Update: As of 2:56pm EST on Monday July 16th, the webpage is now up again, it wasn’t earlier this morning- bizarre.
The Wilderness Committee is a BC based ENGO with about a dozen staff and $2 million in annual (tax-deductible) revenue, they claim to have a membership of approximately 30,000. In addition to their work on the environment, the WC has served as a successful stepping stone for some high profile activists and politicians. VISION Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer was their executive director until 2010, Green Party city councillor Adriane Carr worked there too. Ben West recently left WC to take a position as a campaign director at ForestEthics (WC & FE partner together working on Clayoquot Sound).
In February of 2013 WC executive Joe Foy was interviewed by the Vancouver Observer on the subject of government spying on environmentalists. Foy said that he was happy about the rights & freedoms afforded him as a Canadian, but it’s “dangerous and very, very wrong” if there’s a shift to labelling “legitimate activism” as “extremism”. Foy was absolutely correct, it would be wrong to try and label people with peaceful intentions as extremists; not only would it make it more difficult to identify the real extremists, but it’s also an assault on justice. We must not label people and organizations until we’ve done proper research.
Well, after quick look through the WC’s website and internet presence, things aren’t looking very good- it turns out Joe Foy is, knowingly or not, a dangerous man…
Genuinewitty.com Gets An Interesting New Reader!
About an hour after publishing this site’s last story about the potential for violence at the Unist’ot’en action camp, this site was blessed with a visitor from WC who came to read it. I’ve been curious about the WC since my research on Ben West and his dodgy statements against Vancouver Police, so figured it was a good time to start doing some research. I Googled “Wilderness Committee Unist’ot’en”.
The search results were profoundly disturbing, it appears that WC has been using its charitable donations to promote some of the country’s most problematic radicals. To start with, WC’s website was filled with promotions for Unist’ot’en fundraising activities- remember, the people at this camp are acting like thugs, ‘confiscating’ (stealing) people’s equipment, blocking a public highway, building illegal structures, and threatening pipeline surveyors that it’s unsafe for them to be coming back.
But it’s not just Unist’ot’en, the WC’s website has been regularly promoting the who’s who of violent activism. For example, their site is peppered with promotions for events by No One Is Illegal Vancouver- an organization whose leader Harsha Walia openly advocates the type of violence we’re likely to see at Unist’ot’en. There are also plenty of mentions of Harjap Grewal of the Council of Canadians; their leader Maude Barlow has openly advocated violence, and Grewal has managed the funds for a racist hate group that promotes killing white people. In January WC promoted a speaking engagement with representatives of the Mik’maq Warrior Society- their protest featured guns, improvised explosives, and burning police cars.
After digging through their website, and being shocked by the results, I decided it was time to ask the WC for an explanation:
A Deafening Silence, But Actions Say More Than Words:
Three more visitors came to this site from the WC over the next couple of hours, all landing on the article about violence at the Unist’ot’en. In their four visits yesterday, WC readers spent an average of 8 minutes and 16 seconds reading three articles. It was great seeing I’d caught their attention, but I’d still had no response from WC- guess that was to be expected.
So I started compiling all the screen captures I made of WC’s postings, and worked on figuring out how I’d write this story. I shared one of the more colourful links with a fellow researcher to ask their opinion- and, surprise, the link had been taken down! (If you’re the observant type, you’ve probably figured this was coming, the links I posted above about No One Is Illegal, and the Mik’maq Warriors connect to Google’s archive- they too were taken down.)
For the record, I created a PDF copy of their webpage at 13:34:40 EST, the page was up and working ten minutes after I made my tweet:
The event they were promoting was a Vancouver fundraiser for the Unist’ot’en camp called Pancakes Not Pipelines, on November 24, 2013. A similar event was held in Victoria a couple of days later- it was organized by anarchist Unist’ot’en organizer Zoe Blunt, an associate with the Deep Green Resistance, a group whose charismatic leader openly promotes blowing up dams (an issue close to Joe Foy’s heart). Blunt also runs the Victoria based Forest Action Network- FAN lists WN as one of their sponsors.
Now, let’s have a closer look at the artwork WC posted on that page (which is now deleted):
The artwork is by Gord Hill, the militant anarchist/indigenous artist who came to national attention last week after his activist house was raided by Vancouver Police busting the alleged “No Pipelines” spray paint vandal who has been destroying public art. Hill is an open and unabashed promoter of using violent tactics. His work gets used by the anarchist community to glorify and excite the country’s young activists to both allow and engage in destructive tactics- take, for example, Hill’s posting on a website raising funds for the vandals:
More important than vandalism, take a look at the content of Hill’s poster- he uses a mythical creature, but it’s very clearly glorifying sabotage of pipeline, train and electrical infrastructure. The artist openly advocated (on the CBC) sabotaging power lines in 2009. If there’s one thing that can be said on behalf of Gord Hill it’s that he’s he’s honest about his support for violence- when fools like Elizabeth May were making up tall tales about the RCMP planting guns at Elsipogtog, Hill wrote a passionate response setting the record straight.
Irresponsible, To Say The Least…
It’s hard to say if Joe Foy was aware of the Agitprop posted on the WC’s website when he made his statement about government spying. That said, he made it to the Vancouver Observer- an organization not unknown to publish misleading propaganda on this subject. Foy has also been around the block a few times, if he doesn’t realize that his organization is partnering with militants, he must be naïve.
At the minimum, it’s incredibly irresponsible for WC to be posting this kind of content, it’s certainly not the behaviour one would expect from a registered charity. Considering how quickly they deleted some of their content, it seems that someone at WC must know that. As for Mr Foy, knowingly or not, he’s playing a very dangerous game…