On Tuesday, EthicalOil.org held its first annual OPEC Lobbyist of the Year Awards ceremony — despite the fact that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia tried to stop us.
That’s right: The same thuggish autocracy that unleashed its lawyers on Canadian TV networks, threatening the broadcasters against airing our EthicalOil.org commercials, called the cops on us in the middle of our awards presentation.
The ceremony was held at a public park, in view of the Saudi embassy — a fitting spot, given that recipients Rahool Agarwal, Rick Smith and Sheila Leggett have all, either wittingly or unwittingly, helped the Saudis and their fellow OPEC colluders preserve market share for conflict oil.
But despite the fact that we were in a park, on public property, in a free country, the Saudis just couldn’t help themselves: the medieval theocracy that bans free speech and public demonstrations immediately picked up the phone and called in the men with the guns to stop us.
The RCMP officers who responded acted professionally and appropriately: they did their duty by dropping in to ask us some questions about what was going on. When they realized it was nothing more than a Canadian NGO holding a press conference, they left satisfied. The Mounties aren’t just familiar with Canadian rights and freedoms; they know it’s their job to protect them, not suppress them. Hopefully they had a chance afterward to explain to the Saudi diplomats that, in Canada, you can’t beat up, jail, or shoot people just because they say something you don’t like. This isn’t Riyadh.
The Saudis are clearly just as blind to the ironic optics of this incident as they were when they tried to censor our TV ad: Here we are pointing out the dreadful human rights abuses of OPEC’s conflict oil regimes — their enslavement of women and their suppression of freedoms — and their instinct is to censor, bully, and arrest. It would be funny if this weren’t the paranoid, violent mindset that average Saudi Arabian citizens suffer under every day of their lives.
The biggest irony, of course, is that one of our OPEC Lobbyist of the Year Awards went to Mr. Agarwal for his work as the Saudis’ attack dog during the commercial censorship scandal. Mr. Agarwal was the lawyer who baselessly threatened to sue Canadian TV networks over our commercial — which listed off facts about the horrible conditions that women live under in Saudi Arabia. The bullying was so offensive, several cabinet ministers spoke out against it;”We don’t take kindly to foreign governments threatening directly or indirectly Canadian broadcasters or media for giving voice to freedom of speech,” said Immigration and Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney.
Maybe next time instead of calling the cops, the Saudis should get Mr. Agarwal on the speed dial: he certainly seems ready to do their censorship work for them when police won’t.