One of B.C.'s most famous climate-change campaigners has used the "R" word in connection with recent remarks by B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson.
The international program director of Stand.earth, Tzeporah Berman, alleged in a statement that Wilkinson and the B.C. Liberals' "grandstanding and accusations against us today are not only racist, they are an embarrassing attempt to score cheap political points".
“At a moment in history when B.C. is struggling with two very difficult questions, how to achieve reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and how to tackle the climate crisis, British Columbians deserve better from our elected leaders,” Berman said.
On February 26, Wilkinson stood up in the legislature and claimed that a "well-organized campaign funded by foreign money is seeking to create economic chaos in this province and across Canada".
"The groups that have benefited from this foreign funding include the Wilderness Committee, the Sierra Club, West Coast Environmental Law, Leadnow, Dogwood B.C. and Stand.earth," Wilkinson said. "And $4.2 million in U.S. funding has come from U.S. donors, including the Tides Foundation and the Bullet Foundation.
So why are these comments racist?
According to Stand.earth, its because the blockades supporting Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs' opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline "are the direct result of Indigenous leadership and organizing". And therefore, to allude to their interests as being foreign-driven "is not only patronizing, but racist".
Some of the criticism of foreign funding has come from Ellis Ross, the B.C. Liberal MLA for Skeena and former elected chief of the Haisla Nation.
A joint venture partnership between the Haisla Nation and Seaspan was awarded a $500-million contract last year to design, build, and operate escort tugs and harbour tubs required for the LNG Canada export facility in Kitimat.
Ross, a former taxi boat operator, served briefly as minister of natural gas development in the dying days of the Christy Clark–led B.C. Liberal government. He's been a long-standing supporter of the LNG industry in B.C.
Stand.earth did not mention Ross by name in its statement, which claimed that "foreign-funded" is a term intended to "tap into peoples' fear of the other—a dangerous game to play".
Moreover, the group alleged that this term is designed to distract Canadians' attention from climate change and other important issues.
“The Wet’suwet’en don’t need us to tell them what is right or wrong for the traditional territories that they have protected since time immemorial," Stand.earth climate and energy campaigner Sven Biggs said in the group's statement.
Berman has not always been so critical of the B.C. Liberals.
At an international climate conference in 2009, she attracted intense criticism from New Democrats after she presented a plaque on behalf of several environmental groups to another former B.C. Liberal leader, Gordon Campbell.
This came after Campbell, as B.C.'s premier, introduced North America's first economy-wide carbon tax.
LNG Canada's largest investor is Royal Dutch Shell and its partners are Japan-based Mitsubishi and state-owned oil and gas companies in South Korea, Malaysia, and China.
One of the Coastal GasLink pipeline's three shareholders is the giant New York-based investment firm KKR.
The day after this story appeared, Tzeporah Berman tweeted about racist and misogynistic abuse directed at her.