After Muzzling Librarians And Scientists, Now Canada Starts Making It Difficult For Citizens To Express Their Views

from the coincidence?-I-don't-think-so dept

Last month, Techdirt wrote about the requirement for librarians employed by the Canadian government to self-censor their opinions, even in private. This came in the wake of similar restrictions being placed on government scientists. We pointed out that this kind of muzzling created a really bad precedent that might one day even be extended to the public. It seems that moment has come sooner than expected:

New undemocratic rules are creating a barrier to public participation in upcoming National Energy Board (NEB) hearings into the proposal for Enbridge’s Line 9 oil pipeline. For the first time, members of the public who want to send a letter with comments to the NEB about a pipeline project must first apply for permission to participate — by filling out a 10-page form that includes a request for a resume and references.

The National Energy Board reports to the Minister of Natural Resources Canada, and describes itself as follows:

an independent federal agency established in 1959 by the Parliament of Canada to regulate international and interprovincial aspects of the oil, gas and electric utility industries. The purpose of the NEB is to regulate pipelines, energy development and trade in the Canadian public interest.

Making permission to submit a letter conditional on filling in a 10-page form and sending a resume and references first is clearly an attempt to make the process so onerous that only lobbyists paid to do so will bother to go through with it. That’s exactly the opposite of most consultations, which seek to encourage comments from as wide a range of people as possible by making the actual mechanics easy. It’s particularly galling that these serious obstacles to participation should have been placed by a body tasked with working “in the Canadian public interest”: if the public can’t make their voices heard, how can the NEB claim to serve them?

Taken together with earlier moves, this latest ploy by a federal agency seems a part of an wider campaign to shut down public debate in Canada. Few politicians like to be criticized, or have the weaknesses of their plans exposed, but a country where people find it increasingly hard to express their views on government proposals is starting to take a dangerous road.

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Comments on “After Muzzling Librarians And Scientists, Now Canada Starts Making It Difficult For Citizens To Express Their Views”

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AB (profile) says:

Re: I think this quote sums it up...

Not really. Many of us have yelled at our politicians many times, it’s just that they ignore the public. They have been known to ignore public opinion even in the face of evidence provided by scientists, professors, and professional researchers. There have been exceptions, but the rule is to ignore the sheeple’s opinions.

What’s really embarrassing is that some of these politicians are able to keep getting reelected despite their spectacular failures. Not because we like them, but because they are still better then the other guys.

Imagine if the USA was a semi-dictatorship in which the president had complete power over all the other politicians below him. Who would you vote for then – the guy who failed last time or his opponent who failed the time before that? Especially since Canada only has two or three choices at the best of times, and no write-in options.

The USA’s ability to actually punish a bad politician is something many of us Canadians envy. Here the most we can hope for is to send them home with a fat pension (every politician is entitled to a quite comfortable pension after serving one full term of four years).

Obviously there are lots of people in Canada, like any other nation, who do just sit and let things happen. But that’s far from being the only problem.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Here I thought US was the one owned by "Big Oil"

From the source:

In addition to the new barriers for public participation, Enbridge?s proposal won?t undergo an environmental assessment, also thanks to Bill C-38 which gutted environmental laws.

So let me get this straight: Canadians who want to publicly participate in the NEB hearings have to do everything most company’s require for job applications to simply get their foot in the door, let alone debate the issue? On top of that, they only have 2 weeks in which to do this, which means if that two weeks started on April 5, then the “application period” for the hearing expired last Friday (and if i am right, I’m gonna hold Moody at fault for not reporting on this sooner).

This whole ‘applications for debate’ malarkey just reeks of the tar sands lobby to me.

So the bigger question is: will this Line 9 get approved?

The Zen Master says, “We’ll see.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Orwell said so...

Who saw this coming? Georgie Boy was right on.

This is what happens when the Govt controls your ability to access healthcare, they can tell you to SHUT UP!

FAA is doing the same to the US public right now per letters that Sen Tom Coburn is receiving from FAA employees.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Orwell said so...

“Health Care” as health care has nothing to do with it; but “Health Care” as an euphemism for government control of a person in the form of what you eat, what you drink, when you can go to the potty, et is the ultimate totalitarian state or in simpler terms you are a slave to living and dying at the whims of politicians.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Orwell said so...

Orwellian – “librarians employed by the Canadian government to self-censor their opinions, even in private”
This tactic is usually used in authoritarian countries where creators and curators must remove material that their government might find controversial for Fear of Sanction by their governments.

Animal Farm – ?librarians are expected to sign up to a new Code of Conduct imposed on them by the Canadian government.?

Orwellian – How Harper controls the spin:
?Questions on the hot issues of the day all get funneled through this office, the “communications and consultations” unit of the Privy Council Office, housed in the Blackburn building that fronts the Sparks St. pedestrian mall.?

The US buys most of its Oil from Canada (and Mexico, but to a lesser extent) and Canada uses those Oil proceeds to help subsidize the ?free? (ha, ha) healthcare in Canada. If they Give you healthcare, they can take it away.

Your beloved ?Govt? is CENSORING Scientists and Librarians who are under the Fear of Sanction. Who?s next, YOU??

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Orwell said so...

lol, one of us North American nations is in denial anyway. Don’t drag Canada into U.S. politics.

Also, I’m pretty sure it’s when the gov’t controls access to the mail that this happens.. Or is it when they control the police? No, it must be the roads. The roads are the deciding factor! lol

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Orwell said so...

Really, lol…stop letting your grandma use your computer.

Yea, those Librarians and Scientists that don’t comply have nothing to fear…except termination.

Keep Calm and make Stupid Arguments – That will save the Librarians and Scientist from being fired if they don’t comply to Govt demand that “they SELF-CENSOR their opinions, even in private”.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: If wrong then to set right

Government has never been “for the people”. No matter what country you live in, the only time government cares about you is when it’s time to the elections. The other 99% of the time, you don’t matter.

The framers of the US Constitution knew this would come to be, and are rather famous for noting so, and how our rights seep away at a slow but inevitable pace.

But what is worse is when we resign ourselves to the notion that this is the way it has to be. We can do better, even if that means demonstrating unequivocally that we won’t tolerate the status quo. Rebellion against tyranny is our duty as citizens of a democracy.

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