Black Out Speak Out rally in St. John’s

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Individuals, groups gather to denounce ‘attack on the environment,’ federal budget Bill C-38

Individuals, groups gather to denounce ‘attack on the environment,’ federal budget Bill C-38. –Photo by Gary Hebard/The Telegram.

Chris Hogan likened the grey sky and chill in the air at the St. John’s waterfront to the current state of relations between Canadian environmental groups and the federal government.

Hogan, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Network — a collective of provincial environmentally conscious organizations — was introducing speakers at a rally this morning at Harbourside Park.

The rally was to both draw attention to and protest impending changes to the Canadian environmental regulatory process — as outlined in the federal budget omnibus bill, C-38 — alongside what organizers claim are “sweeping cuts” to conservation and science programming at the federal level.

In addition, the event was to address what organizers claim is a general lack of respect on the part of the federal government for the grassroots efforts of environmental organizations.

“This government has attacked environmental groups using language that is pretty inflammatory and that’s of grave concern,” Hogan said.

Representing both the Council of Canadians and the Sandy Pond Alliance, Ken Kavanagh raised similar objection to statements made by federal Conservatives, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“It’s the insidious way ... in which he is dismissing and insulting and demonizing many of us who are ordinary citizens because we want to speak out and because we don’t agree with him,” he told the gathering of about three dozen people.

St. John’s hosted one of five public rallies being held across the country today, aiming to get out the Black Out Speak Out message.

The Black Out Speak Out campaign was launched May 7 in response to what Canadian environmental organizations are calling “concerted smear attacks” on the part of the federal government, as well as changes affecting federal environmental protections, as proposed in federal omnibus budget bill, C-38.

The Black Out Speak Out campaign calls upon “organizations, businesses and citizens” to “darken their websites” today and speak out on their concerns regarding environmental protections within Canada and the changes in the federal budget bill by way of email and social media.

According to organizers, over 500 groups including Oxfam, Amnesty International, the Canadian Labour Congress, faith groups, First Nations and all four opposition parties (NDP, Liberal, Green and Bloc Quebecois) are participating in Black Out Speak Out events.

“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,” stated scientist and activist David Suzuki, in a news release on the day of action events.

“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 omnibus budget bill, C-38.”

For more on the Black Out Speak Out campaign in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as changes proposed to federal science data collection and environmental regulations in the federal omnibus bill, see tomorrow’s print and digital editions of The Telegram.




For now, here is a Top 10 list of items of environmental concern in the 452-page Bill C-38, as prepared by West Coast Environmental Law and Ecojustice:

1. Changes to the Fisheries Act mean that the law may no longer protect all fish and the waters where they live.

The new protection framework could exclude many fish and watercourses. Generally, habitat protection will only include permanent alteration or destruction of “commercial, recreational or aboriginal fisher(ies)” habitat and some activities will be exempt from the law regardless of how much damage they cause. The federal government will also be able to hand over the power to authorize destruction of fish habitat to provincial governments or other entities, which is worrisome.


2. No maximum time limits on permits allowing impacts on species at risk.

This means that there will no longer be any guaranteed review to evaluate ongoing impacts to endangered species. These potential ‘perpetual’ permits could continue even where there is a drastic decline in the population of a species affected by the permitted activity.


3. The National Energy Board (NEB) will be exempted from species at risk protections.

The NEB will no longer have to ensure that measures have been taken to minimize impacts on the critical habitat of at-risk species before the NEB approves a pipeline or other major infrastructure. For example, there is no guarantee that an environmental assessment will consider the impacts of a proposed pipeline project and related oil tanker traffic on the habitat of endangered orca whales before the NEB issues a certificate approving that pipeline.


4. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is being replaced with a new Act that will significantly narrow the number of projects that will be assessed for their environmental, social and economic impacts.

Assessments, when they happen, will be less rigorous and subject to time limits that will place further constraints on public and First Nations’ participation. The new Act will apply only to “designated projects,” but we don’t yet know what those will be. The new Act gives the Environment Minister and government officials broad decision-making power: The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency would be able to exempt a  designated project from even going through the assessment process.


5. The federal government is offloading responsibilities to the provinces.

This is troubling because the patchwork of environmental laws and policies at the provincial level leave doubt as to whether they can act as a sufficient or legally defensible substitute for federal oversight. Prime examples of this offloading include shifting responsibility for implementation or enforcement of the Fisheries Act to provinces and eliminating many federal environmental assessments.


6. Cabinet is now granted authority to override a “no” decision of the National Energy Board.

This may allow politics of the day to trump an independent, objective process and undermine the NEB’s expertise.


7. No more joint review panels.

Where a major energy project will be subject to an NEB hearing, a Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency-enabled review panel is prohibited, so there will be no more joint review panels. Thus, the environmental implications of major energy projects will now be evaluated only by the energy regulator.


8. Broad decision-making powers are being shifted from the public realm and given to Cabinet and individual Ministers.

This means decisions related to fish habitat protection and environmental assessments will be allowed to be made behind closed doors with minimal public scrutiny.


9. Significant narrowing of public engagement in resource review panel hearings, particularly for major oil projects, pipelines and mines.

In order to participate, people will have to prove they will be directly affected or have relevant information or expertise. In some cases, their contributions may still be ignored.


10. Repeal of two important environmental laws.

The repeal of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, means no more domestic accountability measures on climate change and the repeal of the National Round Table on Environment and Economy Act will phase out this valuable advisory body completely.



Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Network, Sandy Pond Alliance, Oxfam Amnesty International Canadian Labour Congress First Nations Bloc Quebecois Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency National Energy Board NEB

Geographic location: Harbourside Park, Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador West Coast Kyoto

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Recent comments

  • stephen
    June 04, 2012 - 20:09

    Same old David Suzuki wanna be ,Seirra club scammers sucking in more brainless sky fallers.Just keep donating to these earth savers while they live in their 3000 sq ft hollywood homes,under someone elses name,while you stand in the rain and fog in your petroleum based rain coats. Anybody look up DAVID SUZUKIS BC HOME LATELY. green my arse. ps most lopsided amateur junk I have seen from Telegram wanna be jounalist in a while. At least try and have one original thought per year.

  • Naseem B. Khan
    June 04, 2012 - 16:18

    June 04. 2012 Dear Participants, Today I found out a lot more about Bill C-38. I had to read up as much as I could in order to fully participate in the Black Out program. For the first time I have the priviledge of being one of the voices. In the past I never thought it necessary to take part in issues but time has come for me to be a part of the majority, the Canadians, and I can clearly see from what I read that we need to take action and take action now before it's too late. I read and understood what's at stake and what I read is not promising for either the Canadians or our country Canada. I sincerely pray that our efforts will be justified in the end. Yours truly, Naseem Khan

  • Tell getting like CB
    June 04, 2012 - 15:05

    How one sided is this report? Even publishes the list of concerns verbatium. Where is balanced journalism? Where is the level-headed reply to their problems.

    • JEff
      June 04, 2012 - 17:26

      I agree. The concerns are not in line with the wishes of the Harper government and, therefore a threat to the national interest. The Telegram should have put off reporting on this story until the PMO has an opportunity to give the correct version. Until then we need more pictures of the Prime Minister kissing hands and shaking babies.

  • Jeff
    June 04, 2012 - 14:54

    Environmentalists, scientists, opposition members, labour groups are speaking out *against* government policy? It has been proven by Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver who has said that these environmentalists are foreign funded radicals that need to be “monitored and battled.” Where are the government “public relations handlers” who are supposed to be watching these misguided environmental scientists who still believe in global warming and that idiot David Suzuki who doesn’t understand that CO2 is natural (so obviously the more CO2, the better). I can see why opposition members are there, they only want to wreck Canada and raise taxes on our glorious business leaders (profits be upon them). And the union bosses are only there because they’re getting millions of taxpayers’ dollars to be there... and they don’t care about their members anyway... Anyone else who attended is either a pot-smoking hippy, a vegetarian, an artsy-fartsy, an lazy welfare cheat, or any other democracy fetishist who doesn’t fit into my narrow definition of deserving, hard-working taxpayers.

    • Chris Chafe
      June 04, 2012 - 19:25

      Jeff, you must be my twin!

    • VBT
      June 05, 2012 - 07:16

      from Jeff that idiot David Suzuki who doesn’t understand that CO2 is natural (so obviously the more CO2, the better). Yup CO2 is natural, wonder how well you would do breathing in a room containing 60% CO2, the more the better? Better take a look in the mirror on your post Jeff

    • Julie
      June 05, 2012 - 10:23

      Well I pay taxes and I am a citizen and it is my right to comment on how I feel Canada should be governed. Please stick to the issues and quit your name calling. Name calling and attempted belittling does not help my Canada be a better and more healthy country. Without environmentalists we would be in a pretty sad state of affairs. Thank you to the environmentalists. I know you work very hard for very little pay and are totally dedicated for a healthy and safe Canada.

  • sierraclub
    June 04, 2012 - 14:04

    We thank participating and interested Canadians for sharing in this protest of the C-38 attack on democracy and our environmental protection as a nation. The more people participate the easier it will become to hold governments accountable. Continue to share your voices and we will accomplish change.