UK activists expose Canada's tarred reputation

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Environment Minister Peter Kent gets an unexpected welcome in London

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This week, the UK’s Chatham House, home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, held a two-day conference titled Climate Change Security, resilience and diplomacy. Bizarrely, it was sponsored by Shell and featured as keynote speaker Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister of the Environment and well-known oil industry stooge.

Danny Chivers, author of The No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change decided to attend, After all, he writes in the New Internationalist blog, “Perhaps the conference organizers at Chatham House didn’t realize who they’d invited. We decided we should probably go along and tell them.”

After several hours of talks, the big moment came. Chivers tells the story:

As Kent approached the podium, I leapt from my seat, strode onto the stage and stepped in front of him. “I’m very sorry,” I told the suddenly attentive audience, “I’ve got a very brief security announcement. I’m afraid it seems that someone has got into this conference under false pretences, and has actually managed to make his way onto the stage.”

I gestured to the minister standing awkwardly beside me. “Mr. Peter Kent claims to be here to talk about solving climate change, but actually he’s a member of a dangerous anti-environment group called…,” here I put on my best dramatic voice, “The Canadian Government, who are committed to wrecking the climate.”

Laughter rippled around the room as I explained how Kent’s organization were “handing vast swathes of Indigenous people’s land over to oil companies, to carve up and extract some of the most polluting fuel on the planet. And now these dangerous foreign radicals…”

By now, I’d been joined on the stage by some members of Chatham House staff, who seemed keen for me to stop speaking. “I won’t be a moment, I just need to warn everyone,” I explained.

As I was led from the room, accompanied by more appreciative audience laughter and a few heckles, I did my best to explain: “These foreign radicals from the Canadian Government are now here in Europe, trying to hijack our regulatory systems in order to pursue their radical ideological agenda of expanding the tar sands…”

This was a reference to a notorious January 2012 pronouncement by Joe Oliver, Canadian Minister for Natural Resources, who used almost those exact words to describe opponents of the tar sands.

By now, I had a bit of extra company. “Ah, security,” I said, “I’m glad you’re here – he’s just over there if you want to remove him, he’s an agent of a rogue petro-state.”

I pointed at Kent, provoking more laughter from the audience as I was bundled out of the door. The last thing I saw was the minister standing by the podium, a pained and sickly grin on his face as the Chair pondered whether or not she should have “flattened” me.

There’s a video of the action here. Many thanks to Danny Chivers and the others who took part.


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