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Ujjal Dosanjh

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Minister Jim Carr must apologise for militarising the environmental discourse!

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I was on a trip to India to attend a conference when the unpredictably petulant Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamta Bannerjee irrationally accused the Indian government of sending the Indian Army into her state to allegedly carry out a coup against her. I was not shocked. She has proven to be a kook, though a popular one. The Indian Army was simply gathering important data with the knowledge of the local police--something that they routinely do all over India. But truth doesn't get in the way of Bannerjee or other kooky politicians accusing each other of 'heinous crimes'--just to score a win or two in the daily news cycles.

 Two days ago I returned to Canada and was confronted by the kooky comments of the Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr about military being used in the event of civil unrest or unruly behaviour in response to the Trudeau government's approval of the expansion of the Kinder Morgan and Line Three pipelines. One wouldn't suggest that either Canada or India is a banana republic dictatorship but Carr and Bannerjee certainly acted as though they were of banana republic dictatorships.

The Carr controversy refuses to die. The latest to criticise Carr is the BC grand Chief Stewart Phillips calling his remarks" stupid, stupid, stupid" and, I unhesitatingly say, rightly so. An express or implied threat to use military force to deal with peaceful or unruly environmental protests is frightening to say the least. What was Jim Carr thinking? Not very much or deeply at all is all I can say.

 We lived through Pierre Trudeau's imposition of the War Measures Act in response to the kidnappings and threats by the FLQ. It was a serious situation. A Quebec Minister ended up dead. So we know legally--but only as the last resort-- the military can be asked to come to the aid of the civil power just as Quebec had requested in the case of the FLQ crisis and the elder Trudeau had responded in the affirmative.

Canadians are rightly proud of their military's role in helping people affected by natural disasters at home or abroad or in international peace making or peace keeping. But the 1970 episode of the military being called out to protect the civil society has made Canada ever more vigilant and sensitive about our civil liberties and the legitimate role of the military. How sensitive Canadians are to this issue was brought home to me when an unreleased ad of the Liberal Party of Canada intended to run in the 2006 election surfaced in the news. It argued that Stephen Harper was going to increase the presence of our soldiers in the cities, on our streets. The unreleased ad was widely panned for "fear mongering". Paul Martin rightly prohibited the ad from being released. We lost that election although many of us, including me, won our seats.

The idea of Canadian soldiers' presence on Canadian streets to maintain law and order is something that rightly repulses Canadians. Canadians are law abiding and engage in civil disobedience--with special emphasis on civil. The police are able to deal with Canadian protests and protestors that might be uncivil. To threaten military deployment to deal with unruly protestors is to unnecessarily threaten and question Canadians' self image, of which faith in our own civility is an integral part.

Carr's uncivil comments do nothing to further peaceful and civil discourse on the environment and the economy and how we make them work together. And it escapes me why he hasn't apologised for 'militarising' the debate on the pipelines. Justin Trudeau must ensure that Carr properly atones for the inanity and insensitivity of his comments.



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