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Ethical Oil to Saudis: Back Off, This Is A Free Country

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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an oil rich dictatorship where freedom of the press doesn't exist, where bloggers, journalists and writers face arrest and imprisonment .

Since July, EthicalOil.org has been campaigning to encourage people, businesses, and governments to make ethical energy choices by supporting ethical oil from Canada and its oil sands over conflict oil from regimes like Saudi Arabia. Just as we make an ethical choice when we buy fair trade coffee or free range chicken, so too should we be trying to make ethical energy choices.

The Huffington Post Canada's Ottawa bureau chief Althia Raj was the first journalist to report on one aspect of EthicalOil.org's campaign -- a television advertisement we had aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network in Canada. The TV ad, which can be seen here, informed viewers about the abuse of women in Saudi Arabia, reminding them that in Canada's oil sands people, businesses, and governments had an ethical alternative.

Clearly the mullahs and princes in Riyadh enjoy watching a lot of Oprah, because they saw the ad. And they're livid.

This morning the Toronto Sun reported on its front page on a cease and desist letter that lawyers for the Saudi Arabian government sent to the Television Bureau of Canada, the review and clearance service for TV ads in this country, demanding that approval for the ad be withdrawn.

This brazen act of domestic political interference by a foreign dictatorship is without precedent in Canada. It's one thing for Saudi Arabia to oppress its own citizens; quite another for them to export their Saudi-style contempt for freedom of the press into Canada.

Saudi Arabia's bullying tactics won't work. EthicalOil.org won't back down. In response to the Saudi dictatorship's move, I've decided to take the following actions:

1. The ad, which had completed its run on the Oprah Winfrey Network (Canada), has been put back on the air. Starting today the Sun News Network is airing the spot. Because of the Saudi regime's actions, more Canadians will see the TV ad.

2. I have written to His Excellency Osamah A. Al Sanosi Ahmad, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador in Canada, informing him the ad has been put back on the air and challenging him to a televised debate about the ad and its contents. Open discussion and debate, not censorship and intimidation, is how we resolve disagreements in Canada.

3. I have also alerted Foreign Minister John Baird and Dean Allison, Chairman of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, about the incident in writing, calling on the Harper government and the parliamentary committee to investigate a foreign dictatorship trying to censor what Canadians can and cannot see on their televisions.

While in a free, open, and democratic society, we can have vigorous disagreements about energy policy and the role Canada's oil sands should play in the energy supply mix, when a foreign dictatorship like Saudi Arabia tries to censor one side of that debate, we all need to stand as one in defending our rights as Canadians. That means that all of us -- including oil sands critics like Greenpeace -- need to condemn this brazen act of domestic political interference by a blood-soaked, conflict oil-fueled foreign dictatorship.

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