Is ForestEthics Gravitating Towards The Militants Now? (Feat. Ben West, Gord Hill)

Wittingly or not, Ben West is a dangerous man...

Wittingly or not, Ben West is a dangerous man…

To steal a phrase used by TIDES Canada, our country’s environmental movements often bring together some strange bedfellows. The most striking of these relationships has to be the partnership with Green Party leader Elizabeth May and the Council of Canadians leader Maude Barlow- May is outspoken against violence (albeit in a strangely twisted manner), while Barlow and her organization are influential enablers.

Until recently, ForestEthics seemed rather benign. Radicals have harshly criticised them for being fronts for US business interests- some have spent a lot of time attacking FE leader Tzeporah Berman. But there have been recent indications that FE is getting closer to the radical elements. And, this week, their campaign director Ben West has stepped into some very dangerous territory.

The first indication of an unholy alliance came back in May, when FE’s campaign director Ben West shared a stage (along with senior staff from Greenpeace & the Dogwood Initiative) with Gord Hill, the subject of yesterday’s story about police raiding an activist house. Hill is one of the country’s most outspoken promoters of violent tactics- truly the definition of a strange bedfellow for West and his fellow speakers from the NGOs.

Hill was a prominent organizer and advocate the the protests against the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He focussed much of his effort organizing against game’s police and security. In a 2009 interview with the CBC, Hill said that the Olympics needed to be stopped “by any means necessary”. When asked if it would be acceptable to “bring down a power line, cutting power to the games,” Hill agreed it would. A few days later he was visited by the police

One of the most entertaining parts about following the radicals is listening to their outrageous stories of made-up oppression- the anarchist run Media Co-Op, is an online publication that leads the pack in such creativity. Hill detailed his police visit there in a story fantastically titled “Gord Hill Threatened with Rendition by Olympic Cops“.

Hill’s story explained how the ‘pigs’ came up to him while he was walking down the street. They asked him questions about his statements to the CBC, but (like a good revolutionary) he refused to answer. His description of what happened next was quite colourful:

“What was most interesting were his comments regarding my attempted entry into the United Snakes of Amerikkka on Oct 17; the RCMP agent told me that because of my statement to CBC I would never again be allowed entry into the US, that their national security would arrest me and put me in a far, far away place, so far away it would be beyond my mind (or something along those lines).

I take this as implying the practise of rendition, where prisoners in US custody (including Canadian citizens) have been transferred to other countries and tortured (i.e., Mahar Arar).”

It’s typical Media Co-Op bovine excrement; the police are the great oppressors, and officers regularly risk their careers making outrageous and actionable statements. The problem is, one can never trust information about the police when it comes from the anarchist/militant community. It’s their intention to get the police to make mistakes- then they don’t, they start getting pissy and making things up.

Which brings us back to yesterday, when Gord Hill’s house was raided by the police. Hill’s story about the raid took the traditional militant path- explaining how police officers entered the home with “guns drawn”, and complaining how they pointed them at the “centre mass” of he and his girlfriend’s bodies. When questioned about the raid, the police called Hill’s statement “colourful”- history tells us they’re likely right.

Here’s where Ben West comes back into the picture. David Ball interviewed West for a story about the raid yesterday. West explained how he’s “not the biggest fan” of the vandalism, and made the excuse that they’re signs of “sign of angst and frustration”. Considering the amount of upset caused by the recent graffiti epidemic, it’s shocking to hear an executive at ForestEthics sounding so apologetic- but it gets worse.

Next, West went all Elizabeth May on us, taking a dubious jab at the police saying:

“But that said, to see this kind of heavy-handed response to at most an act of vandalism seems pretty extreme”

There’s no evidence of West’s intent in this statement, but it’s difficult to believe he’s naïve about Vancouver’s problem with activist violence. Hill is one of BC’s most prominent promoters of militancy, it’s no secret. If the police actually did go into the house with “guns drawn”, it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise. And it would have had nothing to do with the vandalism; it would be because, as Hill explained, the house is:

“comprised of radicals involved in Indigenous resistance as well as anarchist projects in the city”

These are the same class of folk who smashed-up Vancouver during the Olympics. People in Hill’s community have no hesitation getting into street fights with the police- Hill’s activist career as been focussed on glorifying such actions. It was incredibly irresponsible for West to add to the FUD, one has to wonder what his motivations were.

I’ll leave you today with a video of Ben West emceeing last November’s big anti-pipeline rally. It’s an interesting moment where an indigenous radical claims that Vancouver doesn’t belong to Canada- curiously, West stands there and nods. Considering ForestEthics is funded by American oligarchs and foundations, it’s a pretty creepy moment…

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