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Why We're Blacking Out and Speaking Out

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I've worked to protect the environment for many years. I never imagined I, and my colleagues, would be forced to do what we are: fighting for our, and your, rights.

In May, leading environmental groups joined together and placed ads in major papers and launched a website: blackoutspeakout.ca (silenceonparle.ca in French). On June 4, we -- and, we hope, you, too -- are dimming our websites to protest sweeping, unprecedented and chilling attacks on democracy.

Environmental charities are used to attacks. From protecting our water and air by fighting acid rain, improving human health through reducing chemical exposure or saving nature, big companies often got ticked off.

What we -- and Canada -- face now is a new low. The federal government, quite simply, is doing whatever powerful oil interests want. No matter how undemocratic or wrong it is.

The federal budget has unprecedented, sweeping new powers. Among them, environmental assessment rules are weakened. Independent bodies like the National Energy Board are stripped of powers, so Cabinet can approve risky new projects like pipelines.

These moves make it harder for citizens to have input. And easier for powerful oil interests to get their way, with a stroke of an obedient politician's pen -- no input, no debate, no choice.

For charities, the attack is full-on. And while today the clear target is environmental charities, tomorrow, others' rights could be threatened. So there are good reasons to join us in protest.

The budget also spends $8 million so the Canada Revenue Agency can harass charities through audits. In theory, it's because we take money from abroad, like tons of charities do. In reality, it's because we push for laws to protect our water, air and climate -- which the oil industry doesn't like.

Cabinet ministers call us "radical." They've said nameless groups are "laundering money." When oil-funded front groups lay complaints with the CRA, the budget suddenly responds, using your money to take away your rights.

This isn't democratic. And we're not backing down.

Silence is not an option with such a concerted, co-ordinated, disgraceful attack.

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