January 21, 2012 – HALIFAX HERALD LETTERS BY ANNE LÉVESQUE
I attended the no-fracking rally in Port Hastings last Saturday afternoon. Sixty of us stood beside the rotary, stamping our feet to keep warm and holding hand-made signs that said "Water Not Oil" and "No Drilling, No Spilling." We smiled and waved our thanks at the passing motorists who honked their support.
We came from Antigonish, Mulgrave, Port Hawkesbury. From communities along Route 19 and around Lake Ainslie, including Waycobah First Nation. It was a diverse group: students from St. F.X., a hairdresser, two carpenters, an organic farmer, a nurse, a man who has just lost his job at the NewPage mill; a retired accountant, two sisters of St. Martha’s; four young mothers, one of them Mi’kmaq, another holding her seven-month-old baby; a woman who will celebrate her 80th birthday this year, a young couple who had just become engaged, a mail driver, a chef, a Mi’kmaq grandmother, a fisherman, the mayor of a small town, a social worker, a teacher, a woman who works in a small-options home.
The one thing we had in common was our opposition to the drilling of oil and gas near the largest freshwater lake in Nova Scotia.
Few of the people in attendance would describe themselves as environmentalists. They are people who wish to have a say in the decisions shaping their world. They are concerned citizens who have taken the time to become informed about the issue. This is what democracy is supposed to be all about.
Yet when the media describe the people who attend such rallies, they dismiss them with one word: environmentalist.
In case you haven’t noticed, the word "environmentalist" is no longer neutral. Thanks to politicians like Stephen Harper, the corporate interests they represent and their huge public relations machine, the E-word has come to mean "person who does not care about jobs or the economy" or, as Stephen Harper has recently asserted, "radical who wishes to turn all of Canada into a national park for the U.S."
So, if the media wish to remain, or at least to appear, impartial, they must refrain from using such pat designations as activist, protester and environmentalist. Otherwise, they are dismissing one of the foundations of our parliamentary democracy: the right of citizens to disagree.
Anne Lévesque of Strathlorne is a retired public servant, mother of four, and a member of the Inverness County chapter of the Council of Canadians.