Letters to the Editor

Thursday, 1 September 2011

We are not amused: New Zealanders act poorly in solidarity with American pipeline sit-in

We get it that environmental groups around the world are acting in solidarity with the massive oil sands pipeline sit-in, going on as we write this, in Washington, DC. BUT, we don't agree with the actions of the protesters in New Zealand trashing the maple leaf. Scream, yell, do whatever, but desecrating an emblem from the flag of an entire nation of people? Not cool. It's on-par with radical third world elements burning the stars and stripes and smacks of extremism that turns people off from the cause. While the policies of our government are to blame, we the people are not and our flag doesn't deserve that. Come on New Zealand, you know better.

(Photo: Tar Sands Action website)


  1. That's not exactly true. The flag, of course, was NOT chosen by 'canadians', it was chosen by the government to represent 'the nation'. The 'nation', by definition, is the federation-the government.

    While governmental decisions don't necessarily represent the public, ask yourself how much protest you've ever seen in Canada against the Transcanada pipeline. I've seen next to none, certainly not on this scale.

    IF canadians were rallying publicly against the tar sands, then your claim would hold some merit. Yet apart from the usual protests from David Suzuki and other groups-who rarely protest publicly, there is pretty much mass silence.

    And the whole idea of things like that is to 'shame' people into action-the same reason the US flag was often burned by US citizens. The reality is that 'we' deserve to be ashamed of the fact that more New Zealanders protest this than canadians. Since canadians do so little to oppose it, you can understand that our views of their flag painting probably mean very little to them.

    Anybody who is really actively protesting the Tar Sands wouldn't be offended. As the saying goes, if you are really upset about it, there must be something to it.

  2. Mr. Mikel,

    Yes, there is something to it for us. We grew up with a veteran of World War II that fought for that flag. He was a broken man due to the war, yet one of the most decent people we have ever known. His sacrifices, and those of others in war, allow us free speech and the right to protest.

    We respect and understand the New Zealand protest in solidarity with Americans on the pipeline. However, smearing the emblem of a nation paints us all with one brush, and we are not all the same on the issue. There are Canadians who don't support the pipeline who are in Washington.

    Those Canadians are trying to uphold what our childhood friend and war veteran fought for under the auspices of the Canadian flag. For you to say it's alright what the New Zealanders did because Canadians aren't doing anything is misinformed.

    We are not pro-pipeline, nor are we industry supporters or card-carrying capitalists. We simply think the actions of the New Zealand protest was in poor taste, extremist and too broad in it's assumption Canadians weren't doing anything on the issue.

  3. I think the reason for these sorts of protests is that the protesters know that images like this will get coverage. It's a challenge to concepts of media responsibility. There's a feedback loop here where doing outrageous things generates coverage which generates more outrageous things. For example, throwing red paint or blood on furs. does that action communicate anything about the issue? Not really, but it sure is dramatic.
    In the long term, we all bear a responsibility to consume and create responsible media.

  4. Well, first, no veteran fought in world war 2 for the 'flag', because in world war 2 we didn't have a flag-at least not THAT flag (that was 1965).
    It wasn't actions against germany that got US freedoms, it was actions against our own government. And go ask the protestors at the G20 whether that battle is over. The canadian government has a long history that is still going on of incarcerating people, one that was expanded after September 11. The NBPower and gas protests were fortunate that they were large enough that they weren't dealt with in the same way other protests frequently are.

    And even if those comments were true, in fact ESPECIALLY if your comments were true, then by your own definition what they did was alright, because it was not illegal, and it is their freedom of speech. So what you would essentially be arguing is that 'free speech is stuff we like', but others shouldn't be allowed to use it.

    And it is OUR fault that they can't make subtle distinctions. The flag, at the time of its inaugeration, was said to "represent ALL canadians". And that by definition is the federal government, which has no problem with the tar sands.

    Now, if you were to design an environmental flag, and say that this 'beaver on a field of green' or whatever was on the flag, is a symbol of canadian people who are not pro pipeline, etc., and they threw paint on THAT, then the argument would make sense. However, they didn't do that. They threw paint on the flag of a government that not only has no problem with developing the tar sands, but wants to expand it, and has even subsidized it.

    Any person who died for freedom of protest and freedom of speech should be OVERJOYED to see such protest. Freedom of speech extends to speech we don't like-otherwise its not support of liberty, but just 'support our views'-which is a pretty totalitarian view.

    If you want to be taken seriously as a journalist, you've got to tone down the rhetoric.