraging because I have been reminded of another lesson taught to me by my parents: the best way to stop a bully is to stand up to him.

I invite you to join me in expressing your voice on what is perhaps the most pressing moral crisis facing our nation today. Together we can hold this government to account and prevent the dismantling of Canadian civil society and the further erosion of citizens' rights.

Andrew Frank is a Canadian citizen, and the former Senior Communications Manager with ForestEthics Canada. He is also an instructor in the Environmental Protection Technology program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, in Surrey, British Columbia.

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