ForestEthics sues Canadian government over the right to speak out in opposition to pipelines

charter of rights
Public Domain Queen Elizabeth signs the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms

There are a lot of people in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party who still revile Pierre Trudeau (sitting on the left) and aren't too fond of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms either. (They do love the Queen, in the middle there, signing the document 31 years ago). TreeHugger noted last year how the Minister of Natural Resources wanted to change the rules on environmental hearings because, well, environmentalists had too many rights and freedoms. He said at the time:

These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda. They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest. They attract jet-setting celebrities with some of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world to lecture Canadians not to develop our natural resources.

So they changed the rules with Bill C-38, which limits the right to speak out. (we covered this here, in Canadian government learns from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy about how to stifle dissent) ForestEthics writes:

Buried in this Bill were provisions that changed the way ordinary Canadians can voice their opinions on proposed projects that impact our natural environment, such as new oil pipelines. Citizens are no longer permitted to show up at a hearing and have their say or give a written submission to the Board; instead, each individual must submit a nine-page application to the National Energy Board (NEB) justifying their right to speak to the issue. The NEB then chooses which individual citizens or municipalities/organizations get to speak.

Now ForestEthics has lawyered up with Clayton Ruby, one of the country's most famous lefty lawyers, known to TreeHugger for getting Rob Ford kicked out as Mayor of Toronto (Rob kept his job on appeal), and are fighting back. Ruby tells the Globe and Mail:

“The Constitution guarantees my right to free expression,” Mr. Ruby said in an interview. “It’s pretty clear that involves the right to appear before any board that calls for public submissions … And you cannot limit that freedom of expression in an arbitrary fashion.”

He will ask the federal court to overturn the amendments. He will also seek an injunction to prevent the National Energy Board from making a recommendation to cabinet on Enbridge’s Line 9B application until the constitutional challenge has been dealt with.

9B is a proposal from Enbridge to reverse an existing pipeline to carry oil east, but is really just a placeholder for the fight to come over the Transcanada Pipeline that will be rammed through if the Keystone pipeline is rejected.

ForestEthics Advocacy says they are..

...doing what we do best – standing up to Canada’s government with a lawsuit challenging laws passed last year that unreasonably restrict the rights of everyday Canadians to have their say on proposed oil projects. This violates citizens' rights to free speech and puts our natural environment at risk.

Good for them. More at ForestEthics; Tzeporah Berman just tweeted "OMG in last 3 hrs Cdns have donated $25,000 to our lawsuit" - You can too here.

Tags: Activism | Canada | Oil | Tar Sands