Day-long website blackout to shed light on the importance of charities
A cyber blackout will emphasize why charities shouldn’t be silenced
Recent efforts by the federal government and its backers in media and industry front groups, like Ethical Oil, to demonize and silence legitimate organizations ignore the important role charities play in Canada. That’s why environmental and other organizations are joining with Canadians from all walks of life for Black Out Speak Out, launched on in May and culminating in a website blackout June 4.
Canadians understand the value of charitable organizations. Close to 85 per cent of us over 15 years of age (22.2 million people) donate to charities every year. Often, it’s to help people in other parts of the world. According to Charity Village, Canadians gave $20 million to the Canadian Red Cross, CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, UNICEF Canada and World Vision within four days of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Canadians also know that our spectacular natural environment is crucial to our national identity, health and survival and that we can’t always count on governments and industry to look out for its interests. And so we give our time, money and voices to organizations working on a range of conservation issues, from habitat and species protection to clean energy and global warming. The David Suzuki Foundation relies on Canadians for close to 94 per cent of its funding.
It’s why we’re astounded by the increasing efforts to stifle so many people and organizations that devote countless hours to the often thankless and less-than-lucrative tasks of ensuring that Canada remains a stellar example of an open and democratic country with strong social values and a clean and healthy environment.
If we are committed to these ideals then it follows we should also value freedom of speech and opportunities for a range of viewpoints on matters of national interest. It’s fair to ask questions about donations and what, if any, influence they may have on activities. But it is unacceptable to try to silence people with smear tactics designed to discredit them and deny their funding.
If our leaders want to pin all their hopes and our future on a twinned pipeline through Alberta and B.C. to ship raw tar sands bitumen to China, then Canadians at least deserve a proper conversation about it. We’ve seen recent signs of hope, with people in the media and elsewhere questioning the wisdom of employing an omnibus budget act to gut environmental laws and attack charitable organizations.
With continued suppression of those who speak out about the environment and women’s and human rights, along with the muzzling of government scientists and cuts to government scientific and environmental programs and departments, it’s clear we’re facing a growing campaign, in part backed by industrial interests, to silence opposition.
We expect and deserve better. That’s why we’re speaking out. Silence is not an option. We’re asking all Canadians to join us to help preserve two core national values: nature and democracy. Let’s keep Canada strong and free. Please visit the websites of your favourite environmental organizations on June 4 to add your voice to the ongoing campaign.
David Suzuki is the host of the CBC’s The Nature of Things and author of more than 30 books on ecology.