Canada’s Senate, David Suzuki & The Delinquent Teenager

March 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Last week my book, The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, was mentioned in the Canadian Senate. Since governments at various levels rely on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Senator Nancy Greene Raine thinks my book could help her colleagues make more informed decisions. In her words, a Senate committee:

should consider whether the reports of the IPCC should be relied upon by the Government of Canada for policy formulation. To give members a quick overview of the many problems with the IPCC, I suggest that you read the well-documented review by Canadian investigative journalist Donna Laframboise. Her book is entitled The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert. After reading the book, you may no longer consider her book title to be mere humour.

A cut-and-paste of her full remarks appears here. You can also find them in the official record here (about halfway down the page).

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In other news, the David Suzuki Foundation is behaving like a rabid dog. A page on its website is urging Canadians to tell the Senate to “stop silencing environmental groups” (backup link here). Apparently other people don’t have the right to ask questions or to explore issues Suzuki doesn’t want discussed. Attempts to do so, by full-fledged members of the Canadian Senate, no less –  are regarded as an “affront to the democratic principles of this country.”

The gist of the Suzuki argument is that, merely by asking questions about the estimated $300 million that has allegedly been funneled to Canadian green groups by charitable foundations south of the border, Canadian senators are stifling the voice of environmentalists. According to the Suzuki website:

The issue of relatively small amounts of international funding is a distraction and effort to silence environmental organizations [sic]. Trying to stifle those who don’t agree with the government’s positions is undemocratic and goes against the values and traditions that Canadians of all political stripes have worked for many years to establish.

I have two responses to this. First, only in the environmental movement is $300 million too small an amount to worry about. Second, if these funds are so trivial why is Suzuki so outraged? People don’t usually work themselves into a foaming lather over matters that are truly meaningless.

But the bigger issue is that Suzuki and his pals don’t believe in a free exchange of ideas – or anything remotely resembling accountability. If you want to discuss a topic they’d prefer to ignore they try to shut you down. They do this by declaring you guilty of precisely the sin they themselves are committing. They say you are being undemocratic and immature. They say you are silencing, stifling, demonizing, and not listening.

The response of the Suzuki Foundation isn’t to explain in a forthright, professional manner why such funding is an non-issue. Instead, it puts up a webpage that:

  • says opinions expressed by senators are “insulting and uninformed”
  • claims that senators “are doing a disservice to all Canadians”
  • declares that Canadians “expect more from our government and Senate leaders. We expect rational discussion of issues of national and global importance.”

I noticed this tendency from the beginning of my research into the climate debate. A certain kind of climate activist talks a great deal about the need for rational discussion, but these people rarely practice what they preach. Arguing the merits of their case seems to be the last thing in which they’re interested. Instead they spend their time attempting to de-legitimize other points-of-view. They shout. They hurl insults. They call people names. In their view, anyone who sees the world differently is malign and malicious and should shut the frakk up.

At the bottom of the Suzuki Foundation webpage there’s a form that visitors are encouraged to sign before clicking the ‘Send Email’ button that will transmit their protest to the Canadian Senate. It contains some truly bizarre statements. My own thoughts appear in square brackets afterward:

Some senators have…questioned the integrity of legitimate Canadian organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation. [So? Corporations, individuals and governments have their integrity questioned all the time. Where is it written that green groups should be immune?]

…A democracy functions best when all points of view are considered rationally and carefully… [except that some points-of-view are evidently verboten]

…I ask you to get back to the business of thoughtful debate rather than trying to stifle the voices of millions of Canadians with whom you may not agree. [apparently, criticism of green groups is not thoughtful debate and only some people are expected to listen to opinions with which they disagree]

According to this protest letter, an examination of foreign funding by a chamber of the House of Commons is an attempt to stifle the voices of millions of Canadians. Duly appointed senators are the ones who are being anti-democratic. The Suzuki Foundation, on the other hand, is merely “looking out for the interests of Canada and Canadians.” Yes, they actually say this.

But here’s an interesting twist. Nothing prevents a person from deleting the contents of that form letter and substituting another message. I did so this morning, keeping my remarks brief:

I applaud the Senate’s exploration of the role that foreign funding may be playing in the Canadian environmental movement and the oil sands debate.

This is an important matter that deserves attention.

I also changed the subject line so that my message won’t be confused with the one drafted by the Suzuki Foundation.

Should you feel the inclination to make your own views known you can do so here.

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h/t Blazing Cat Fur

see also David ‘waterwings’ Suzuki lectures Senate on need to curb the rhetoric (backup link)

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Entry filed under: activist scientists, David Suzuki, ethical & philosophical, free speech. Tags: , , , , .

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