Alberta premier says environmentalist David Suzuki incited violence with pipeline comment

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, left, is defending comments he made on Twitter accusing environmentalist David Suzuki of inciting violence. (Jason Franson and Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, left, is defending comments he made on Twitter accusing environmentalist David Suzuki of inciting violence. (Jason Franson and Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is standing by his accusation that environmentalist David Suzuki was inciting violence with his comments at a climate change protest over the weekend.

The premier first made the claim in a tweet that linked to a National Post article, which quoted Suzuki as saying: "There are going to be pipelines blown up if our leaders don't pay attention to what's going on."

Suzuki made the comments amid a "Funeral for the Future" protest in Victoria on Saturday, organized by the environmental group Extinction Rebellion.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Kenney reiterated that he believes Suzuki is implicitly inciting people to eco-terrorism.

"It's like in the gangster movies where they say, 'You know, nice little pipeline you've got there. It'd be a terrible thing if something happened to it.' This is totally irresponsible," he said.

Kenney added that Suzuki has a track record of outrageous comments that should have had him "cancelled."

WATCH | Premier defends Twitter comments:

He cited an example from 2016, when Suzuki opined that former prime minister Stephen Harper should serve prison time for "wilful blindness" to climate change, which was reported by the National Post at the time.

"We resolve differences peacefully and democratically — not by threatening to throw our opponents in jail," Kenney said.

"And now he's basically saying, 'Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, be a terrible thing if something happens to those pipelines.' This is outrageous and should be called out as such."

The premier also criticized the CBC and other organizations for giving Suzuki a platform.

A formal condemnation of Suzuki's comments was moved in the Alberta Legislature Tuesday.

Government House Leader Jason Nixon introduced a motion to condemn Suzuki's comments on pipelines, and what Nixon said were comments calling for intentional destruction of energy infrastructure, and "incitement of violence and eco-terrorism."

"I think every single Canadian should be appalled by any comments that can be used to incite violence that in any way refer to the blowing up of a pipeline … or any type of infrastructure," Nixon said.

Nixon also said he wants to see Suzuki apologize and "to stop any remarks that can in any way be used to support eco-terrorism of any kind."

Sonya Savage, Alberta's minister of energy, supported the motion, saying anything that can be interpreted as encouraging blowing up pipelines, as an act of environmental activism is "incredibly irresponsible and shameful."

Kathleen Ganley, the NDP representative for Calgary-Mountain View said both sides of the house can agree that "violence or incitement of violence to make any point" should be condemned.

"That in no way negates the duty of every government in this country to engage in good faith negotiations with Indigenous people and to engage in good faith negotiations and conversations with very real concerns about both Indigenous rights and climate change."

Suzuki responds

Suzuki told CBC News he does not condone blowing up pipelines, but that he suggested he fears it may happen if groups get fed up with inaction.

"Our leaders are not listening to the urgency that is demanded to meet the issue of climate change. And I was worried that this is just the next step — if it goes on — to people blowing up pipelines," he said.

Many climate-related protests have been examples of "peaceful civic disobedience," Suzuki said, suggesting the violence is coming from government and the RCMP.

"If you look at the people at Fairy Creek, what are they doing? They're fighting to protect Mother Earth, and the violence is all coming from the forces that want to maintain the status quo," said Suzuki, referring to anti-logging protests on Vancouver Island that have continued for more than a year.

Suzuki said he feels Kenney is deflecting from the important issue of climate change by making things political, as well as knocking the credibility of critics.

"He doesn't discuss climate change. It's all, 'These people are against the Alberta economy or they're foreign-funded radicals,'" he said.

"I would suggest that, right now, his avoidance of the serious discussion about climate change [and] Alberta's role in that and where to go in the future is something that is very, very serious for voters to think about."