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What Happened to Canada?
The real record on how the pro-oil government is trampling on speech, science, the environment and its own credibility…all in the name of tar sands

As Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper digs his heels in by saying he “won’t take no” on the Keystone XL tar sands pipelines, a delegation of Canadian scientists and activists participated in a briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, DC to set the record straight on the government’s tar sands fixation and the extreme measures it has taken to achieve its expansion goals.

The delegation presented a compelling case to President Obama that Canada was unfit to make any sort of climate deal in exchange for Keystone XL, and described how the government’s tar sands obsession has cost Canada its international credibility as it tramples speech, science and the environment as a means to this end.

The delegation was sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council, and featured a cast of respected scientists, artists and activists. Panelists provided new information and analysis about the carbon implications of the tar sands industry, the role of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in unlocking new tar sands development, and the shocking lengths the Harper Government is going to suppress this information, including stifling all opposition from scientists, artists, and the Canadian public.

Panelists explained that Canada’s total failure to act on climate change and its fixation on tar sands expansion is costing the country its credibility and made the case to President Obama that the Canadian government will do and say anything in its power to get approval for Keystone XL and expand the tar sands industry.

Plans to triple tar sands production by 2030 are incompatible with Canada and the United States’ shared commitment to keep global temperature changes below 2 degree Celsius.

From the panel:

David Suzuki: “There is a systematic attack on science and democracy taking place in Canada, and the Harper government isn’t even trying to hide it. But scientists cannot and will not be silenced, not when we are facing an irreversible climate catastrophe like the tar sands.”

Tzeporah Berman: “The Harper government will stop at nothing to ruthlessly promote tar sands expansion. We have witnessed a steady erosion of rights and a concerted attack on critical environmental legislation, all as part of a plan to turn our economy towards tar sands. Democratic opposition is no longer tolerated in Stephen Harper’s Canada.”

Tim Gray: “The Canadian government has failed to implement a plan to reduce carbon pollution. It is on track to miss both its own and international targets for carbon emissions reduction, yet is recklessly pursuing plans to triple tar sands production. To date, the government has shown no ability to act as a credible partner to the US on climate actions.”

Franke James: “Canadians’ right to free expression is being quietly eroded by a pro-oil government insistent on promoting tar sands and silencing anyone who might interfere with those plans. Rather than the friendly neighbor to the north, Canada has become the dirty old man.”

Danny Harvey: “There is no denying that Keystone XL is a critical piece of infrastructure to expand tar sands development. In order to slow the effects of climate change, we will need to make significant reductions in emissions, which will be impossible to achieve if we lock in 40 years of increased tar sands emissions by building more pipelines.”

Bill Burton: “Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States is on track to meet our 2020 climate targets. It would be counter-productive and counter-intuitive to implement strong climate policies at home, while giving Canada the go-ahead to develop its tar sands industry by approving Keystone XL.”


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

Bill Burton (moderator) is an LCV senior advisor and Executive Vice President, Managing Director in Global Strategy Group’s D.C. office. He was the national press secretary on President Obama’s first presidential campaign, and after inauguration, he served in the Obama administration as deputy White House press secretary and special assistant to the President.

Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. He is Companion to the Order of Canada and a recipient of UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for science, the United Nations Environment Program medal, the 2012 Inamori Ethics Prize, the 2009 Right Livelihood Award, and UNEP’s Global 500. He is familiar to television audiences as host of the CBC science and natural history television series The Nature of Things.

Franke James is a Canadian artist and has been called, "a wicked thorn in Stephen Harper's side" and a ‘troublesome artist.’  She has launched a series of bus stop ads that will be up on Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenue through November.

Tzeporah Berman is Canadian Author and Resource Development Activist. One of Canada’s most well-known environmentalists, Tzeporah Berman has been the voice and face of countless effective environmental campaigns internationally during the past 20 years, including most recently taking legal action against her own government for cutting the people out of the democratic process when it comes to energy infrastructure development. 

Tim Gray is the Executive Director of Environmental Defence Canada who has been at the forefront of tar sands work in Canada for more than 5 years - leading critical research and campaigns on tailings lakes, water and air quality, toxics, pipelines, and climate change.

Danny Harvey is a Professor in the Department of Geography, University of Toronto, where he teaches courses related to climate, global warming and energy use. Dr. Harvey is a lead author of the IPCC 4th and 5th assessment reports. 



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