I’m writing in today to register my disgust at the Harper government’s plan to gut habitat protection provisions from the Fisheries Act, or in their words “modernize” it. Orwell would be proud.
This plan will actually regress 40 years of gains in freshwater fish conservation and protection. The Fisheries Act was based off of science, the respect for the life of these beautiful creatures, conservation and common sense. It was instituted to protect and preserve freshwater fish stocks from the onslaught of poorly planned industrial development and the destruction associated with it.
As stupid, irresponsible and destructive as this idea seems by itself, it makes perfect sense when you look at the whole picture in regards to how Canada is run politically. This country is no longer a limited representative democracy, but has mutated into a type of soft authoritarianism. It began under Pierre Trudeau and has been carried on since. The people in power represent a very small segment of Canadian society, in Harper’s case, the Alberta oil industry.
Authoritarians always begin by rewriting the law. They make legal what was once illegal. In this case, the destruction of fish habitat when it interferes with dangerous and destructive industrial development. Authoritarians demonize and snuff out dissent, in this case labeling anyone who opposes dangerous industrial projects as ‘radicals’ and using government resources to attack environmental groups. Authoritarians centralize power, in this case giving cabinet the power to override the National Energy Board’s decisions on energy projects or gutting the Navigable Waters Protection Act, allowing the final go ahead on industrial projects in Canada’s waterways to be decided by one person, the minister in charge.
All this so Enbridge can build a pipeline through the mountains of B.C. All this so Enbridge can destroy the thousand-plus fish-bearing streams the company’s pipeline has to cross. All this so Enbridge can get supertankers into the hazardous Douglas Channel. All this closing off of an open society so a handful of people on Bay Street, Wall Street and in the Alberta oil industry can make some money selling the dirtiest fuel on Earth to a regime known for killing young children in factories and at birth.
The institutions, laws and political process that make up an open society are used as a type of pressure valve for the populace to air legitimate grievances and concerns. It releases that energy and anger in a constructive way through dialogue and open debate. But when you begin to dismantle those mechanisms that allow people to feel like they have a say in the way that their society is run, you start down a road that has a very ugly end point.
The Harper government has started down that road with regards to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. They can rewrite all the laws of the land, but in the absence of justice there will be violence. The people ruling us in Ottawa are ruled by people who view life through a very narrow ideological lens, and that is going to lead to tragedy in the mountains of British Columbia.