This story includes details about the impacts of climate change that may be difficult for some readers. If you are feeling overwhelmed by this crisis situation here is a list of resources on how to cope with fears and feelings about the scope and pace of the climate crisis.
Environmental icon David Suzuki issued an apology Thursday afternoon after his remarks to a journalist Saturday were misconstrued as a call for property damage—and handed Alberta’s United Conservative Party government an opportunity to amplify that interpretation.
“Dr. Suzuki’s comments were born out of many years of watching government inaction while the climate crisis continues to get worse,” the David Suzuki Foundation said in a release. But Suzuki himself quickly made clear in a follow-up interview with the National Post that he wasn’t advocating violence of any kind: “of course not,” he said.
The Foundation affirmed that it “empowers people to take peaceful and impactful action in their communities on the environmental challenges we collectively face.”
The messaging storm began with Suzuki’s comment to local media after a “Funeral for the Future” hosted by Extinction Rebellion in Victoria over the weekend—just days after an atmospheric river brought devastation to the B.C. Interior, cut Vancouver off from the rest of Canada, and struck fear into the hearts of British Columbians already reeling from a summer of devastating wildfires and deadly heat domes.
“We’re in deep, deep doo,” Suzuki told CHEK News. “And the leading experts have been telling us for over 40 years. This is what we’ve come to. The next stage after this, there are going to be pipelines blown up if our leaders don’t pay attention to what’s going on.”
Afterwards, Suzuki told CBC his remarks were meant as prophesy, not threat. “Our leaders are not listening to the urgency that is demanded to meet the issue of climate change,” he said. “And I was worried that this is just the next step—if it goes on—to people blowing up pipelines.”
On Thursday, Suzuki walked back the initial comment, but not the urgency behind it.
“The remarks I made were poorly chosen and I should not have said them,” he said. “Any suggestion that violence is inevitable is wrong, and will not lead us to a desperately-needed solution to the climate crisis. My words were spoken out of extreme frustration and I apologize.”
Suzuki added that “we must find a way to stop the environmental damage we are doing to the planet, and we must do so in a non-violent manner.”
While analysts pointed to a province “unravelled” by the real-world violence of back-to-back climate disasters, a politically hobbled Premier Jason Kenney of Alberta turned the CHEK News interview into a messaging bonanza.
“Kenney government takes rhetorical sledgehammer to David Suzuki nail” was how iPolitics described the two-hour debate in Alberta’s legislative assembly Tuesday, ostensibly to contemplate the merits of Government House leader Jason Nixon’s motion to formally condemn Suzuki’s remarks. Government Motion 104 condemned “any comments made calling for the intentional destruction of energy infrastructure” and “incitements of violent eco-terrorism.”
Kenney called the news interview an “implicit or winking” incitement to violence, even comparing Suzuki’s poorly-chosen phrase to the real-world incitement in Donald Trump’s long, ranting diatribe that provoked the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol January 6.
Stretching rhetoric and logic “like silly putty,” iPolitics writes, Alberta Energy Minister and former pipeline executive Sonya Savage free-associated a connection between Suzuki’s comment and her government’s discredited claims of an international conspiracy targeting the province’s fossil sector. “Foreign funding of these terrorist organizations is something we should look at,” she declared. [Didn’t that end very badly for her last time?—Ed.]
But it was Jason Kenney who delivered a thumbs-up after pro-fossil provocateur and former Dragon’s Den panelist Brett Wilson advocated actual violence against pipeline protesters in 2018. “Do we still hang for treason?” Wilson tweeted at the time, before doubling down on that question in an interview with CBC’s The Current.
“I didn’t joke,” Wilson later clarified on Twitter. “I was serious about hanging foreign funded protestors—undermining our nation—for treason. What would you like to do to them?”
Wilson got his latest shout-out from Kenney at the United Conservative Party convention last weekend, according to a livestream on Twitter. But the embattled provincial premier seemed to remember his decorum when it suited him.