Report shows how Alberta is following the lead of other countries that harass civil society and stifle debate about the oil industry 

Toronto, Ont. – A new report released today from Environmental Defence shows how the tactics employed by the Alberta government to harass, silence and intimidate critics of the oil industry are similar to those used in autocratic regimes such as Russia, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

The report, Drawing from Despots: How Alberta is Using Tactics Borrowed From Russia, Kuwait and Others to Try to Silence Opposition to Oil and Gas Expansion, outlines three main tactics employed in Alberta that are common to the “petro-state playbook”:

  1. Label NGOs as foreign agents or enemies of the state – also employed by Russia, Venezuela, Iran and some U.S. states
  2. Deny or revoke the charitable status of groups that speak out – also employed by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Russia
  3. Criminalize protest – also employed in Kuwait, Russia, some states in Australia and numerous U.S. states

“Premier Kenney claims that Alberta’s oil is better than what is produced in countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, because Canada is a democracy. But, at the same time, the Premier is actually borrowing anti-democratic tactics from these same autocratic regimes in an attempt to stifle dissent and shut down debate. This must stop,” said Tim Gray, Executive Director, Environmental Defence.

The report shows how the Alberta government’s repeated false claims that opponents of the expansion of the province’s oil and gas industry are working on behalf of foreign interests, is a common tactic used in other countries to dismiss opponents and cast aspersions on their motivations. Russia, for example, also dismisses critics as “foreign agents.” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro attempts to delegitimize critics by accusing them of conspiring with foreign governments, and in Iran, environmentalists have been jailed and accused of espionage.

The Premier’s threats to revoke the charitable status of NGOs is also a common petro-state tactic. Like the inquiry into “UnAlbertan activities,” Russia passed an “Undesirable Organizations Law” that gives the government powers to penalize dissenting organizations. And Saudi Arabia denies operating licenses to new organizations that confront government policy, and disbands any that are deemed to be “harming national unity.”

Alberta’s recent move to intimidate and criminalize protest against fossil fuels projects is also a petro-state favourite, though this tactic is employed in democratic countries as well. Nine U.S. states have passed laws criminalizing protest in a similar fashion to what has been done in Alberta, and eight others are considering similar legislation. Alberta’s legislation bears a strong resemblance to model legislation drafted by the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a powerful industry lobby group.

“In launching its ‘war room’ and a wasteful, gaffe-prone, multi-million-dollar public inquiry into alleged anti-Alberta energy campaigns, and in criminalizing protests at or near oil and gas facilities, Alberta is drawing from a well-worn playbook used around the world to attempt to silence dissenting voices that call attention to the damaging effects of the oil and gas industry,” added Tim Gray. “By resorting to propaganda and intimidation, instead of taking a hard look at the future needs of Alberta’s citizens in a world moving towards cleaner energy sources, Premier Kenney and his government are hiding their heads in the sand. It’s time to face the truth about the province’s future, instead of hiding behind a fantasy of the oil industry massively expanding, once a non-existent boogeyman is vanquished.”

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE ( Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

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For more information or to arrange an interview please contact: Allen Braude, Environmental Defence,