DAVID SUZUKI: Environmentalists are still being targeted by some governments

Episodes of violence against international activists not uncommon occurrence

Last month marked the 18th anniversary of the tragic murder of outspoken writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight colleagues by the Nigerian government. Saro-Wiwa and the others had waged a long campaign to stop multinational oil company Royal Dutch Shell from drilling in the lands of the Ogoni people in the Niger delta.

Sadly, this is not an isolated occurrence. A recent report by human rights organization Global Witness documents the murders of more than 700 environmental and indigenous-rights activists over the past decade – more than one killing a week, on average.

They reviewed databases, academic studies and news reports, and found citizens are often harassed, intimidated, beaten up, sexually assaulted and sometimes killed for opposing endangered wildlife poaching, illegal logging, dams and activities of foreign mining companies – including some Canadian firms.

I experienced this in 1988 when we interviewed rubber tapper Chico Mendes about his battle to save the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. He was assassinated two weeks later.

In 1989 Kaiapo Chief Paiakan asked me to help stop a dam proposed for Altamira, Brazil. My wife, Tara, and I helped raise $70,000 for a demonstration and the World Bank was persuaded to withdraw its project loan. Paiakan was later subjected to death threats.

Many instances of persecution and killing have occurred in countries with atrocious human rights records, such as Sri Lanka, Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet surprisingly, most attacks on environmentalists have been in countries such as Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines, with democratically elected governments, independent judiciaries and other institutions intended to protect citizens’ rights to voice concerns about the environment without facing harassment, intimidation and violence.

As the recent incarceration of 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists by Russian authorities clearly demonstrates, human rights are vulnerable at a time when governments aggressively promote the interests of corporations over a healthy environment, and are willing to use heavy-handed tactics to ensure people who disagree don’t stand in the way.

Leaders of the Netherlands, Brazil and Germany called for release of their nationals and other members of the “Arctic 30,” but Prime Minister Steven Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird have so far been silent. You can sign letters at Greenpeace.ca asking Baird to bring the Canadians home and Greenpeace.org asking Russian embassies to urge their government to drop the charges.

Just Posted

VIDEO: ‘Stewie the Starfish’ mascot revealed at Premier League kickoff party

Pacific FC kickoff party scores in Victoria Inner Harbour

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bowl for Kids’ Sake returns to Langford

Annual fundraising event held from April 26 to 28

Report calls on Saanich to expand multicultural programming at recreation facilities

Report also notes that Saanich could do more for sexual minorities.

Victoria cannabis dispensaries are busy in their first days of legal operation

The Cloud Nine Collective and The Original FARM opened their doors on April 15

WATCH: Movie star and PACE alum Calum Worthy talks musical theatre and his career

“American Vandal” and “Austin and Ally” actor has been returning to the program for over 20 years

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

VIDEO: Fire guts Peachland home

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze in the Okanagan neighbourhood

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Seven tips to travel safely this Easter long weekend

An average of three people are killed, and hundreds more injured, each Easter long weekend in B.C.

Most Read