Bruce Cox Executive Director Greenpeace Canada

The premise of a smear campaign is to throw enough mud and some will stick. It can be guilt by association or simply having your opponent’s name appear in the same sentence as some vicious criminal. 

Remember the Willie Horton ads in the Bush campaign of ‘88? The Bush campaign made the case that their Democratic opponent all but signed the day pass from prison that enabled a convicted felon to rape and stab an innocent young couple. That accusation dogged the Democrats through the entire campaign. 

Don’t let the facts get in the way of the impression. After all, there’s no smoke without fire, right? Wrong. 

I had a taste of this tactic from our government on Monday of this week. I appeared on the CBC’s “Power and Politics” national TV show commenting on an RCMP report which claims Greenpeace is a threat to national security because we’ve boarded oil rigs in protests. The report says that our actions are evidence of an “increasingly radicalized” environmental movement and they specifically named Greenpeace. 

A government spokesperson was asked to join the show but declined. Instead, the office of Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety sent along a written statement rambled about “protecting Canadians from terrorist attacks and extremist ideologies”. It had nothing to do with Greenpeace, the RCMP’s findings or marine safety but the optics were brutal. I was on national TV speaking about Greenpeace while the federal government’s Minister of Public Safety warns against terrorism and extremists. 

However we are in good company having been smeared by Toews. When parliamentarians didn’t agree with Toews’ notion of granting the police powers to spy on Canadians’ online activities, he denounced them as “either with the government or with the child pornographers”.

And the smear continues. 

Following my interview, the weekly political panel on P&P, stayed on the subject. Conservative lobbyist and Harper confidant, Tim Powers railed against Greenpeace saying that Paul Watson - who recently jumped bail in Germany - comes out of Greenpeace. From Power’s point of view, this alone is proof that Greenpeace is a criminal organization. For those who don’t know who Paul Watson is well, according to Tim Powers, Watson, who heads Sea Shepherds, is wanted on a “MURDER charge from the Costa Rican government” and did I mention:” he comes out of GREENPEACE”?!!

The truth is, while Watson may have been in Greenpeace he was expelled over 30 years ago. In fact, he is the only person to have ever been kicked out of Greenpeace! And on that murder thing, not true Tim. No murder charge, alleged or otherwise. Those are the facts, not the smear. 

On January 9th the Canadian government launched a very public campaign to discredit environmental groups, like First Nations and anyone who opposes the tar sands and the growing web of pipelines through some of the most pristine wilderness in North America. They have called First Nation leadership corrupt, accused charities of “money laundering” and suggested that many groups working for environmental protection are bought and paid for by foreign powers. This current RCMP and Tim Powers attack is more of the same.

The ideological extremist in the energy sector is the Harper government. And when a government begins to display the attributes of a rabid ideologue, we need to all speak out. NGO’s, politicians, business leaders and faith groups have a responsibility to call our government to task.

Greenpeace raises these issues via peaceful civil disobedience. We never use violence and the safety of all parties are always our top priority.

Ironically, it was a conservative government in France, driven by ideology and determined to protect a domestic industry that carried out an act of terrorism on Greenpeace in a foreign country. They murdered Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira when they bombed the Rainbow Warrior.